Marcus Ericsson

The Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Presented by the 2023 Accord Hybrid ended up being the worst-case scenario for Marcus Ericsson.

The 32-year-old Swede came into the weekend second in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES standings, trailing Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Alex Palou by 74 points (324-250). There was optimism that he might close the gap as Ericsson has enjoyed three consecutive top-six results in his last three starts at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, including a runner-up finish 2021.

However, any hopes came spiraling down moments after Ericsson took the green flag. After starting ninth in the No. 8 Huski Ice Spritz Honda, he was navigating a solid start but ended up struggling in Turn 6 and collided with fellow countryman Felix Rosenqvist on the opening lap. The collision sent Ericsson up and over the front of the No. 6 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet of Rosenqvist, leaving a rubber stamp of his Firestone tires on the aeroscreen in the process.

Rosenqvist was able to continue, albeit a lap down, receiving service from his pit crew that ripped away the tear off to clear the visibility through the aeroscreen, but ultimately finished 25th. Meanwhile, Ericsson had front suspension damage and was forced to get extended work from his team behind the wall.

“I haven't seen the replay yet, but I felt like I got a good start,” Ericsson said. “Then into (Turn) 6 there I just couldn't get the car stopped and obviously running into Felix. I feel really bad for yeah, understeering into Felix and get caught in his tires, so feel really bad for him, to hurt his day. You know, that was definitely not my intention. I also feel bad for the No. 8 crew. Very disappointing.”

Ericsson returned to the track briefly on Lap 47, but the damage was too severe to continue running and was left finishing last (27th), while Palou went on to claim his third consecutive victory, and fourth in five races. The result also drops Ericsson down to fourth in the championship, now 122 points behind Palou (377-255).

This also marks the first time Ericsson has not finished a race since last year’s Music City Grand Prix on the Streets of Nashville. Additionally, it is the fifth time he has scored a last place finish in his INDYCAR SERIES career, with two of those now at Mid-Ohio (2019, ’23).

Pato’s Charge

Pato O’Ward was on a march early in Sunday’s race and delivered one of his strongest drives of the season.

A mistake in qualifying left him starting 25th, but it made little difference as he made moves to break into the top 15 by Lap 13 of 80. He improved by one more position before diving early to pit road on Lap 17, where softer alternate (red sidewall) tires were replaced by a set of primaries (black sidewall) on the No. 5 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet.

From there, it was about managing the over/under cut to his rivals to eat away valuable deficits on the separate strategy, in which the majority of the field opted to pit after Lap 26. The Mexican stopped two additional times – Lap 43 and Lap 64 – and remained on the primary compound throughout. By the final stop, he was solidly in the top 10 and battling teammate Alexander Rossi for eighth, which he secured on Lap 68 and remained until the checkered flag.

In all, O’Ward made 20 on-track passes on the day, which ties him for fourth on that mark with Sebastien Bourdais’ 2018 run at the 2.258-mile, 13-turn natural terrain road course. The late Justin Wilson holds the record with 22 on-track passes at Mid-Ohio in 2008.

“We didn't have help from anybody; no yellows, no lappers, no nothing,” O’Ward said.

The result is the sixth top-10 finish for O’Ward this season. While he sits fifth in the overall standings and is 127 points behind Palou (377-250), he is only 17 points behind second place Scott Dixon (267-250).

Lurking Lundgaard

After starting fifth, Christian Lundgaard enjoyed a quiet afternoon en route to a top-five finish.

The 21-year-old Dane’s unassuming run in Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s No. 45 Vivid Clear Rx Honda ended with a finish of fourth, which matched his best result of the season (GMR Grand Prix, May 13). By recording his fifth top-10 finish of the year, he moved into the top 10 of the championship standings, solidly ahead of the likes of the Andretti Autosport duo of Kyle Kirkwood and Romain Grosjean, as well as Arrow McLaren’s Rosenqvist.

When factoring in his own performance, along with teammate Graham Rahal qualifying second and finished seventh, and Jack Harvey also advancing into Round 2 to qualify 11th, the momentum is building for the organization after a rocky start.

“I mean, I would say so,” Lundgaard said. “Just looking at the people that we were around on track and we're still making progress and moving forward in the race. I think that just shows the progression that we're making. And we are there. Graham was on the front row. I was fifth starting the race. Considering where we were last year here, none of our cast transferred in into Q2. So, the RLL team is making progress.”

Odds and Ends

· Palou became the first driver to win three consecutive races in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES since Scott Dixon in 2020. The last four drivers with a three-race win streak all went on to claim the title (Ryan Hunter-Reay in 2012, Dixon in 2013 and 2020, Simon Pagenaud in 2016).

· Although Dixon has been a mainstay for podiums at Mid-Ohio, including a record six victories, it took until today – his 20th start – to record his first runner-up result at the historic circuit.

· Rossi finished 10th, which makes his seventh consecutive top-10 finish of the year, a run only bettered by Palou, who has finished eighth or better in all nine rounds.

· After Conor Daly got the call to substitute for Simon Pagenaud, who was not cleared to drive after his wild shunt at the start of second practice on Saturday morning, he kept it clean and drove from 27th and completed all 80 laps to finish 20th in the No. 60 AutoNation/SiriusXM Honda for Meyer Shank Racing.

· Louis Foster captured his first career victory in INDY NXT by Firestone on Sunday, which also propelled him into the top five of the championship standings at just 42 points behind leader Nolan Siegel (244-202) with seven rounds remaining.

· Jamie Chadwick claimed her first career top-10 finish (10th) in INDY NXT by Firestone, becoming the first female driver to record a top 10 in INDY NXT since Pippa Mann finished fifth in the 2010 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

· Myles Rowe, driver of the No. 99 Pabst Racing with Force Indy entry in USF Pro 2000, turned a pole into victory in the second race of the doubleheader weekend, helping further his lead in the championship standings (251-187) over Kiko Porto.