INDYCAR Photo by Joe Skibinski

Chip Ganassi Racing expands to three cars with addition of Marcus Ericsson

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Chip Ganassi Racing will become “Team Sweden” next season in the NTT IndyCar Series season as both drivers from the Scandinavian country will be part of a three-car IndyCar team in 2020. Marcus Ericsson, who showed flashes of promise as a rookie at Arrow Schmidt Peterson this past season, joins fellow Swedish driver and 2019 IndyCar Rookie of the Year Felix Rosenqvist at team owner chip Ganassi’s team.

Five-time NTT IndyCar Series champion and 2008 Indianapolis 500 winning driver Scott Dixon of New Zealand is the lead driver on that team with 46 career victories, third on the all-time list.

Ericsson, 29, is a former Formula One driver with 97 career F1 starts in his career before coming to IndyCar last season. He will drive the team’s third car, the No. 8 Honda.

“First of all, I’m extremely happy and proud to get the opportunity to join Chip Ganassi Racing. It’s a team of winners and their history speaks for itself,” Ericsson said. “I’m very thankful that they believe in me and I will do everything I can to make 2020 another successful year for the team. I’m also very excited to work with two of the best drivers in the series in Scott and Felix. I’m looking forward to putting what I’ve learned this year to use in my second year in the NTT IndyCar Series.”

Ericsson had a one-year contract with Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. That team is in the midst of a merger with McLaren to become Arrow McLaren Racing SP and indicated that Ericsson would not be part of the team’s lineup in 2020.

Team owner Chip Ganassi saw promise in the driver from Kumla, Sweden and decided to expand to a third entry in order to utilize his team and crew from the Ford GT sports car program that will conclude at the end of this season.

 “I think Marcus brings a lot of unique experience with him having competed in several championships around the world,” Ganassi said. “When you have someone with that type of background, it gives him other points of reference that helps his ability to develop and add to the overall racing program. We’re looking forward to seeing what Marcus can do alongside Scott and Felix.”

In his rookie year in the NTT IndyCar Series, Ericsson scored his first-ever podium with a career-best finish of second in Detroit. He also had six laps led on the season and completed 88.5 percent of the laps run.

Prior to his rookie season in INDYCAR in 2019, Ericsson most recently completed his fifth year in Formula 1 in 2018 with a total of 97 starts. The Kumla, Sweden native is a two-time champion (Formula BMW UK, 2007; Japanese Formula Three, 2009), and has twice claimed the Swedish Junior Racer of the Year award (2007, 2009). Prior to that he competed in British Formula Three, GP2 Asia and GP2.

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500 

April 5 in Motorsports History: Alex Zanardi’s amazing Long Beach rally

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Alex Zanardi entered the Long Beach Grand Prix on April 5, 1998 as the race’s defending champion and the series’ defending champion.

But the Italian didn’t seem a serious contender for much of the 105-lap event. Zanardi started 11th position and lost a lap early when he was involved in a multicar spin in the hairpin.

Alex Zanardi celebrates after winning the 1998 Grand Prix of Long Beach. Photo: Getty Images

But the race was still young, and despite emerging from the incident in 18th place, Zanardi slowly progressed through the field while battling radio problems that made communication difficult with his team.

With five laps remaining, Zanardi passed Dario Franchitti on the backstretch for second place and then focused in on leader Bryan Herta.

With two laps remaining, Zanardi made his move, making a daring pass on the inside of Herta in the Queen’s Hairpin (which no longer exists as the track layout was changed the following year).

The move was reminiscent of Zanardi’s famous last-lap move on the inside of Laguna Seca’s famed Corkscrew in 1996, which deprived Herta of his first CART victory.

Franchitti passed Herta as well, and Zanardi went on to clinch his first victory of the season.

“On a day when everything went wrong, we came back and won,” Zanardi said following the race. “I can’t explain it. It wasn’t until I saw Bryan ahead of me that I ever thought I had a shot at winning. It was amazing. I have no words to describe it.”

Following Long Beach, Zanadri won six more times in 1998 en route to his second and final CART championship.

Also on this date:

1992: Bobby Rahal led from start to finish to win the Valvoline 200 at Phoenix International Raceway. The win was the first of four victories for Rahal during his championship season.

2009: Ryan Briscoe won the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, the first of three victories for the Aussie in 2009. The race was also the first IndyCar Series on Versus, which was rebranded as NBC Sports Network in 2012.

Follow Michael Eubanks on Twitter @michaele1994