Johnson’s crash led to a two-lap shootout to decide the race, when Ericsson engaged some wild weaving moves to keep his rivals behind.
Teammate Scott Dixon led most laps, but a pitlane speeding penalty during his last stop ended his hopes. Ericsson overcame the Arrow McLaren SP cars of Pato O’Ward and Felix Rosenqvist during the final stint, with Tony Kanaan separating them to grab third in the closing stages.
How the Indy 500 unfolded
At the green flag, pole-winner Dixon led the 33 cars to Turn 1 ahead of Alex Palou (Chip Ganassi Racing-Honda) and Rinus VeeKay (Ed Carpenter Racing-Chevy). Palou grabbed the lead at Turn 3 on the opening lap and VeeKay further demoted Dixon at Turn 1 on Lap 2.
Dixon ironed VeeKay for second on Lap 5 and then retook the lead from Palou on Lap 8 – the teammates then swapping the top spot repeatedly to aid each other’s fuel mileage.
Another Ganassi entry, Marcus Ericsson, led the chase in fourth place from Ed Carpenter (ECR), Tony Kanaan (CGR) and the Arrow McLaren SP-Honda cars of Pato O’Ward and Felix Rosenqvist. Early movers in the pack were Josef Newgarden (Team Penske-Chevy) and Alexander Rossi (Andretti Autosport-Honda), both gaining five places in the opening stages, as Will Power (Team Penske) was an early faller as he complained of huge oversteer – his day getting worse as he stalled leaving the pits, dropping him to 30th.
Dixon made his first pitstop from the lead on Lap 31, with Palou in on Lap 32 and VeeKay on Lap 33. AMSP’s cars got great mileage in the pack and ran until Lap 36.
The first caution flew on Lap 39, as VeeKay crashed out of second place at Turn 2, losing control of the rear of his car just six laps into his second stint. “It just snapped on me,” he said.
Palou led the Lap 47 restart, with Takuma Sato (Dale Coyne-Honda) making a huge around-the-outside move to grab sixth briefly before Kanaan ironed him into Turn 3. O’Ward took third from Ericsson just before one quarter distance.
The second round of pitstops had just begun when Callum Ilott crashed his Juncos Hollinger car at Turn 2. Dixon and Conor Daly (ECR) had just made their stops but Palou was caught out by a closed pitlane and he had to drive straight through. He then had to take emergency service on the following tour, which dropped him at the tail of the field and then had to serve a penalty at the restart too.
Carpenter lost two spots in the second round of yellow flag pitstops, with O’Ward winning the race off pitroad and rejoining behind Dixon and the fortunate Daly, who had been propelled to second place thanks to his strategy.
At the Lap 78 restart, Daly and O’Ward had a near miss at Turn 1 as Ericsson and Kanaan battled over fourth. Ericsson then battled past O’Ward, who had to back out of the gas, for third.
Local hero Daly hit the front on Lap 81 to the delight of the crowd while, further back, the Meyer Shank-Hondas of Simon Pagenaud and Helio Castroneves (who had a flapping helmet air hose since the early stages) worked their way inside the Top 15.
Dixon worked his way past Daly to lead again, while O’Ward retook Ericsson for third.
At the halfway point, Dixon led Daly, O’Ward, Ericsson, Kanaan, Santino Ferrucci (Dreyer & Reinbold-Chevy), Carpenter, Newgarden, Rosenqvist and Sato.
O’Ward took second before Daly pitted on Lap 106 – and for the second time, a crash happened as Conor did so, as Romain Grosjean spun his Andretti Autosport-Honda into the wall exiting Turn 2.
The pits opened just in time to save Dixon, who didn’t stop on the same lap as Daly this time, and he would restart in second, behind Daly. Adding to Penske’s woe, Newgarden stalled in this round of stops, dropping him to 24th.
Daly was swamped on the Lap 113 restart, as O’Ward passed both Daly and Dixon to grab the lead, with Ferrucci sweeping up to fourth ahead of Rosenqvist, Kanaan, Ericsson and Carpenter. Daly and Ferrucci banged wheels into Turn 3 in a tussle for third, while Palou was now back inside the Top 20 after his earlier delay.
Dixon was soon back in front – picking up the mantle of the all-time Indy 500 lap leader from the late Al Unser Sr – with O’Ward and Daly content to run in his slipstream, as Rosenqvist demoted Ferrucci to fifth.
Dixon pitted under green on Lap 141, followed by a lap later by Daly. Rosenqvist stopped two laps later and stayed ahead until Dixon passed him at Turn 1 on Lap 145. O’Ward pitted later than all of them and cycled his way to the front, while Kanaan suffered a slow stop and lost ground to the leaders, losing a spot to Ericsson also.
O’Ward led by a second with 50 laps to go, but the yellow flew again soon after as Scott McLaughlin crashed his Team Penske-Chevy at Turn 3 and smashed the wall again at Turn 4.
With 43 laps to go, Dixon grabbed the lead from O’Ward, Rosenqvist, Daly and Ericsson. Rossi – who started 20th – was now sixth, busting moves ahead of Kanaan, Ferrucci, Pagenaud and Carpenter. Palou was 12th but banging wheels with Sage Karam.
O’Ward retook the lead but Dixon was clearly keen on staying out front. Rosenqvist stopped on Lap 173, followed in by Rossi a lap later. Dixon pitted for the final time on Lap 175, almost losing it under brakes at pit-in – and he pinged for speeding as a result. His penalty dropped him to 26th.
O’Ward rejoined from his last stop behind teammate Rosenqvist, and Ericsson further demoted O’Ward with a smart move in Turn 1. He then moved past fellow countryman Rosenqvist on the next tour and pulled away.
Rosenqvist fell back behind O’Ward and Kanaan, as Ericsson pulled out an impressive 3s lead. But Jimmie Johnson crashed heavily at Turn 2 with six laps to go, leading to a red flag with five laps to go.
At the restart with two laps to go, Ericsson led O’Ward, Kanaan and Rosenqvist to the green flag. Ericsson jumped clear with aggressive weaving, O’Ward attacked around the outside of Turn 1 but Ericsson held him off.
Karam’s crash off Turn 2 on the final lap ended the race, with Ericsson taking the win ahead of O’Ward, Kanaan, Rosenqvist and Rossi.