Tony Kanaan best summed up the finish of Sunday’s 107th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge.
“Thirty-two guys are (mad) right now, and one guy is happy,” he said. “That’s the reality.”
Runner-up finisher Marcus Ericsson, who was defending last year’s victory, was certainly in the group of the former, and third-place finisher Santino Ferrucci admittedly didn’t know how to react. Ferrucci had the best race of his life, but he didn’t win it.
The two drivers who had the best view – or the worst view, depending on the perspective -- of Josef Newgarden winning his first “500” at Indianapolis Motor Speedway were in the thick of the lead group in the three late restarts. On what proved to be the next-to-last restart, Ericsson vaulted past Newgarden into the lead, believing he had a second consecutive victory assured when the caution waved for a front straightaway crash behind them. But it wasn’t to be. A one-lap shootout was held after a red flag, and he ended up on the wrong side of it.
Ericsson, who led 30 laps, tried to choose his words carefully, but the heartbreak was there.
“I know how he feels, so congrats to them,” Ericsson said of Newgarden and the crew of the No. 2 Shell Powering Progress Team Penske Chevrolet. “I’m very happy with my performance, with our performance. I think we did an awesome race. I had a great car, great strategy, pit stops.
“Tough restarts and good restarts. Had a lot of fun out there.”
But Ericsson wasn’t happy, believing there weren’t enough laps remaining to restart the race fairly.
“I think it was a tough way to end the race,” the driver of the No. 8 Huski Ice Spritz Honda said. “I don’t agree with how we did that. I don’t think that was a fair way to end the race, but I’m proud of our effort.
“It is what it is; I just have to deal with it. I think I did everything I could. I did an awesome late restart. I caught Josef by surprise and kept the lead into (Turn) 1, but it wasn’t enough, so, for sure, it’s hard to swallow.”
It first seemed that it would be Ferrucci with a chance to pass Ericsson for the lead on that final restart, but replays showed he hadn’t passed Newgarden before the caution came out.
So, when INDYCAR reviewed the footage, Newgarden was put ahead of Ferrucci, a position everyone had said would be the preferred place to be with one lap to go.
Sure enough, Newgarden used the draft down the backstretch to pass Ericsson for the lead going into Turn 3. Ericsson didn’t have time to respond, finishing .0974 of a second behind. The separation between top finishers was the fourth-closest in “500” history.
Said Ferrucci, who was trailing a few car lengths behind: “There is nothing you can do other than watch.”
Ferrucci said he was as emotional at the start of the race as he was at the end of it. There had been such family loss over the past six weeks within AJ Foyt Racing, with team owner A.J. Foyt losing his wife of nearly 62 years, Lucy, and longtime publicist Anne Fornoro losing her husband, Drew. Their daughter, Marie Fornoro, also works on the team. Ferrucci added that he has a close friend struggling with health.
“Just emotional, bittersweet,” he said. “It was emotional getting in the car, which was kind of strange because you feel like there’s a lot of people that really want this, the team really wants this.
“We worked so hard to be where we were. We ran out front all day long. It’s definitely one of the more difficult races that I’ve probably ever run and just we also knew that we had a really good car.”
Ferrucci was fortunate not to be collected in Felix Rosenqvist’s long slide toward Turn 2 on Lap 185, which clipped Kyle Kirkwood’s left rear wheel and led to the first red flag. Later, Ferrucci had a terrific duel with Ericsson on the second restart but hadn’t yet cleared Newgarden when the caution waved.
Ferrucci is now 5-for-5 in finishing in the top 10 of the “500,” and he led 11 laps in this race. But he felt this one got away.
“Just bummed because I think – and I’m sure Marcus thinks the same thing I do – we definitely …,” his voice trailing briefly. “All three of us could have won it at any point in time.
“Yeah, it’s bittersweet.
Kanaan, who won the 2013 “500” when a caution on Lap 198 guaranteed his position as the leader, said he knew how both non-winning drivers felt.
“It’s funny because, obviously, you have guys like Santino and Marcus that are mad, and you have Josef that’s happy,” he said. “But we need to think about the show.
“Could they have called it earlier? Yes. Could have, should have, would have, but we ended under green, and that’s what the fans kept asking us every time.
“I won under yellow (in 2013) and everybody hated it at some point. (But it’s) easy for me to (comment) because I’m not in (their) shoes.”
Like Ericsson, Ferrucci will be able to take gratification from how the team performed. But most of all, it’s how the massive crowd responded to the performance of the No. 14 Homes For Our Troops Chevrolet. During the red flag stoppages, he could hear the public address announcers talking about how strong his car was, and it was “the coolest thing.”
So much good, so disappointing to end up short of the goal.
“Oh, dude, I made a three-wide pass into (Turn) 1 twice,” he said. “I definitely hung it all out there. I’m very happy with how we drove.
“Yeah, when you finish third, knowing that you led into (Turn) 1 with three or four to go, it’s tough,” he said. “But at the end of the day, I’m really happy with the way that things played out.
“This place does pick you as a winner. It’s very true. But I just really wanted to win this race like everybody else.”