Ericsson overcame the slow start, no doubt about becoming the favourite
Marcus Ericsson wasn’t always sitting in front of the Borg Warner Cup, eyeing the silver likeness on the famous Indianapolis 500 Cup like he did last week. Indeed, just two years ago, the depth of the NTT INDYCAR series would challenge him in an unexpected way.
In Ericsson’s first two INDYCAR seasons – spanning 30 races – he only led 10 laps and stood on the podium only once. As a rookie in the series in 2019, he finished 17th in the points standings for Schmidt-Peterson Motorsports, and then only 12th the following season for Chip Ganassi Racing, one of the best teams in the sport.
Erickson didn’t discover the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s oval track either, finishing 23rd and 32nd in two Indianapolis 500 starts Gainbridge gave him, and finished on Lap 25 with contact against the Turn 2 wall. Learning this series obviously took time.
“I wouldn’t say I underestimated INDYCAR, but I thought I would be a little bit stronger than I was,” said Ericsson, a five-season Formula 1 veteran. “The first two seasons were very difficult, and it was the first year truly harsh. I guess you could say in year two I thought I was finding my way a little bit, but it was still more of a challenge than I expected.”
Ericsson, 32, admits the series veterans have been edging him for a reason – experience is important, he said – but still, shouldn’t it be an easier transition for someone with 97 career starts in F1? I have thought about this question.
“But when you think about it, you’re up against guys who’ve been racing here for 10, 15, even 20 years, and they know these cars and these tracks,” he said. “You naturally know it will take some time to get over that.”
It is, and it has done so with Ericsson. His first real feat was at the seventh race of the 2021 season, the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear, when the Year 3 Series driver stormed from 15th on the grid to take the lead and victory when Will Power’s engine couldn’t start following a late red flag. Erickson then won the Music City Grand Prix in Nashville after four races.
Last year, Ericsson drove nearly five times as many laps as he did in his first two seasons together in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, winning the world’s biggest race. The satiation was real, especially considering he’s gone seven seasons without winning a race (2014-2020).
As a reward for winning the ‘500’, the Borg-Warner Trophy is soon going to Sweden – with stops in capital Stockholm and Ericsson’s hometown, Kumla – as No. 8 Huski Chocolate driver Chip Ganassi Racing Honda celebrates. As a driver for NTT INDYCAR SERIES. In addition to winning three races, he has been a consistent favorite, finishing sixth in the points standings each of the past two seasons and leading this year’s championship pursuit through most of the summer.
“Years three and four were really strong for me, and I was running up front,” said Erickson. “And this is a great series; I love it. It’s very competitive now with so many good cars and drivers, and you know every time you get out it’s going to be a battle. I love racing in a series like that.”
Eriksson expects Sweden to embrace the Borg Warner Cup with so much pride, that he expects their view of it to be even more special than when he saw his form on it for the first time last week.
“I’ve always had great support from Sweden since my F1 days, but when I came to INDYCAR I didn’t know what was going to happen with that (support),” he said. Well, winning the 500 was great leaked Something in Sweden, and the fact that I bring the Borg Warner Cup to show them is unreal. It will be great to share the victory with my family, friends and all the fans.
“Since (winning the Indy Award), it’s been different for me at home being on all the big (Swedish) news channels and doing different things in public. Also, I feel for people talking about (NTT INDYCAR SERIES), which is really cool. It won’t You never dream that something like this would happen.”
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