How did Marcus Ericsson lose the Indy 500?

How did Marcus Ericsson lose the Indy 500?

I’m guessing that many of our members either watched the Indy 500 or at least saw highlights…

I can’t help but feel that Ericsson contributed to his second place finish behind Newgarden at the 2023 Indianapolis 500… There are so many factors that could have caused it, but I think his “Fancy (off-the-wall) Serpentine Driving Path” off Turn 2 on the last lap opened the door for Newgarden to pass him with so much finesse …

For the curious, the Serpentine Driving path refers to the line the drivers take around the track. In the photo below, as the drivers come off Turn 2 and Turn 4, they sweep down across the track into the inside lane.

There are various reasons for this and some of the reasons are: if the car stays on the outside wall, the car, as it cuts through the air, pushes air over the top of the car (for the downforce) and it also pushes the air off to the sides. If the car remained on the outside wall, the air being pushed off the Right side of the car would have to be compressed between the car and the wall and this would drain power and speed from the car. Also, staying on the outside wall gives the driver little “wiggle” room to maneuver. Likewise, there is a psychological rational that drivers don’t like being “up-against-the-wall.”

But it seems to have been carried to an extreme and sweeping down across the track seems almost exaggerated for “crowd appeal…”

Ok, to explain myself, I will run a hypothetical race: no pit stops, no tire changes, no gas stops, just start to finish racing… We will assume that the average speed was 233 MPH for this thought experiment.

The Track is 2.5 miles around on the inside lane. 200 laps equal 500-miles. The Center Lane is 2.53 miles and 200 laps equal 506 miles, and the outside lane is 2.56 miles and 200 laps is 512 miles…

Forget centrifugal force; remember this is a hypothetical race…

If the car ran an average of 233 MPH on the inside lane, each lap would take 38.6266 seconds and 200 laps would take 2-hours, 8-minutes, and 45 Seconds.

If the car ran on the center lane, each lap would take 39.0901 seconds and 200 laps would take 2-hours, 10-minutes, and 18 Seconds.

If the car ran on the outside lane, each lap would take 39.5536 seconds and 200 laps would take 2-hours, 11-minutes, and 50 Seconds.

So, as you can see, the route around the track affects the distance the car has to travel, hence the total time to complete the race.

Now, we know that in real life a car cannot travel that average speed of 233 MPH solely in the inside lane, centrifugal force will force the car to take a more rounded path, hence the wide sweeps into turns 1 and 3 and the short straights require the cars to stay on the outside to set up for turns 2 and 4.

And the driver needs to get the car off the outside wall. By approaching the inside wall, the driver only has to watch for other drivers passing on the outside. When drivers use the drafting to pass, their car speeds up and the centrifugal force has a tendency to throw the car right, clear of the car they are passing, rather than into the passed car (when passing on the Left)…

But every time a car changes its lateral path (moving left or right on the track…) it adds the lateral distance to the distance it has to travel around the track and it bleeds speed off the car or in the case of accelerating off a turn, the car has less power to accelerate…

Now, let’s get back to Ericsson. In the photo below, Ericsson is the lead car and he sweeps all the way across the track and almost into the wall. This sweep looked really spectacular, but it bled a lot of power off his engine when he needed the most acceleration. And not only did he sweep all the way across the track, he almost went off the track and had to steer right to keep from running into the inside wall.

Ericsson made two major lateral movements and he left the track completely open for Newgarden to slingshot around him to take the lead with a substantial margin due to Ericsson’s “wild driving…”

Well, that is my take on the race; I wonder what Paul Harvey would say is the Rest of the Story?

Pole speed was over 234 MPH, The all-time lap record is over 239 MPH, A 233 MPH lap on a less than ideal racing line is likely doable.

I do agree that Ericsson likely killed his straightway speed with the line he was taking, He was trying to break the draft, I get that, and had he just went dead straight down the straightaway, Newgarden still gets a run on him due to the draft anyway. He was put in tough situation. His only real chance was to jump the restart and get a big lead like O’Ward did during a previous caution (the restart was waved off) and hope that Ferrrucci would fight it out with Newgarden, which might allow him to cruise to victory.


Don’t forget that part of the reason to move to the left down the straight is to prevent the guy following from getting to the inside. You’re forcing him to take the outside which requires lifting earlier.

I haven’t watched the race yet, but I suspect Ericsson wasn’t in the right position when it counted. If he was in front, he needed a clearly superior car and he didn’t have one.

Ericsson lost because he was in front and he was driving defensively. Both contributed to slightly lower speeds for him and slightly more for Newgarden in his draft. His attempts to break the draft were only slightly effective, not enough to stop Newgarden.

Agree with CapriRacer, the goal is to keep your competition from taking the inside line. Especially on a track covered by tire debris off the racing line.

During the broadcast they repeated Ferrucci’s pre race comment that he wanted to be in second on the last lap… and this is why!

Doing yard work. Forgot race was on. I did see end of race though.

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@FoDaddy, I have posted a video of the final re-state below and after reviewing it, I have to agree that your analysis is spot-on…

I saw the great distance that Newgarden was behind Ericsson at 0:13 in the video… but at 0:37 that distance had shortened to the point of Newgarden being close enough to reach over the front of his car and tapping Ericsson on the shoulder and saying, “Pardon me, may I pass…” LoL…

And then at 0:39, Ericsson apparently tried to break the draft, but at that point it appears that Newgarden had already “snapped the whip” and since Ericsson swept Left to break the draft, it actually left the door open for Newgarden to streak straight ahead without having to snap around Ericsson and he was able to charge ahead with that tremendous burst of speed…

@CapriRacer and @Mustangman, I could not agree more as I originally posted…

And without further adieu, here is video of the Final Re-Start.

I didn’t watch the I500 race, but it makes sense physics-wise for the reasons you explain for a driver to try to stay away from the wall when possible. Moving away from wall may make it easier for someone to pass though. I thought at the time I was watching the I-500 on Sunday, but it turned out to be a different race, those cars had a more stock appearance. I watched the final 26 laps of that race, but it wasn’t very exciting; the cars kept getting bunched into a tight group then someone would drift off course a little, and a bunch of fender benders ensued, followed by lots caution flags. I’d have found it more interesting if they interviewed the mechanics and car builders, explaining the theory for their choice of engine/transmission configurations and how they compare, one to another.

You don’t know the difference between an Indianapolis race car and a Nascar race vehicle that is supposd to resemble an actual street vehicle ?

If that is correct then you should turn in your Car Talk membership card.

NASCAR race cars would originally have the same bodies you would find at the car dealer. with the saying … Race on Sunday, buy on Monday
nowadays they resemble new car bodies, but everything underneath is different.
all the race cars have the same engine, tranny, ect. to make them equal.
tuning the suspension, driver abilities, and pit strategy makes the difference.

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Engines on the Cup and Xfinity level are still manufacturer and sometimes team-specific. Toyotas a get their engines from TRD. For Fords, their engines are built by Roush/Yates, and for Chevrolet, you have a couple vendors to choose from; Hendrick, ECR, an a few other small time vendors all make Chevy cup engines.

In the truck series there’s an option to run a spec engine (regardless of the “make” of your truck). The spec engine, the NT1 , which is based on the GM LS , is larger than the “built” engines are allowed to be and because NASCAR controls what rear end gearing the teams are allowed to use at a given track, it’s easy for NASCAR to encourage it’s use by changing the allowable axle ratios to better suit the spec engine. The Toyota teams initially refused the the spec engine, but I think by now, everyone runs it.

Lower tier series also run spec or at least sealed engines.