Photo: Colin J. Mayr/ASP, Inc.

Sunday Indianapolis 500 Notebook

By David Morgan, Associate Editor

SPEEDWAY, Ind. – Detroit can’t come soon enough for Marcus Ericsson.

Since crashing his primary car in practice ahead of qualifying weekend for the 108th running of the Indianapolis 500, it has been one thing after another for the driver of the No. 28 Andretti Global Honda.

Struggling to find speed with his back-up car, Ericsson nearly missed out of the race altogether after falling into the Last Row Shootout to even have a chance to make the 33-car field.

In that Sunday session to determine who among the four drivers at the back of the pack would go home, more missteps, including Ericsson mistakenly aborting his qualifying run a lap early, nearly saw the 2022 Indy 500 champion watching this year’s race from the sidelines.

However, Ericsson and his No. 28 Andretti Global team found their way eventually, posting a time quick enough to get them in the field, allowing them to turn their attention to race day and the monumental task ahead of them starting from the back of the pack.

Ericsson seemed to be on a more positive trajectory in the two practice sessions head of Sunday’s race and was upbeat about his chances to improve his luck when the green flag flew.

However, the 2022 Indy 500 champion would never get the chance.

Heading into Turn 1 on the opening lap, rookie Tom Blomqvist got too low onto the apron, looping his car around directly in front of Ericsson, who had nowhere to go and made heavy contact with Blomqvist and the outside wall.

Ericsson was able to climb from his car unhurt and checked and released from the Infield Care Center at a loss for words at how his race ended almost as soon as it began.

“I can’t believe it. It’s unbelievable,” Ericsson said. “It’s just so frustrating. We had to work so hard. The team did such a good job rebuilding that car. We fought it all last week. We fought it all week to be good and this happens. I just can’t believe it.”

The Biggest Mover

Despite a starting position deep in the field on the second-to-last row, Conor Daly knew he had something special with his No. 24 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing/Cusick Motorsports Chevrolet, he just needed the opportunity to prove it.

With a little help from his crew on strategy, that’s exactly what he got.

On four separate occasions, Daly found his way to the lead for a total of 22 laps up front and it wasn’t a fluke that he was up there either. Once in and among the leaders, he was able to hold his own, bringing his car home in one piece in 10th place – his fourth finish inside the top-10 at his home track and third straight since 2022.

“Honestly, I’m super pumped. Biggest mover, love to see that,” Daly said. “Thankful for Polkadot and Chevrolet for working with us. We had some trials and tribulations over the last week and a half. We knew we were faster than where we started and we proved it. We got up front thanks to great strategy from Dennis and the boys.

“I love running at the front of this race. I love running with the true professionals up there. The McLaughlins of the world, the Josefs of the world, if we just make one move in the pit lane right at the end, we’re in a better spot. We were lacking maybe just a little bit of speed but that was the first time we ran with that group all month. We weren’t really sure what to expect.

“I think for what we had, for the amount of time together in this car, we have to be super proud of that. Another top-10 finish and for me here, that’s super cool.”

A Bad Day in the Honda Engine Department

Honda started off the Month of May at Indianapolis with a number of engine issues during the Sonsio Grand Prix on the IMS road course, but when it came to the Indy 500, seemed to be immune from such woes, leaving that problem to Chevrolet.

Until the green flag dropped Sunday.

Within the first 56 laps, three Honda powered entries fell by the wayside. First Marcus Armstrong, followed by Katherine Legge and then Felix Rosenqvist. All of them signaled by the tell-tale sign of white smoke billowing out of the tailpipes of their cars.

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David Morgan is the Associate Editor for Motorsports Tribune. A 2008 graduate from the University of Mississippi, David has followed NASCAR since the early 90’s and became hooked at an early age after attending his first race at Talladega Superspeedway in 1993. He has traveled across the country since 2012 to cover some of the most prestigious events both IndyCar and NASCAR have to offer, with an aim to only expand on that in the near future.