Marcus Ericsson was one lap away from winning the Indy 500 in back-to-back years, but questionable officiating calls resulted in him securing a runner-up finish.
When the caution flag came out with four laps to go, moments after Marcus Ericsson had passed Josef Newgarden for the lead in the 107th running of the Indy 500, it appeared as though he would become the first driver to win back-to-back Indy 500s since Helio Castroneves did it in 2001 and 2002.
Instead, the third red flag of the day was displayed, setting up a one-lap shootout which saw Newgarden pass Ericsson on the backstretch and hold him off to win his first Indy 500 in what was the fourth closest finish in the event’s history.
Controversy immediately arose following the red flag, and many were left with questions regarding race control’s decisions in the closing stages of the event.
Following the finish, Ericsson wasted no time expressing his frustration with race control and their decision making.
Ericsson said that he believed there weren’t enough laps remaining to have a final restart, given the fact that the race went green with just one lap left — and without a pace lap following the red flag.
"“I don’t think it’s safe to go out of the pits on cold tires for a restart when half the field is sort of still trying to get out on track when we go green.”"
Some viewed Ericsson’s comments as him being a sore loser who was upset about narrowly missing out on the victory in the biggest race of the year.
But in reality, Marcus Ericsson wasn’t being a sore loser. He simply pointed out concerns that many others also had.
The reason for that final restart was obvious to many: IndyCar’s desire for a green flag finish, especially given the criticism that arises after any race finishes under caution. But there is still an argument that the final restart shouldn’t have ever happened.
Had race control not red flagged the race after Pato O’Ward’s crash with eight laps to go, they still could have had one final restart to allow for a “natural” race to the finish. Had they done so, it is likely that the top two would have been the same. But instead, IndyCar opted to throw multiple red flags, sparking controversy among fans and drivers alike.
Even Newgarden understood where Ericsson was coming from and said he also would’ve shared his thought process had he been in that position.
"“Obviously, if I was in Marcus’s position, I would say, ‘Just end it. That’s great.'”"
It was clearly a situation in which each driver would have had a different viewpoint depending on where they were running and when. Newgarden added that there were “so many different ways that this could have played out” and hinted at the fact that the red flags ultimately balanced out the final running order.
Regardless of how the final laps played out, another chapter has been added to Indy 500 lore, and one of the top drivers in the series has finally checked off the final box on his resume.