Marcus Ericsson had to leave Formula One to become a global superstar — a goal achieved Sunday when the Swedish driver won the Indianapolis 500.
Ericsson took control of Sunday's race late and had it under control for Chip Ganassi Racing until a crash by teammate Jimmie Johnson with four laps remaining brought out a rare red-flag stoppage at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
IndyCar is among the purest forms of motorsports and rarely throws artificial cautions or issues stoppages that might change the outcome. But a crowd of more than 300,000 — only a few thousand shy of a sellout and the largest sporting event since the pandemic began — roared when IndyCar called the cars to pit road.
The stoppage gave Pato O'Ward and the rest of the challengers almost 12 minutes on pit road to strategize how to catch Ericsson for the win. The race resumed with two laps remaining and Ericsson easily got the jump on O'Ward, but the Mexican got one final look for the lead that Ericsson defended.
A crash back in traffic brought out the caution and Ericsson coasted to the victory podium under yellow.
It is the fifth Indy 500 victory for team owner Chip Ganassi, who caught a ride to the victory podium on the side of Ericsson's car. Ericsson is the second Swede to win the Indy 500 in 106 runnings, joining 1999 winner Kenny Brack.
He poured his jug of milk all over his face, then handed the bottle to Ganassi so the boss could take his own swig. Ganassi had not won the 500 in 10 years and sent five legitimate contenders to Indy to end the drought.
O'Ward, who signed an extension with Arrow McLaren SP on Friday, finished second. The Mexican was trying to give his country a banner celebration on the biggest day in motorsports; Sergio Perez opened Sunday with a win in the Monaco Grand Prix.
Tony Kanaan was third in a Ganassi car and followed by Felix Rosenqvist, another Swede, who was fourth for McLaren.
American drivers Alexander Rossi and Conor Daly finished fifth and sixth, Rossi for Andretti Autosport and Daly for Ed Carpenter Racing.
Helio Castroneves, last year's winner, finished seventh and one spot ahead of Meyer Shank Racing teammate Simon Pagenaud. Reigning IndyCar champion Alex Palou finished 10th in another Ganassi entry.
Honda drivers took six of the top nine spots, along with the win.