Monday, July 10, 2023

Marcus Ericsson Criticizes Indianapolis 500 Race-Ending Procedure

Aaron Likens waves the red flag as members of Marcus Ericsson's crew anguish on the big screen behind Likens during the 2023 Indianapolis 500.
Aaron Likens waves the red flag as members of Marcus Ericsson’s crew anguish on the big screen behind Likens during the 2023 Indianapolis 500. Photo courtesy of Joe Skibinski/Penske Entertainment.

Marcus Ericsson led the remaining cars in the 2023 Indianapolis 500 closer to the finish in what was an unprecedented move for the IndyCar Series. Race control dictated that there was not going to be a warmup lap for the final restart after a third red flag in the race’s final 50 miles.

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Aaron Likens would wave both the green and white flags at the same time for a one lap shootout to decide the Indianapolis 500 finish. While a one lap dash to the finish has happened before (in 1996), not having a full lap to warm the cars up before racing was new.

It was a mad dash to the finish that saw Ericsson lose the lead on the backstretch when Josef Newgarden completed a pass around the defending Indianapolis 500 winner. Newgarden held onto the lead to score his first Indianapolis 500 win, the No. 8 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda finishing second just 0.0974 seconds behind.

There was clear frustration for the Swede. Under most normal circumstances, the race would end under yellow. The final red flag for an incident involving Benjamin Pedersen, Ed Carpenter, Graham Rahal and Christian Lundgaard took place with such a small margin to go at the end of the race.

The cars circulated around the two-and-a-half mile oval once under yellow before the final red flag call came from race control, stopping the field with now just under five miles to go. By the time the field would get under way again, the next time by the start/finish line would be to start the final lap.

“It wasn’t enough laps to go to do what we did,” Ericsson said. “I don’t think it’s safe to go out of the pits on cold tires for a restart when half the field is sort of still trying to get out on track when we go green. I don’t think it’s a fair way to end the race, I don’t think it’s a right way to end the race. So I can’t agree with that.

“They should have called it earlier. If they wanted red they should have called red earlier. I think when they kept it going, then I think they should have called it. But I’m sure Josef doesn’t agree with that and thinks that way, but that’s just the way I thought. I thought it was too tight to do the last red.”

Newgarden made his first major move for the lead in a three-wide pass around Ericsson and Pato O’Ward on a late race restart following the race’s first red flag for a crash involving Felix Rosenqvist and Kyle Kirkwood.

After O’Ward lost control of his car while trying to overtake Ericsson and crashed, the race’s second red flag call came from race control as Simon Pagenaud and Agustin Canapino also crashed. On the ensuing restart, Ericsson briefly got in front of Newgarden before the yellow flag came out.

That was the order as the cars sat on pit road awaiting the final one lap dash to the finish. Ericsson tried, but could not become the first back-to-back winner of the Indianapolis 500 since Helio Castroneves in 2001 and 2002.

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