‘The Sneaky Swede’ has his T-shirt, now Marcus Ericsson wants 2022 IndyCar title

Marcus Ericsson T-shirt
Marc Lebryk/USA TODAY Sports Images

NASHVILLE, Tennessee – “The Sneaky Swede” isn’t that so much anymore, though the T-shirt heralding Marcus Ericsson as an NTT IndyCar Series star finally arrived at a racetrack this weekend.

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

But Ericsson also noted in May that he sometimes felt a little too far out of the spotlight – a journalist from his Swedish hometown told Ericsson he’d been unable to locate any merchandise at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway featuring the driver.

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

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

Though his first IndyCar victory had occurred two months earlier, Ericsson gained a new level of exposure at Nashville – where he went airborne on the fifth lap, served a stop and go penalty and then sublimely executed a perfect strategy to leap-frog from the rear to the lead over pole-sitter Colton Herta (who crashed with five laps left while futilely chasing the lead).

“Yeah, it 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 on this event. So to be the first winner and create history was really cool and really helped me establish myself at the top of IndyCar. It was a really big win for me, and I’m looking at trying to attack that victory Sunday.”

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

Having lost the points lead after the July 30 race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, the No. 8 Dallara-Honda driver could use another momentum jolt, and he also will need to overcome adversity again Sunday in Nashville (3 p.m. ET, NBC) after qualifying 18th of 26 cars.

Ericsson has struggled to find the handle all weekend while lacking speed – which is unusual because he has viewed street courses as his biggest strength outside the Indy oval this season. He has been in the top 10 on every street circuit except Long Beach, where he was on track for a podium before a late crash.

“I’m still feeling like St. Pete and Long Beach, we were the fastest cars in both those races,” Ericsson said Thursday before his first lap on track. “St. Pete, we were running really well, and I got that pit lane penalty, which I still think was very harsh and put us at the back of the field and still managed to get a top 10. Long Beach, running P3 late in the race, and I did a mistake on a restart and stuffed it in the wall.

“Our package on street courses has been probably our best as a team, so that’s why I’m really excited about this weekend. I’m really confident we’ll be in the mix to win this thing Sunday.”

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

With four races remaining this season, Ericsson has fallen nine points behind 2014 series champion Will Power of Team Penske.

“He’s just a great driver, great competitor and been around a very long time,” Ericsson said. “He’s had an incredible season with his consistency and way of always getting back into 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 is expecting the same from Ericsson, whom he called “probably the best racer in the series” during the Iowa Speedway race weekend.

Nashville could be a major opportunity either way. Power will be starting eighth after a penalty kept him from advancing to the final round in qualifying, and even though Ericsson is starting 10 spots behind, he proved last year that anything is possible on the 11-turn, 2.1-mile layout.

Ericsson also is being advised by four-time IndyCar champion and Ganassi consultant Dario Franchitti on managing the title race. Ericsson has managed to stanch his points loss the past three races – at Iowa Speedway, he “took the fight” to the Penske duo of Power and Race 1 winner Josef Newgarden before his car faded to eighth after starting 12th. He finished sixth after qualifying 15th in Race 2, and he rebounded again last week at Indy by gaining 14 spots in a drive from last to 11th.

“We have to have that risk vs. reward calculation,” Ericsson said. “It’s a dangerous thing. You think too much of points and then not taking risks because then you’re going to put yourself in difficult situations. (At Indy last week), fighting from back of field and going wheel to wheel with guys for P15, it could be their highlight of the season. Then it’s hard for me to do the same risks because I need to not have a DNF.

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

Franchitti also is the most recent to win the Indy 500 and IndyCar series championship in the same season (2010) – history that isn’t lost on Ericsson, 31.

“Coming to America from European racing and Formula One, the championship was the biggest thing, but the more I’m here, the more I understand the 500 is the one you want to win,” he said. “What’s driving me now is to do the double. That’s not something that’s happened a lot in the history of IndyCar. It is hard to win both in same year.

“After the 500, there’s been great motivation for me to work extremely hard to win championship and the double. We have a chance to do it, and I’m really, really, really eager to try and do that double.”

Chase Sexton wins Triple Crown Anaheim 2 Supercross: Levi Kitchen unseats Jett Lawrence in 250s

Supercross Anaheim 2
Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media

Chase Sexton won two of the three races in the Monster Energy Supercross Anaheim 2 Triple Crown, which was enough to overcome a fifth-place finish in Race 2 and give him the overall victory. It was the second Supercross win of his career.

“Super big night for me,” Sexton told NBC Sports’ Will Christien. “After last weekend with that being a struggle, I just need to come out here and stop the bleeding a little bit and I did that tonight.”

Sexton suffered a crash on Lap 1 of his heat, sending him into Last Chance Qualifier. The bad gate pick put him in a difficult position to start the race and he was able to climb to only fifth at the checkers.

