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Flat Out Still Not Enough For O’Ward

Flat Out Still Not Enough For O'Ward

Pato O’Ward said Sunday’s performance in the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge was the best he and Arrow McLaren could do. Second place, he said, should do.

“We did everything perfectly,” said O’Ward. “We did the fuel (strategy) perfectly; no mistakes were made. We positioned ourselves perfectly to have a chance.”

Arrow McLaren SP had played its two Chevrolets perfectly in the late start, with both Felix Rosenqvist and O’Ward appearing to get the best of pole sitter Scott Dixon, the driver of Chip Ganassi Racing’s number 9 PNC Bank Honda who was then penalized for speeding in the pit lane at his last stop. Arrow McLaren SP looked set for an unlikely 1-2 finish.

“Then Marcus (Ericsson) came out of nowhere with insane speed,” said O’Ward of Chip Ganassi Racing’s number 8 Huski Chocolate Honda. “(He) came to me as if I were standing still. Came to Felix (Rosenqvist), I think, within two laps(s) passed him like standing still, left him.

“I (passed) Felix finally… (but) I had nothing for (Ericsson). I said, ‘I need a yellow to try and have a chance.’”

That warning came before Jimmie Johnson’s crash on lap 194, but O’Ward was unable to execute the restart pass on Ericsson (No.8 Huski Chocolate Honda of Chip Ganassi Racing).

“When the restart happened, I said, ‘I have one chance, I have to go flat’ and that still wasn’t enough,” said O’Ward. “Unfortunately (Ericsson) had the faster car.

“It’s a bit of a tough pill to swallow after such a long race(and) doing everything correctly.”

Kanaan describes interest in taking root

O’Ward and Kanaan had a humorous exchange discussing the two-lap showdown that decided Sunday’s race.

Kanaan, who restarted third, said he had “the best seat in the house” as O’Ward made a valiant attempt to overtake Ericsson en route to Turn 1 at the restart on lap 199.

Kanaan tried to say he was cheering for O’Ward to give himself a better shot at the win.

“I’m like, ‘Come on Pato, go, go, go,'” Kanaan said.

O’Ward replied, “You liar.”

“No,” Kanaan said. “If you guys crash, I’d win.”

Kanaan said he had visions of Dario Franchitti and Takuma Sato dueling for the lead on the final lap of the 2012 race. Sato crashed and Franchitti escaped with the win with Dixon watching right behind them.

Kanaan’s third place finish was his best “500” result since winning in 2013.

Kanaan: Maybe that was goodbye

If it looked like Kanaan was throwing a farewell party on his unusually slow cooldown, then he was. Yes, he wants to participate in the “500” next year, but he said: “that’s not for me to decide.

Kanaan, a veteran of 21 starts in this event and the 2013 winner, said he will only return if he has a chance to win, as Chip Ganassi Racing did on Sunday. Otherwise this was it.

“I was very emotional during the cool-down, talking to the team,” said Kanaan, who has spent the past three years saying he wanted his NTT INDYCAR SERIES career to end with a full house at IMS. “My days are numbered. I have a plan – next year will probably be the last one if I can make it happen.

“But from now on, this was the last.”

Kanaan is in 14th place – and second among active drivers – with 352 career laps in the lead in the “500”. He led in 15 of his races.

Said team owner Chip Ganassi of the 47-year-old Brazilian: “He’s a cunning veteran; he knows his way around here, no doubt. So we’re not kicking him out yet.”

Opportunities and goals

  • Ericsson’s post-race celebrations included a phone call from 1999 “500” winner Kenny Brack, the only other Swede to win this race. Ericsson commends Brack for helping to move from karting to single-seat formula cars.
  • Ericsson said he doesn’t have a tuxedo for Monday night’s Victory Dinner, “but I’ll get one.” His only suit is back in Sweden, he said.
  • Ericsson’s win gave team owner Chip Ganassi his sixth “500” win, breaking a tie with Michael Andretti for second place. Roger Penske leads with 18. Ganassi shared Emerson Fittipaldi’s 1989 win with co-owner Pat Patrick, and after former Chip Ganassi Racing won the “500” in 1990 with Juan Pablo Montoya in 2000, with Scott Dixon in 2008 and Dario Franchitti in 2010 and 2012.
  • Ganassi about what he sees in Ericsson: “No baggage, just likes to go fast. You just have to give him a good car, really.”
  • Indianapolis natives ran Ericsson’s program. Mike O’Gara (Roncalli High School) was the quarterback, Brad Goldberg (Ben Davis High School) the chief engineer. O’Gara is a graduate of Purdue University, Goldberg from IUPUI. O’Gara has won a 24 Hours of Le Mans, while Goldberg has taken a Rolex 24 At Daytona win.
  • Ericsson’s car had female engineers in the pits. Nicole Rotondo was the car’s Honda engineer. Angela Ashmore works on the crew. “We don’t discriminate,” O’Gara said. “We are looking for talent; (gender) doesn’t matter.” Danielle Shepherd was in Alex Palou’s NTT INDYCAR SERIES Championship car last season.
  • Ericsson became the fourth driver to win the “500” with number 8. The others were Joe Dawson (1912), Louis Meyer (1936) and Pat Flaherty (1956).
  • Ericsson is the eighth driver to win from fifth on the grid. The most recent was Buddy Lazier in 1996.
  • All three of Ericsson’s victories in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES have been marked by late red flag shootouts. The others were last year, in Race 1 of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix and in the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix in Nashville.
  • In addition to Ericsson and O’Ward, Felix Rosenqvist in fourth place (No. 7 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet) and Conor Daly in sixth place (No. 20 BitNile Chevrolet of Ed Carpenter Racing) had the best performances of his career in this event. † Daly led seven laps to take his career tally to 47.
  • David Malukas (No. 18 HMD Honda of Dale Coyne Racing with HMD) was the best-finishing rookie in 16th place. It was the third time in six years Dale Coyne’s team had been given that honor.
  • Meyer Shank Racing drivers Helio Castroneves (No.06 AutoNation/SiriusXM Honda) and Simon Pagenaud (No.60 AutoNation/SiriusXM Honda) finished seventh and eighth respectively and they worked well together. Late in the race, Pagenaud said: “Tell Helio if he thinks he has the speed (to overtake me), let me know. I don’t play games with him.” Castroneves does.
  • In four ‘500’ careers, Santino Ferrucci (the No. 23 Palermo’s Screamin Sicilian DRR Chevrolet of Dreyer & Reinbold Racing) now has four top-10 finishes with three different teams. He finished seventh and fourth with Dale Coyne Racing (second paired with Vasser-Sullivan) and on Sunday he finished 10th with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing.
  • The ‘500’ debut of seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson (No.48 Carvana Honda of Chip Ganassi Racing) ended with an accident at Turn 2, but he led laps 188 and 189 out of the pit sequence.
  • Marco Andretti (No. 98 KULR Technology/Curb Honda of Andretti Herta Autosport w/Marco & Curb) led his first laps in the “500” since 2014.

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