Ericsson’s early Indianapolis 500 exit typifies wild day full of crashes and other problems

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Marcus Ericsson’s challenging May ended Sunday the same way it began — with a crash.

It was a precursor of what was to come for Andretti Global at this year’s Indianapolis 500.

Ericsson, the 2022 Indianapolis 500 champion and 2023 runner-up, failed to complete a lap as rookie Tom Blomqvist’s car got too low on the rumble strip coming through the first turn, spun up the track and collided with Ericsson’s No. 28 Honda. Before the day ended, two of Ericsson’s teammates, Colton Herta and Marco Andretti also had hit the wall, while a third, Kyle Kirkwood, saw his hopes end with a penalty for avoidable contact on pit row.

“I can’t believe it, it’s unbelievable,” the Swedish driver said. “It’s so frustrating. We were fighting all last weekend. We were fighting so hard. I can’t believe it. I just can’t believe it.”

Team owner Michael Andretti must have felt the same way, judging from his reaction after his son’s crash capped another nightmarish race day on the 2.5-mile oval where his family has had so much trouble, they’ve been continually asked about the Andretti Curse.

Fate or not, the result was the same Sunday — even for previously employed Andretti drivers.

Ryan Hunter-Reay, the 2012 Indy winner and IndyCar Series champ with Michael Andretti’s team who now drives for Dreyer Reinbold Racing, struggled with the car’s balance and was knocked out on Lap 108 when he tapped wheels with six-time series champ Scott Dixon while battling for position coming through the second turn.

“I haven’t looked at a replay yet to see if I could have done anything differently other than pulling out his way,” Dixon said after finishing third.

Still, the incident caught Hunter-Reay off-guard.

“I’ve been racing Scott Dixon for close to two decades and I’ve never seen something close to that on the speedway,” Hunter-Reay said. “He knows I was there. I don’t know where he was going, and how that wasn’t a penalty was beyond me.”

It was that kind of day following a four-hour rain delay.

Ericsson, Blomqvist and Pietro Fittipaldi all got collected in the first-lap crash. Rookie Linus Lundqvist of Chip Ganassi Racing hit the wall in the first turn of Lap 28. Even Will Power of Team Penske, a two-time series champ and 2018 Indy winner, couldn’t avoid crashing — hitting the wall between the first and second turns on Lap 148.

But nobody endured more bad luck Sunday than the Andretti team.

Herta, the 24-year-old Californian and one of the pre-race favorites, spun coming through the first turn on Lap 86 and after being cleared to drive at the infield medical center climbed back into the cockpit of the repaired No. 26 Honda and completed 170 laps.

Kirkwood’s penalty, for hitting Callum Ilott’s car in the pits, was announced on Lap 92. Marco Andretti, the 2020 Indy pole winner, desperately tried to save his wiggling car on Lap 113 before barely tapping the wall in Turn 4 as his father, Michael, rubbed his head.

For Ericsson, it was yet another chapter in a stress-filled May that started with a crash May 16. He made a similar mistake in practice to the one Blomqvist made on race day.

Crew members scrambled to get Ericsson’s No. 28 Honda back on the track for the first day of qualifying but he couldn’t qualify fast enough to make the top 30.

When he returned last Sunday as one of four drivers fighting for the final three starting spots, his first attempt was thrown off when he mistakenly thought he’d completed the four-lap run after only three laps and slowed down so much he was later bumped out of the race. Ericsson spent the next 45 minutes waiting anxiously to make amends and finally moved into the No. 32 spot.

Then Sunday, he wound up in the wrong place at the wrong time — again.

“Obviously, not a lot,” said Blomqvist of Myer Shank Racing when asked about what he experienced in his first 500 start. “I’m just so disappointed for the guys.”


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