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Marcus Ericsson
No. 1: Ericsson Outduels O’Ward for First Indy 500 Victory

Note: The editorial staff at IMS.com is taking a look back at the 10 biggest moments of 2022 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in this year-end series, with one installment appearing on the site per day in countdown fashion from Dec. 22-31.

Two cars were side by side approaching Turn 1 on the final lap of this year’s Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge, but Marcus Ericsson wasn’t going to be the one to back out of the career-defining battle at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

In the inside lane, Ericsson held his foot to the floor of the No. 8 Huski Chocolate Chip Ganassi Racing Honda to surge ahead of the Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet driven by Pato O’Ward. Ericsson was still in front as the two leaders charged down the backstretch for the final time, at which point the caution came out for the crash of Dreyer & Reinbold Racing’s Sage Karam in Turn 2. The race was effectively over at that moment, and what a race it was.

The 106th Running featured nine leaders, world-class rookies and domination by Chip Ganassi’s organization, the latter featuring five teammates leading a combined 163 of the 200 laps.

Ganassi’s legendary champion, Scott Dixon, led 95 laps from the pole to become the event’s all-time laps leader, passing Al Unser. Dixon pushed his career total to 665 laps led, but a speeding penalty entering pit road on Lap 175 cost him not only a chance to add to his total but quite possibly his second “500” victory and likely the NTT INDYCAR SERIES championship. The drive-through penalty forced Dixon to finish 21st.

Dixon had become the second driver in history to win at least five poles for the “500” – only Rick Mears, with six, has more. Dixon has been the pole sitter for four of the past eight races.

Dixon’s teammate Alex Palou also incurred trouble earlier this year as the race leader. He was approaching the entrance to pit road on Lap 69 when the caution came out and taking service in a closed pit – an infraction -- drew a drive-through penalty from which he was never able to recover. Despite starting second next to Dixon, Palou finished ninth.

Chip Ganassi Racing also fielded cars for 2013 “500” winner Tony Kanaan, who finished third, and seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson, who received the Rookie of the Year Award after leading two laps. Johnson’s crash on Lap 194, and the red flag that followed, set up the final shootout between Ericsson and O’Ward.

“I couldn’t believe it,” Ericsson said of the stoppage that erased his lead of more than two seconds. “You can never take anything for granted, and obviously there were still laps to go. I was praying so hard it was not going to be another yellow, but I knew there was probably going to be one. It was hard to refocus, but I knew the car was amazing.”

Of the side-by-side battle on the final lap, O’Ward said Ericsson “was going to put me in the wall if I would have gone for it.”

Said Ericsson: “I was not going to put him in the wall, but he had to work hard to get around me there. I knew I could hold my line. I was going to go flat (into the corner). He was going to have to go two-wide through there to get there.”

Ericsson, who led the final 13 laps, became the second Swedish driver to win the race, joining Kenny Brack in 1999. Brack was not in attendance but joined the winner’s post-race press conference via videoconference to offer congratulations to his longtime friend. In early November, Ericsson returned to Sweden with the Borg-Warner Trophy to celebrate the “500” win with friends, family and thousands of his country’s race fans.

The victory was Ganassi’s fifth as a solo team owner and sixth overall.

O’Ward finished second, his third consecutive top-six finish in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing. Kanaan recorded the fifth top-three finish of his illustrious “500” career. Felix Rosenqvist of Arrow McLaren SP finished fourth, with 2016 race winner Alexander Rossi of Andretti Autosport fifth. Those four drivers will be Arrow McLaren teammates at Indy in 2023.

The race set records for the fastest pole speed (234.046 mph), the fastest front row (233.643 mph) and the fastest field overall (231.023 mph).

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