O’Ward led the most laps in the 107th running of America’s premier open wheel race and was leading at the restart with eight laps to go.
But after a restart was disallowed, O’Ward was inclined to attack when the race returned to the green flag regime.
Chip Ganassi Racing’s Ericsson and race winner, Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden passed him into Turn 1 and his attempt to get back at the Swede into Turn 3 ended in a crash.
“I think I was a little too nice,” O’Ward told NBC Peacock. “I’m sorry for the team, we had some really fast cars.”
O’Ward and Ericsson had also battled for the last lap victory in last year’s race, when O’Ward backed out of a turn 1 attack on the last lap, allowing Ericsson to triumph.
This time, O’Ward attempted a lunge inside turn 3, but Ericsson didn’t give up in the turn. O’Ward then hit the grass before hitting Ericsson’s left rear wheel and going into the wall, while Ericsson was able to continue and finish in a strong second place, behind Newgarden.
“There were seven laps to go and I was looking for the win,” added O’Ward. “I was too kind.
“I’ll make sure he comes with me next time. I stepped inside the white line to make room for him and got crushed, and yeah, I won’t forget that.”
McLaren lost another car in the leading group when Felix Rosenqvist was eliminated in a serious crash with 14 laps to go.
Newgarden had just passed him into turn 1, and Rosenqvist slid into the wall, damaging his car enough to spin it back into the path of Andretti Autosport’s car driven by Kyle Kirkwood, who hit it and overturned into a the SAFER barrier.
“I got overtaken and ended up on the wrong side of the slipstream,” explained Rosenqvist. “I gave a good push, but the rear didn’t want to hear about it. I tried to stay off the track, but I think something broke and I got back on the racing line. Too bad, we had an incredible race”.
Kirkwood’s left rear wheel flew over the fences, narrowly missing a grandstand and landing on a Chevrolet that was in the parking lot. Fortunately, neither the fans nor the drivers were injured in the accident.
Kirkwood recounted, “It all happened so fast, getting caught in the nets is never a good thing in an IndyCar. The scariest part was seeing the sparks and getting stuck in that spot.”