Marcus Ericsson Dodges Disaster To Win Season Opener for IndyCar St. Pete Grand Prix
Marcus Ericsson celebrated his win in the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Because of the start and a very full field, the crash was almost anticipated by much of the sports media, fans and drivers. The drama started from the very beginning. In turn 4 of lap 1, Felix Rosenqvist nicked the outside wall near Turn 3, then got loose. As others checked up behind him, a chain reaction collected five other cars, including Devlin DeFrancesco’s No. 29 Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport Honda. DeFrancesco said he saw the No. 55 Chevrolet of rookie Benjamin Pedersen speeding toward him and thought, “Yeah, this is going to be a big one.”
It was super big- and what a way to start out 2023. NTT had some video highlights:
Marcus Ericsson made a 'late in the game' pass to win he first Indy car of the season at Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix.
The season-opening race was held in St. Petersburg Florida and was a crash-filled IndyCar Series that had two featured two cars going airborne, one driver being hospitalized and the two top contenders wrecking each other out with 29 laps to go while battling for the lead.
More incredible footage from Conor Daly, who posted his reaction to the mess on Twitter, with a special thanks to his team:
"Had a decent day going until we got wrecked. No drink bottle or cool shirt from lap 1 on. That was a less than fun experience. Made up a lap and got to P14 from P26 at the start. Thanks for fighting all the way to the end
@ECRIndy @BitNile @ToddAultIII, " Daly posted, with the following footage:
Ericsson dodged multiple incidents in a chaotic season-opening race for the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, winning the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by RP Funding on Sunday in a day overflowing with drama.
2022 Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge winner Ericsson earned his fourth career NTT INDYCAR SERIES victory by 2.4113 seconds in the No. 8 Huski Chocolate Chip Ganassi Racing Honda over runner-up Pato O’Ward in the No. 5 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet.
Ericsson, who started fourth, took the lead when O’Ward slowed suddenly exiting Turn 14 on Lap 97 of the 100-lap race when his engine shut off momentarily due to a brief fire in the plenum chamber of his powerplant.
“I feel bad for Pato for having the issue, but that’s racing,” Swedish driver Ericsson said. "You need to get there to the finish line. We were having such a good weekend. The car was fantastic all the way through. We were hunting him down, putting the pressure on, and that’s when things happen. It was a hell of a start to the season.”
Six-time NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion Scott Dixon finished third in the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. Alexander Rossi finished fourth in the No. 7 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet in his debut with the team after seven seasons at Andretti Autosport.
Callum Ilott rounded out the top five after starting 22nd in the No. 77 Juncos Hollinger Racing Chevrolet, with his 17 spots gained the most of any driver in the race.
O’Ward took the lead on Lap 74 when leader Scott McLaughlin in the No. 3 DEX Imaging Team Penske Chevrolet and second place Romain Grosjean in the No. 28 DHL Honda collided while dueling side by side for the lead, both plunging into the tire barriers in Turn 4. McLaughlin had just exited the pits on cold Firestone tires after Grosjean had pitted earlier and was on warm rubber, and McLaughlin took responsibility for the incident in a post-race interview.
McLaughlin and NTT P1 Award pole sitter Grosjean were the dominant drivers out front, leading 37 and 31 laps, respectively.
On the ensuing restart on Lap 79, O’Ward built a 2.8-second lead in just one lap and appeared to be destined for victory. But Ericsson steadily chipped at O’Ward’s gap, helped by saving twice as much Push-to-Pass time as O’Ward for the final stint of the race.
Ericsson pulled to within one-half second of O’Ward on Lap 97 when O’Ward’s car suddenly slowed with the plenum problem and then regained speed.
“We did everything right today,” a crestfallen O’Ward said. “There’s always something. The boys deserved that. Compared to where we were here last year, this is a massive step. But we gave that one away. We can’t have that happen anymore. I know we’re second, but …”
Ericsson slipped past O’Ward, taking the lead for the first time and cruising to the checkered flag to enthrall a chanting corps of Swedish fans in the grandstands. Ericsson will split $10,000 with his Chip Ganassi Racing team and his chosen charity, Riley Children’s Foundation, for his victory as part of the PeopleReady Force For Good Challenge.
Two major incidents on the 14-turn, 1.8-mile temporary street circuit thinned the 27-car field in the first half of the race.
On a restart on Lap 41, Rinus VeeKay’s No. 21 Bitnile.com Chevrolet nosed into the barriers in Turn 4 amid heavy traffic. The No. 30 Kustom Entertainment Honda of Jack Harvey had nowhere to go and plowed into the back of VeeKay. Then the trailing No. 27 AutoNation Honda of Kyle Kirkwood hit the rear of Harvey’s car and vaulted over that machine and VeeKay’s wounded car.
Harvey was taken to a local hospital in stable condition for further evaluation as a precautionary measure, according to INDYCAR Medical Director Dr. Julia Vaizer. The other drivers in the incident were unhurt.
The race started with a chaotic incident on the first lap. Felix Rosenqvist’s No. 6 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet and Dixon’s car made side-by-side contact in Turn 2, with Rosenqvist being shoved into light wall contact.
That minor clash triggered a big, chain-reaction collision involving six cars that wiped out two teams’ hopes for a strong finish in the race. Drivers involved: Meyer Shank Racing teammates Helio Castroneves in the No. 06 AutoNation/Sirius XM Honda and Simon Pagenaud in the No. 60 AutoNation/Sirius XM, AJ Foyt Racing teammates Santino Ferrucci in the No. 14 AJ FOYT RACING/SEXTON PROPERTIES Chevrolet and rookie Benjamin Pedersen in the No. 55 AJ FOYT RACING/SEXTON PROPERTIES Chevrolet, rookie Sting Ray Robb in the No. 51 biohaven Honda and Devlin DeFrancesco in the No. 29 EVTEC Honda.
DeFrancesco’s car was tossed into the air in a pirouette when T-boned by Pedersen in the unfolding maelstrom. None of the drivers involved in the incident was hurt.
The next NTT INDYCAR SERIES race is the PPG 375 on Sunday, April 2 on the 1.5-mile oval at Texas Motor Speedway.