Marcus Ericsson has the T-shirt, now wants the IndyCar title

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — “The Sneaky Swede” isn’t so much anymore, though the T-shirt announcing Marcus Ericsson as the star of the NTT IndyCar Series finally hit a track this weekend.

Official event merchandise trailers at the Music City Grand Prix wore a red No. 8 emblazoned with “The Sneaky Swede,” a nod to driver Chip Ganassi Racing’s penchant for excelling while hiding.

But Ericsson also noted in May that he sometimes felt a little too far from the spotlight – a reporter from his Swedish hometown told Ericsson he couldn’t locate any merchandise at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway featuring featured the pilot.

That naturally started to change after Ericsson won the 106th Indy 500 then led the championship standings for nearly two months.

But its emergence really began with the inaugural Music City Grand Prix, which Ericsson surprisingly won despite extraordinary circumstances that required seven pit stops.

Although his first IndyCar victory had come two months earlier, Ericsson gained a new level of exposure in Nashville – where he took to the air on lap five, served a stop-and-go penalty, then sublimely executed a perfect strategy to jump from behind. ahead of pole sitter Colton Herta (who crashed with five laps to go while fruitlessly chasing the lead).

“Yeah, that was a huge win for me,” said Ericsson, who re-signed with Ganassi’s team a few weeks later. “It was the first Music City Grand Prix in downtown Nashville and a lot of eyes were on this event. So to be the first winner and make history was really cool and really helped me establish at the top of IndyCar. It was a very big victory for me, and I plan to try to attack this victory on Sunday.

“The Sneaky Swede” t-shirt was on sale in Nashville in an official IndyCar (Nate Ryan) event trailer.

After losing the points lead after the July 30 race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the No. 8 Dallara-Honda driver could use another jolt of momentum, and he’ll also have to overcome adversity again. Sunday in Nashville (3 p.m. ET, NBC) after qualifying 18e of 26 cars.

Ericsson struggled to find the grip all weekend while lacking speed – which is unusual as he considered street courses his greatest strength outside the Indy Oval this season. He was in the top 10 at every street circuit except Long Beach, where he was on course for a podium finish before a late crash.

“I still feel like St. Pete and Long Beach, we were the fastest cars in those two races,” Ericsson said Thursday before his first lap. “St. Pete, we were racing really well, and I got that pit lane penalty, which I still think was very severe and put us at the back of the field and still managed to get a top 10. Long Beach, in P3 late in the race, and I made a mistake on a restart and rammed it into the wall.

“Our urban course package was probably our best as a team, which is why I’m really excited about this weekend. I’m really confident that we’ll be in the game to win this thing on Sunday.

Speaking with Roger Penske and Alexander Rossi ahead of the July 30 race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Marcus Ericsson and Will Power are nine points clear with four races remaining in the 2022 NTT IndyCar Series season (Kristin Enzor/For IndyStar/ USA TODAY Sports Images Network).

With four races remaining this season, Ericsson fell nine points behind 2014 Team Penske Series champion Will Power.

“He’s just a great driver, a great competitor and he’s been around for a really long time,” Ericsson said. “He had an incredible season with his consistency and his way of always coming back to the races. Pretty crazy how many times it looks like he’s having a bad day, and he ends up in the top four somehow. He’s going to be tough to beat. »

But Power expects the same from Ericsson, whom he called “probably the best racer in the series” at the Iowa Speedway race weekend.

Nashville could be a major opportunity either way. Power will start eighth after a penalty prevented him from qualifying for the final round of qualifying, and although Ericsson starts 10 places behind, he proved last year that anything is possible on the 11-turn, 2-track layout. .1 miles.

Ericsson is also being advised by four-time IndyCar champion and Ganassi consultant Dario Franchitti to manage the title race. Ericsson has managed to stem his loss of points in the last three races – at Iowa Speedway he ‘led the fight’ against Power’s Penske duo and Race 1 winner Josef Newgarden before his car went to eighth place after starting 12e. He finished sixth after qualifying 15e in Race 2, and he bounced back again last week at Indy by moving up 14 spots in a last-to-11 drivee.

“We need to have this risk versus reward calculation,” Ericsson said. “It is something dangerous. You think too much about points and then you don’t take risks because then you’ll put yourself in difficult situations. (At Indy last week), fighting in the back of the field and rolling wheel to wheel with guys for P15, this could be their highlight of the season. Then it’s hard for me to do the same risks because I don’t need to have a DNF.

“Things like that to keep in mind, but it’s a fine line there. The way to go is to maximize every weekend. If we can win, we have to win. P5, be there. Then we’ll be in good shape to win this thing.

Franchitti is also the most recent to win the Indy 500 and IndyCar Series championships in the same season (2010) – a story not lost on the 31-year-old Ericsson.

“Coming to America after European racing and Formula 1, the championship was the most important thing, but the longer I’ve been here the more I understand that the 500 is the one you want to win,” he said. “What motivates me now is to do the double. It’s not something that has happened often in IndyCar history. It’s hard to win both in the same year.

“After the 500m I was very motivated to work extremely hard to win the championship and the double. We have a chance to do that, and I’m really, really, really looking forward to trying to do that double.

Elizabeth J. Harless