Pato O’Ward said Sunday’s performance in the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge was the best he and Arrow McLaren could do. Second place, he said, would have to do.
“We did everything perfectly,” O’Ward said. “We did the fuel (strategy) perfect; no mistakes were done. We positioned ourselves perfectly to have a shot at it.”
Arrow McLaren SP had played its two Chevrolets perfectly in the late going, with both Felix Rosenqvist and O’Ward appearing to get the best of polesitter Scott Dixon, the driver of the No. 9 PNC Bank Honda of Chip Ganassi Racing who then was penalized for speeding entering pit lane on his final stop. Arrow McLaren SP seemed poised for an improbable 1-2 finish.
“Then Marcus (Ericsson) out of nowhere just came out with insane speed,” O’Ward said of the No. 8 Huski Chocolate Honda of Chip Ganassi Racing. “(He) got by me like I was standing still. Got up to Felix (Rosenqvist), I think, within two laps (and) passed him like he was standing still, left him.
“I (passed) Felix finally … (but) I had nothing for (Ericsson). I said, ‘I need a yellow to try and have a shot.’”
That caution came for Jimmie Johnson’s crash on Lap 194, but O’Ward couldn’t execute the restart pass on Ericsson (No. 8 Huski Chocolate Honda of Chip Ganassi Racing).
“When the restart happened, I said, ‘I have one shot, I have to go flat’ and that still wasn’t enough,” O’Ward said. “Sadly, (Ericsson) had the faster car.
“It’s a bit of a tough pill to swallow after such a long race (and) doing everything correctly.”
Kanaan Describes Rooting Interest
O’Ward and Kanaan had a humorous exchange when discussing the two-lap showdown that decided Sunday’s race.
Kanaan, who restarted in the third position, said he had “the best seat in the house” as O’Ward made a valiant effort to overtake Ericsson heading to Turn 1 on the restart at Lap 199.
Kanaan tried to say he was cheering for O’Ward to give himself a better chance at the victory.
“I’m like, ‘C’mon Pato, go, go, go,’” Kanaan said.
Replied O’Ward: “You liar.”
“No,” Kanaan said. “If you guys crash, I would win.”
Kanaan said he had visions of Dario Franchitti and Takuma Sato dueling for the lead on the last lap of the 2012 race. Sato crashed and Franchitti escaped with the victory as Dixon watched right behind them.
Kanaan’s third-place finish was his best “500” result since winning in 2013.
Kanaan: Maybe That Was Goodbye
If it seemed Kanaan was throwing a farewell party on his unusually slow cooldown lap, he was. Yes, he wants to compete in the “500” next year, but he said “that’s not for me to decide.
Kanaan, a veteran of 21 starts in this event and the 2013 winner, said he only will return if he has a chance to win, as Chip Ganassi Racing provided Sunday. Otherwise, this was it.
“I was very emotional on the cooldown lap, talking to the team,” said Kanaan, who for the past three years has said he wanted his NTT INDYCAR SERIES career to end with a capacity crowd at IMS. “My days are numbered. I have a plan – next year will be probably, if I can make it happen, it will be the real last one.
“But as of now this was the last one.”
Kanaan ranks 14th – and second among active drivers – with 352 career laps led in the “500.” He has led in 15 of his races.
Said team owner Chip Ganassi of the 47-year-old Brazilian: “He’s a wily veteran; he knows his way around this place, no question. So, we’re not throwing him out yet.”
Odds And Ends
- Ericsson’s post-race celebration included a call from 1999 “500” winner Kenny Brack, the only other Swede to win this race. Ericsson credits Brack for help getting from karting to single-seat formula cars.
- Ericsson said he does not have a tuxedo for Monday night’s Victory Dinner, “but I’ll get one.” His lone suit is back in Sweden, he said.
- Ericsson’s victory gave team owner Chip Ganassi his sixth “500” victory, breaking a tie with Michael Andretti for second place. Roger Penske leads with 18. Ganassi shared Emerson Fittipaldi’s 1989 win with co-owner Pat Patrick, and after former Chip Ganassi Racing in 1990 won the “500” with Juan Pablo Montoya in 2000, with Scott Dixon in 2008 and Dario Franchitti in 2010 and 2012.
- Ganassi on what he sees in Ericsson: “No baggage, just likes to go fast. Just need to get him a good car, basically.”
- Indianapolis natives led Ericsson’s program. Mike O’Gara (Roncalli High School) was the strategist, Brad Goldberg (Ben Davis High School) the lead engineer. O’Gara graduated from Purdue University, Goldberg from IUPUI. O’Gara has won a 24 Hours of Le Mans while Goldberg has a Rolex 24 At Daytona victory.
- Ericsson’s car had female engineers on pit stand. Nicole Rotondo was the Honda engineer on the car. Angela Ashmore works on the crew. “We don’t discriminate,” O’Gara said. “We look for talent; (gender) doesn’t matter.” Danielle Shepherd was on Alex Palou’s NTT INDYCAR SERIES championship car last season.
- Ericsson became the fourth driver to win the “500” using No. 8. The others were Joe Dawson (1912), Louis Meyer (1936) and Pat Flaherty (1956).
- Ericsson is the eighth driver to win from the fifth starting position. The most recent previously was Buddy Lazier in 1996.
- All three of Ericsson’s NTT INDYCAR SERIES victories featured late shootouts after red flags. The others were last year, in Race 1 of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix and in the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix at Nashville.
- In addition to Ericsson and O’Ward, fourth-place finisher Felix Rosenqvist (No. 7 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet) and sixth-place finisher Conor Daly (No. 20 BitNile Chevrolet of Ed Carpenter Racing) had career-best finishes in this event. Daly led seven laps to push his career total to 47.
- David Malukas (No. 18 HMD Honda of Dale Coyne Racing with HMD) was the highest-finishing rookie in 16th place. It was the third time in six years that Dale Coyne’s team has had that honor.
- Meyer Shank Racing drivers Helio Castroneves (No. 06 AutoNation/SiriusXM Honda) and Simon Pagenaud (No. 60 AutoNation/SiriusXM Honda) finished seventh and eighth, respectively, and they worked well together. Said Pagenaud late in the race: “Tell Helio if he thinks he has the speed (to pass me) let me know. I won’t play games with him.” Castroneves did.
- In four career “500s,” Santino Ferrucci (No. 23 Palermo’s Screamin Sicilian DRR Chevrolet of Dreyer & Reinbold Racing) now has four top-10 finishes with three different teams. He finished seventh and fourth with Dale Coyne Racing (the second in conjunction with Vasser-Sullivan), and Sunday he finished 10th with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing.
- The “500” debut of seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Carvana Honda of Chip Ganassi Racing) ended with an accident in Turn 2, but he led Laps 188 and 189 out of pit sequence.
- Marco Andretti (No. 98 KULR Technology/Curb Honda of Andretti Herta Autosport w/Marco & Curb) led his first laps in the “500” since 2014.