On Sunday, May 29, 2022, Indianapolis Motor Speedway hosted the 106th Running of the Indianapolis 500. The IndyCar Series race is famously billed as “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing,” and once again, it lived up to its moniker.
From the pre-race festivities to Marcus Ericsson’s milky celebration in Victory Lane, the 2022 Indy 500 was an event to remember. Here are a few highlights from the Memorial Day weekend race.
Honoring a Late Broadcasting Legend
In 27 years of attending the Indianapolis 500 (eight as a writer), I cannot recall a time where I teared up during the pre-race ceremonies. It might have happened before, but the last two years have certainly taken a toll and put a lot of things into perspective.
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway video editors certainly helped to bring out the waterworks as Bob Jenkins’s voice rang out over the crowd.
“On this Memorial Day weekend, we pause here, in a moment of silence to pay homage to those individuals, who have given their lives, unselfishly and unafraid, to make it possible for us, as free men and women, to enjoy the world’s greatest sporting event.
“We also pay homage to those individuals, who have given their lives, unselfishly and without fear, to make racing the world’s most spectacular spectator sport.”
Bob Jenkins passed away on August 9, 2021 after a battle with cancer. A former chief announcer for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway radio network, Jenkins’s voice sent chills down the spines of over 300,000 people in attendance.
After Jim Cornelison’s rendition of “Back Home Again in Indiana,” it was time to get started. With most of the important personnel having been at the track since before sunrise (including yours truly who arrived just after 5:30 in the morning), the anticipation was building throughout the morning up until IMS chairman Roger Penske gave the command.
“Drivers! Start! Your! Engines!”
Dozens of Lead Changes, Race-Ending Wrecks, and a 1st-Time Winner
The 2022 edition of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” wasn’t a typical 500. Conserving fuel was the game to play, and it was done so from almost the very start of the race. Drivers were busy playing leapfrog with each other, trading the lead frequently. So frequently, in fact, that there were 38 lead changes.
Scott Dixon was the primary frontrunner throughout the race. The 2008 Indianapolis 500 winner has five pole positions at Indy, but just one appearance on the Borg-Warner Trophy. Dixon led 95 laps, and in doing so elevated his all-time laps led at Indianapolis to 665. He now holds the record for most laps led in 500 history over Al Unser Sr., who had the previous record of 644 laps.
However, the fates of racing strike at random, and they dealt Dixon’s run a race-ending blow. While entering pit road for his final stop, the six-time IndyCar champion was going too fast and locked his brakes up.
Race control was on top of the situation and called Dixon in for a drive-thru penalty for speeding in the pits while Dixon was actually still on pit road. The No. 9 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda ultimately finished 21st. However, that day at IMS wasn’t a complete wash for Chip Ganassi Racing.
Marcus Ericsson was probably the most overlooked member of CGR and unsurprisingly so. The Swedish vet’s teammates include a former IndyCar champion and 500 winner (Tony Kanaan), the defending series champion (Alex Palou), a seven-time NASCAR champion (Jimmie Johnson).
However, Ericsson had placed special emphasis on ovals, since those were his weak point in 2021. The No. 8 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda was third at Texas, and Ericsson used the knowledge and confidence he gained there to push forward towards the lead of the pack.
After executing his team’s strategy, Ericsson had more than a three-second gap between Pato O’Ward in second, but a late-race red flag nearly undid everything.
The call for the red flag was the right call in my opinion, but it wasn’t executed at the right time. Johnson hit the Turn 2 wall while Ericsson was on Lap 194, but it wasn’t until another lap had passed under caution that the red flag was called with four laps remaining.
The drivers would have one lap under caution for a two-lap shootout, but that would have become a three-lap shootout had the red flag been called for immediately.
Either way, nobody was passing Ericsson for the win. He had the fastest car when it counted at the end of the race, and was the deserving winner.
For other final reflections, it was a shame so many cars wrecked, but what’s better is that all drivers were in good condition after their incidents. It was also a shame that Colton Herta didn’t have a better day, but his car was just not there all day. IndyCar eventually parked Herta for not being on the pace while he was in the pits getting a new rear-wing wickerbill installed.
Over 300,000 people have their own personal story to tell of the 106th Indianapolis 500. Let’s see how many new attendees make the decision to return in 2023.