Indy 500 notebook: Tough-luck finish for Ericsson

Sunday’s Indianapolis 500 had three stoppages for accidents — a record for Indianapolis in a single day. All three came in the final eight laps.

For defending Indy 500 champion Marcus Ericsson, it was one red flag too much.

Ericsson took the lead from eventual winner Josef Newgarden at the drop of the green flag, beating Newgarden to the line when further chaos erupted with a three-car accident.

Race officials decided to stop the race again with two laps left. That in effect, left a one-lap trophy dash for the win after one lap was be run as a formation lap under caution.

Newgarden was able to overtake Ericsson on the backstretch, and the Penske driver held off the Swede by 0.0974 seconds to take his first win and deny the first back-to-back 500 winner since Helio Castroneves did it in 2001-02.

It was the fourth-closest race in 500 history.

“I didn’t think there were enough laps to do what we did. It should have finished on the yellow,” Ericsson said. “It was not safe to go out on cold tires. I didn’t think it was a fair way to end the race.

“I’m sure Josef doesn’t agree with that.”

The first yellow flag didn’t come out until Lap 92, when rookie driver Sting Ray Robb smacked the outside wall exiting Turn 1.

Robb walked away from the accident uninjured and was classified 31st.

The champs were here

There were nine former Indianapolis 500 winners in this year’s field, including Dreyer & Reinbold Racing driver Ryan Hunter-Reay. The record is 10, set back in 1992.

There should be nine again for next year’s race, as winner Josef Newgarden figures to be a favorite to defend his championship. The reason there won’t be 10 winners next year is because Tony Kanaan indicated this year’s race would be his last.

A consistent contender

Santino Ferrucci, the up-and-coming driver for A.J. Foyt Enterprises, continues his remarkable Indianapolis 500 run.

Ferrucci, who hails from Woodbury, Connecticut, took third and led 11 laps, nearly taking the checkered flag in first.

It was the fifth top-10 finish in the race for Ferrucci, who first raced in the 500 in 2019. He has finished seventh, fourth, sixth, 10th and now third.

“We had such a great day,” Ferrucci said. “I’ll win this thing one day. But I’m happy today.”

Driving Dutchmen

Rinus VeeKay of the Netherlands led 24 laps of the race early, and he wasn’t the only Dutch driver to lead on the day. An ocean away, compatriot and two-time F1 world champion Max Verstappen led every lap to take the win in the Monaco Grand Prix and extend the lead in his quest for a third championship.

Leading the race early on was the highlight of the day for VeeKay, who had handling problems and whacked pole-sitter Alex Palou while exiting the pits on Lap 95.

Officials penalized VeeKay; he still managed to finish 10th but was probably left wondering what could have been.

Another one for Penske

Newgarden’s win gave Roger Penske his 19th Indianapolis 500 win.

Penske first came to the Speedway as a racing owner in 1969 with the late Mark Donohue. Three years later, Donohue gave Penske his first Indy 500 win and Team Penske has won at least once in every decade since, having also taken checkered flags in 1979, 1981, 1984, 1985, 1987, 1988, 1991, 1993, 1994, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2006, 2009, 2015, 2018 and 2019.

Penske also owns the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.