IndyCar has a new points leader after the Indy 500

Marcus Ericsson, Chip Ganassi Racing, Indy 500, IndyCar (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)
Marcus Ericsson, Chip Ganassi Racing, Indy 500, IndyCar (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images) /

Five different drivers have now sat atop the IndyCar championship standings this year, with the newly crowned Indy 500 champion becoming the fifth.

Chip Ganassi Racing’s five-car IndyCar team entered the 106th running of the Indy 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway as the favorites to win the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing” for the first time since Dario Franchitti won it for a third time in 2012.

At first, it looked like it would be a battle between 2008 Indy 500 winner Scott Dixon and 2021 runner-up Alex Palou, the two drivers who started on the front row in first and second place, respectively.

But Palou dropped to the back of the pack after an untimely caution just before he made his second pit stop, leading to a drive through the pits, an emergency stop for fuel, and then another stop for full service. He then was sent to the back of the field for receiving service in a closed pit lane.

Then on his final pit stop, Dixon, who had broken the all-time Indy 500 laps led record with a race-high 95 laps led around the four-turn, 2.5-mile (4.023-kilometer) oval in Speedway, Indiana on Sunday afternoon, was called for speeding, leading to a penalty from which he could not bounce back.

The race then looked like it was Marcus Ericsson’s to lose, as he made his way around all of the other drivers who had made their final pit stops. He had a lead of around three seconds over Arrow McLaren SP’s Pato O’Ward in the closing laps.

But Chip Ganassi Racing again shot themselves in the foot, as Jimmie Johnson crashed in turn two, erasing Ericsson’s lead and bringing out a red flag to set up a restart with two laps remaining.

Race leaders on restarts had been “sitting ducks” throughout the afternoon. But Ericsson was able to fend off O’Ward on the restart, and he was able to keep him behind with a fantastic defense heading into turn one on the final lap.

As the field made their way down the back straightaway for the 200th and final time, the yellow flag flew again when Dreyer & Reinbold Racing’s Sage Karam wrecked in turn two.

So Ericsson won the race, just the second to finish under yellow in the last nine years, ahead of O’Ward in second place. Chip Ganassi Racing also finished in third with Tony Kanaan, and Arrow McLaren SP also finished in fourth with Felix Rosenqvist.

While the big storyline was obviously Ericsson winning the greatest race in the world, another storyline was the IndyCar championship standings, with double points on offer for this event.

Ericsson now leads the standings for the first time in his career after securing 100 points for winning, an additional point for leading at least one lap, and eight points for qualifying in fifth place.

All in all, he scored 109 of a possible 115 points.

The driver of the #8 Honda is the fifth different points leader in the last five races. Team Penske’s Scott McLaughlin, who had also never before led the standings, won the season opener on the streets of St. Petersburg. He maintained the points lead after a runner-up finish in the following race at Texas Motor Speedway, which was won by teammate Josef Newgarden.

Newgarden then won the following race on the streets of Long Beach to take the points lead for the first time since winning the 2019 championship. But Palou, last year’s champion, took the lead after a runner-up finish at Barber Motorsports Park, thanks largely to his consistency (three podium finishes and a seventh place finish in four races).

Then after the race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, which saw Palou finish a lap off the lead lap after an early incident, Will Power made it all three Team Penske drivers to lead the points in 2022, taking the lead for the first time since the 2018 season with five top four finishes in five races.

And now, after a day when his two champion teammates looked poised to shoot to the top, Ericsson, who entered the race in eighth place, finds himself as the second driver to lead the standings for the first time in his career this year.

Heading into next Sunday afternoon’s race on the streets of Belle Isle, Ericsson sits 13 points ahead of O’Ward in second place. Ironically, there were two races at the track last year, and those two races were won by Ericsson and O’Ward.

Palou now sits in third place, just one point behind O’Ward, after rallying for a ninth place finish. Power sits in fourth after a 15th place finish, with Newgarden in fifth after a 13th place finish and Dixon in sixth after a heartbreaking 21st place finish. McLaughlin sits in seventh after a crash.

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The seventh race on the 17-race 2022 IndyCar schedule is the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix, the final race on the streets of Belle Isle. This race is set to be broadcast live on USA Network beginning at 3:00 p.m. ET on Sunday, June 5.