INDYCAR Photo by John Cote
INDYCAR Photo from John Cote

Sweden’s interest in IndyCar is soaring, according to Felix Rosenqvist

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LONG BEACH, California – Thanks to the addition of rookies Felix Rosenqvist and Marcus Ericsson, interest in the NTT IndyCar Series is soaring in Sweden.

Rosenqvist calls it a “game breaker” in his homeland.

“When I signed with Chip Ganassi Racing, people were very happy that I was coming to IndyCar,” Rosenqvist told NBC Sports.com. “Many of my fans in Sweden were not happy with me being in Formula E. When I signed in IndyCar, all of the old Kenny Brack fans came back to life. When Marcus came to IndyCar, everything exploded and got three times bigger.

“It seems to be that IndyCar is what the fans in Sweden are following at the moment instead of Formula One.

“That’s a game-breaker for our country.”

Rosenqvist started his rookie season as the big story to come out of the Firestone Grand Prix of Long Beach when he started third, led 31 laps and finished fourth in the 110-lap contest. He was a leading contender at Circuit of the Americas on March 24 after qualifying fifth, but after he got punted in Turn 20 by Canada’s James Hinchcliffe, the 27-year-old from Malmo, Sweden finished 23rd.

Last week in the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park, Rosenqvist started 17thand raced his way up to 10th.

As the NTT IndyCar Series prepares for the second street race of the season in Sunday’s 45thAcura Grand Prix of Long Beach, he is hoping to give his fans in Sweden something to cheer about.

Watch Sunday’s race at 4:30 pm ET on NBCSN or the NBC Sports app

“I always look forward to these races, just to have this atmosphere,” Rosenqvist said. “It’s a special vibe for everyone to be at street races. I always tend to do well in them, and that helps.

“It’s a mixed feeling. I started off really well at St. Pete. COTA was amazing up to the race, when I had some issues. Barber was like a big joker the way everything happened. I want to work on my race pace. The qualifying pace seems to be there, and I want to improve my race pace.”

Rosenqvist was the third-fastest driver in Friday’s combined practice sessions on the streets of Long Beach. His fast lap around the 1.968-mile, 11-turn road course was 1:07.8867 for a speed of 104.362 miles per hour in the No. 10 NTT Data Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing. His teammate, Scott Dixon, was the fastest at 1:07.7940 (104.505 mph) followed by Ryan Hunter-Reay at 1:07.8434 (104.429 mph).

The top three drivers were in Hondas.

INDYCAR Photo by Chris OwensRosenqvist’s fellow driver from Sweden, Ericsson, was 16thfor Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports at 1:08.5580 (103.340 mph) in a Honda.

“I think he has been really strong in the races,” Rosenqvist said of Ericsson. “In all three races this year, he has been poor qualifying, but really strong races. I think it’s only a matter of time before he qualifies in the Top Five and has a run for the podium.

“I think his day will come. There are a lot of things to learn. Every week, they throw something different at you that is a surprise.”

Rosenqvist missed the setup in qualifying last week at Barber but plans on getting it right at Long Beach.

“When you are stuck in that angry, mid-pack group, you have to get through it fast,” Rosenqvist said. “When you get stuck between 10thand 17thfor more than half the race, it’s hard to get through it.

“It’s all things that we need to think about and work on for the future.”

The Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach has a rich heritage in Formula One and became part of the CART series in 1984 and IndyCar in 2008.

Even in Sweden, they know about this event.

“It’s one of the races you remember as a kid because you remember that Fountain Corner,” Rosenqvist said. “It’s historic. It’s such a really cool race. It’s a great track. Everyone loves it. It’s in California and everyone loves it.

“It’s perfect timing for me now to try to come back here now and try to get a podium.”

Plus, Rosenqvist’s mentor and agent, former Formula One and CART driver Stefan Johansson of Sweden, lives just up the freeway in Santa Monica, California.

It could all add up to another big weekend for Sweden in the NTT IndyCar Series at the 45thAcura Grand Prix of Long Beach.

Dean Wilson out for rest of Supercross season

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“Such a massive gut punch on Saturday,” Dean Wilson wrote on Instagram on Tuesday. “Just as I was gaining good momentum riding well, feeling good and chasing my first win things turned in the blink of an eye.”

With that post, Wilson announced that he will be out for the remainder of the Supercross season, which includes races at East Rutherford, N.J. and Las Vegas, Nev. An MRI earlier in the week revealed a shoulder injury. He also sustained damage to his kidney in a Lap 8 accident while he was running in the top 10.

Wilson’s injuries will not require surgery.

Wilson’s season began with a lot of promise. Earning the holeshot in the season-opening race at Anaheim, Wilson led for a time before narrowly missing the podium in fourth.

Two weeks later, Wilson finished fifth overall in the Triple Crown event of Anaheim II. Those are his only top-fives of the season.

“The tough part of this is I have been trying so hard this year to be back where I need to be trying to get a job for next year,” Wilson continued.

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Such a massive gut punch on Saturday. Just as I was gaining good momentum riding well, feeling good and chasing my first win things turned in the blink of an eye. Started off Denver topping free practice then went on to qualify P1 in qualifier 1. Qualifier 2 didn’t get the cleanest laps but ended with a 4th. On to the main event I was running around 7th on lap 7 moving forward and as I came around for the rhythm section I tripled in and something freak happened causing the bike to nose dive after I tripled in and pile driving me into the ground. The tough part of this is I have been trying so hard this year to be back where I need to be trying to get a job for next year. It’s tough just hoping to have a ride each year. 2nd part is people saying “wilson’s hurt again, big surprise there” when it was something that wasn’t my fault. It’s a tough pill To swallow.. I injured my shoulder and got a contusion on my kidneys. Got MRI and good news is I dodged a bullet on my shoulder and I am just going to give it a few weeks of rest and therapy and see where we are at. Huge disappointment to end my SX season like this. Thanks to my whole team for everything and everybody checking in on me. I really appreciate it. I will be back.

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Next Race: East Rutherford April. 27, on NBCSN and on NBC Sports Gold

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