Joe Skibinski / IndyCar

Swedish driver Ericsson lands hot chocolate company sponsor

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A hot chocolate company led by Hollywood stuntman and occasional racer Stanton Barrett has signed as primary sponsor for Swedish driver Marcus Ericsson at Chip Ganassi Racing.

This is the first entry into IndyCar for Huski Chocolate, a company headquartered in Stockholm that already does business in Formula One with McLaren and with the English soccer club Millwall.

Marcus Ericsson’s 2020 Huski Chocolate livery. Photo: Chip Ganassi Racing

Huski Chocolate is primarily located in ski resorts and touts its brand as using all-natural ingredients combined with real cocoa, cocoa butter and secret spices. The company expanded into North America two years ago and launched a chocolate milk in Europe last year.

The pairing of a Swedish company with a Swedish driver seems like a natural fit, but the connection is actually between Barrett and team owner Chip Ganassi. Barrett is the son of former stuntman Stan Barrett and the godson of the late Paul Newman.

He became interested in racing through his father and Newman, which led to a friendship with Ganassi. Although Barrett still dabbles in racing – the Xfinity Series race at Watkins Glen last year is among the 249 career NASCAR starts Barrett has made since 1992 – his focus is on his other entrepreneurial ventures and his stunt work. Barrett also ran four IndyCar races in 2009.

“Motorsports is a really great platform to get a brand out there and develop a loyal customer base so IndyCar is a great fit because it is picking up aggressively and they are in good markets and has a positive global platform,” Barrett said.

Barrett said he’s known Ganassi at least 30 years, and flew with him late last season to discuss potential partnerships. Ganassi was in the process of shutting down his two-car sports car team, but he reallocated the personnel to create a third IndyCar entry to avoid heavy layoffs.

The talks were preliminary and Ganassi was not sure who the driver would be, but Barrett was adamant he wanted to be tied to a top-tier team. Ganassi teams have won 19 championships and more than 220 races, including four Indianapolis 500s, a Daytona 500, a Brickyard 400, eight Rolex 24 At Daytonas, the 12 Hours of Sebring and 24 Hours of Le Mans.

“Chip had the choice in driver, he is pretty savvy in who he picks and I think it is a really great fit that Marcus was available,” Barrett said. “For us, it just fell in line that he is a Swedish driver for a Swedish brand, and we will be able to market him quite well. But this was more about the program and being in IndyCar and the partners we could find.”

Ericsson spent five years in F1 before moving to IndyCar last season to drive for Sam Schmidt. When McLaren came on as a partner with Schmidt for this season, the team replaced the two-driver lineup and Ericsson’s contract was not renewed. He had one podium finish in 16 races.

He joins a Ganassi team that includes five-time IndyCar champion Scott Dixon and Felix Rosenqvist, a fellow Swede.

Will Power nips Jack Harvey at finish to pace Road America practice

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Will Power led the only IndyCar Road America practice of the weekend Saturday, shooting to the top of the chart on his 22nd and final lap of the session at 1 minute, 46.0021 seconds in his No. 12 Dallara-Chevrolet.

Dixon knocked Jack Harvey’s No. 60 Dallara-Honda from the top spot (which would have marked the first time that a Meyer-Shank Racing car led practice).

Josef Newgarden, Power’s Team Penske teammate, was third, followed by Felix Rosenqvist and Ryan Hunter-Reay (who went off course late in the session but sustained no damage).

Alex Palou, Colton Herta, Graham Rahal, defending race winner Alexander Rossi and Pato O’Ward rounded out the top 10 in the practice that preceded a Saturday-Sunday race weekend doubleheader for IndyCar at Road America.

PRACTICE RESULTS: Click here to see who was fastest in the session

RACE INFORMATION: What you need to know for today’s REV Group Grand Prix

RATED ROOKIE: Rinus VeeKay rebounding well from a tough debut

IndyCar tested some new cooling devices with cars from Andretti Autosport, Chip Ganassi Racing and Team Penske. Several drivers have said the cockpit heat caused by the new aeroscreen was stifling during last week’s GMR Grand Prix, and IndyCar repositioned drink bottles this weekend to keep liquids cool

Scott Dixon, who is seeking to open the season with his third consecutive IndyCar victory, was 15th fastest at the Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, road course. Other notables in Road America practice: Marco Andretti (12th), Simon Pagenaud (19th).

Power is aiming for his second consecutive pole position after qualifying first last week on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

Qualifying for the REV Group Grand Prix Race #1 will take place at 2:15 p.m. ET (NBCSNNBC Sports Gold).

The broadcast of the IndyCar race at Road America will begin at 5 p.m. on NBCSN.