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Friday, May 24, 2024

106th Indy 500 had it all

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When one considers the history of the greatest race in the world, it’s difficult to not think of Sally Fields telling Tom Hanks in the movie “Forrest Gump” that life is like a box of chocolates and you never know what you’re going to get.

That’s the Indianapolis 500 in a nutshell, as any true race fan knows that anything can happen and, as a result, have an impact who wins it.

Miscues in the pits, driver error, caution flags and fuel economy are just a few of those possibilities that can occur, and there was all that and then some at 16th and Georgetown on May 29, as Marcus Ericsson fought off Pato O’Ward after a late red flag triggered a three-lap shootout to Victory Lane and took the checkered flag to win the 106th Indianapolis 500.

Marcus Ericsson (Photo/Brian Spurlock)

Fan-favorite Tony Kanaan finished third ahead of Felix Rosenqvist and Alexander Rossi who were fourth and fifth, respectively, on a day where there were 31 yellow laps due to six drivers making contact with the IMS walls, ending their day but, in the end, providing a stage for the talented, yet low-profile Ericsson to grab a $3.1 million payday in the process.


Polesitter Scott Dixon appeared to be in control with 95 laps led when he pitted on lap 177. However, a pit lane speeding violation cost him the race when he had to serve a drive through penalty.

Ironically, Dixon became the all-time race lap leader by surpassing both Ralph DePalma and Al Unser Sr.

While it looked like for a moment that Pato O’Ward might have something for Erricson on the last restart, he couldn’t get around the eventual winner. With a fresh contract extension in hand from McLaren, O’Ward could still be bound for Formula One as a replacement for McLaren driver Daniel Ricciardo.

In what could’ve been his final appearance at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, 2013 Indianapolis 500 winner Tony Kanaan put on a heckuva show in his one-off effort, coming up short on the late restart and finishing third. The popular Brazilian driver indicated afterward that he’d like to return to IMS in 2023, and car owner Chip Ganassi repeatedly stated that he’s not kicking Kanaan out the door.

Alex Palou was fast early and led 47 laps on the day.

An emergency stop for fuel during a period in which the pits were closed forced him to rejoin the race at the rear of the field. As a result, he finished ninth in a car that was clearly capable of winning.

Dutchman Rinus VeeKay, who qualified on the front row for the second year in a row, found the wall on lap 38, ending his day prematurely in a rather disappointing fashion.

In search of a record fifth Indy 500 win, 2021 champion Helio Castroneves finished seventh, while his teammate Simon Pagenaud, who was looking for another 500 victory to add to his 2019 win, finished eighth.

Jimmie Johnson, who crashed on lap 195, was named Rookie of the Year after qualifying 12th. The seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion finished a disappointing 28th but was enthusiastic all month about his team’s efforts to put him in position to win the race after qualifying so well.

Santino Ferrucci continued to show he knows the fast way to get around IMS by finishing 10th. A lack of sponsorship keeps this on-track daredevil limited to part time and one-off roles, but hopefully that will change soon. He’s secured a top-10 finish at IMS each of the four years he’s competed. That’s impressive.

Ed Carpenter looked to finish strong, but his engine would not refire initially after the late red flag imposed on the field, jettisoning him back to 18th. Carpenter was able to take solace in the fact that Conor Daly drove one of his cars to a sixth place finish.

2018 winner Will Power had troubles in the pits and could not overcome it, finishing 15th. Two-time winner Takuma Sato soldiered home 25th after showing some strength earlier on.

With the exception of Sage Karam, the common denominator for those tasting the IMS walls on race day was clearly their inexperience on a high-speed oval circuit.

The average speed for the race was just over 175 mph, and there were 38 lead changes on a day when Marcus Ericsson turned the quickest lap of the day at 224.852 mph.

The NTT IndyCar Series heads to Detroit this weekend for the Grand Prix of Detroit on June 5 at 3:30 p.m.

Danny Bridges, who was eating Captain Crunch in the IMS Media Center without shame at 5 a.m. on race day, can be reached at 317-370-8447 or at bridgeshd@aol.com.

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