At Anaheim 2, three riders entered the final race of the Triple Crown in a winner-take-all scenario. Sexton, Jason Anderson and Eli Tomac each had a shot at victory. It raised the intensity level for all riders in an evening that featured a lot of comers and goers.

Jason Anderson took the early lead in Race 3, which set him up for the overall victory. Sexton stalked and passed him midway through the race and then a minor mistake late allowed Webb to slip around as well. Anderson’s 5-1-3 gave him second overall.

“I had a tough couple of rounds, getting off that Anaheim 1 crash and then last week weekend I fumbled a little bit, but I’m excited to get back on the box and start moving forward,” Anderson told Jason Thomas.

Anderson finished seventh in the first two rounds of 2023.

RESULTS: How they finished for the 450 Main in Anaheim 2

Ken Roczen was the model of consistency in the opening rounds and at Anaheim 2. In three races so far this year, he’s gotten progressively better each time with a fifth in A1, a fourth last week in San Deigo and a third this week.

With results of 2-3-4, he earned his first podium of the season, which lands him fourth in the standings.

“This was hard earned,” Roczen said after the race. “I completely botched the start and then to have to work my way up. I only happen on the very last lap to step up here on the podium.”

Webb’s solid second-place finish in the third race allowed him to leapfrog several riders and finish fourth overall, but a seventh in Race 1 kept him off the podium. He improved in each race in Anaheim, however, with a 7-4-2.

With a 4-6-5, Dylan Ferrandis rounded out the top five.

The intensity of the race was a little too much for Tomac.

While battling side-by-side with Webb in Race 3 at the one-third mark, Tomac jumped wide and crashed hard. He fell to 14th, doing some damage to his bike in the process. He advanced only one position in that race to 13th. His first two races, a third and second, were strong enough to give him sixth overall. He retains the points lead, but it has shrunk to a gap of only four over Sexton and Webb.

Malcolm Stewart injured late in the week and was not able to mount.

Levi Kitchen became the first rider to unseat Jett Lawrence in the Triple Crown format at Anaheim 2 and won the overall with consistency. In his three races, Kitchen finished 4-2-2 to narrowly edge the winner of the first two races.

“This whole day; this is unbelievable. I took a few good slams in practice and I was down on myself,” Kitchen told NBC Sports Jason Thomas afterward. “The first moto I got a good start and got shuffled back, then I knew I just needed to be consistent.”

Jett Lawrence saved his best for last – which wasn’t hard given the struggles he experienced in the first two races.

Despite those problems, he entered Race 3 of the Triple Crown three points behind Kitchen after suffering a pair of disappointing races by his personal measuring stick. In the first and second 250 races of the night, Lawrence hit the ground. He dropped to the final rider in the running order in Race 2 with a Lap 1 fall. But in both races, he was able to overcome his mistake and close the gap so that he had a chance to take his first Triple Crown win of his career.

Click here for full 250 West Main Results

Lawrence rode to third in Race 1 and sixth in Race 2. In the final race of the night, Lawrence did all he could. He earned the holeshot, but when Kitchen fell in behind him, Lawrence’s fate was sealed. His 3-6-1 tied him in points with Stilez Robertson, but the tiebreaker goes to the final round and his win secured second-place.

“I can definitely say Triple Crowns are not my thing,” Lawrence told NBC Sports Will Christien. “We have one more to try and fix this, so hopefully we can get that done.”

Lawrence will move into the 450 class for the Lucas Oil Motocross outdoor season and his 250 record book will be closed.

The best news for Lawrence is the other riders who entered this round in the top three had a worse night, so Lawrence leaves Anaheim with a 16-point gap on Cameron McAdoo and 17 over RJ Hampshire.

Roberston finished 6-1-3 to take the final step of the podium.

“Getting that win in the second Main meant a lot,” Roberston told Thomas. “I wish I could have done a little better in the third one, but we’re still up here on the box.”

Mitchell Oldenburg used consistency to earn fourth in the overall. He finished 5-4-6.

After missing the Main last week in San Diego, Max Vohland finished 7-8-4 to round out the top five.

RJ Hampshire set himself up as the early favorite with his Race 1 win. In Race 2, it all fell apart. He fell in the sand section and damaged his bike, finishing last in that race. The final event of the night for the 250s provided only a 13th-place finish, leaving Hampshire deep in the points.

Cameron McAdoo hard crash in qualification, which was scary news for a team that has seen three of their riders sidelined with injury. McAdoo was never quite able to get his rhythm with an 8-7-5.

2023 Race Recaps

San Diego: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence double down
Anaheim 1: Tomac wins opener for the first time

Anaheim 2 coverage

Power Rankings Week 2
SuperMotocross tightens playoff schedule
Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence go two-for-two in San Diego
Results and points after San Diego
Seth Hammaker to miss 250 E season opener with wrist injury
Jo Shimoda joins Seth Hammaker, Austin Forkner with injury
Injury sidelines Austin Forkner for remainder of 2023 SX