Sports Journalism Blog

By Madison Chandler

Sports Capital Journalism Program

He had led for 30 laps, navigating through the unprecedented chaos that started during Lap 185 of the Indianapolis 500. Marcus Ericsson, the defending champion, was in front when the last accident of the day, on Lap 196, created the appearance that the race would end under a yellow flag. He was that close to becoming a back-to-back champion.

Then everything changed, leading Ericsson to question the decisions that created an unprecedented third red flag related to competition. Ericsson led through two turns in the restart. But Ericsson lost the lead when Newgarden passed him on the outside going into Turn 3, the third time in 107 races that the Indianapolis 500 was decided by a pass on the last lap. Ericsson finished 0.0974 seconds behind Newgarden, the fourth-closest finish in the history of the race.

“I think it was a tough way to end the race,” Ericsson said.  “I don’t really agree with how we did that. I don’t think that was a fair way to end the race, but I’m proud of our effort.”

Ericsson cited safety issues being his main concern with the restart, adding that low tire temperatures create unsafe conditions for the drivers trying to get up to speed before the green flag.  The two red flags prior to the third were results of dicey racing decisions during other restarts.

“If they wanted red they should have called red earlier,” Ericsson said. He added, “I don’t think it was enough laps to go when the yellow came, so I think it should have finished under yellow.”

Tony Kanaan, the 2013 champion, said, “The biggest complaint we have every year is we shouldn’t finish a race under the yellow. That’s going to hurt someone. Could have they called it earlier? Yes. Could have, should have, would have, but we ended under green, and that’s what the fans kept asking us every time.”  Santino Ferrucci, the third-place finisher, nodded in agreement with Kanaan’s take on the restart.  “I don’t mind what INDYCAR did. I think they did a great job.”  He added, “I agree with you, to the fans, and I said that earlier when someone asked me what I thought of the reds. It’s just I think Marcus has a slightly different opinion which is totally cool because he finished second.”

Newgarden reminded everyone of the unforgiving nature of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “There’s so many different ways that this could have played out and you could have said this is fair or that’s fair,” he said. “I’ve seen it all. At this point I’m just really thankful they did it the way they did. I’m glad I had the car. I don’t really care. I’ve seen a lot of situations where it didn’t go our way. Today went our way, and I’ll take it. I’ll take it all day.”