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

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

2023 MotoGP schedule announced, highlighted by trips to India and Kazakhstan

2023 MotoGP schedule
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A new opening venue and the addition of two Grands Prix in India and Kazakhstan will highlight the 2023 MotoGP schedule.

The 2023 MotoGP season will kick off March 24th with the opening round in Portugal instead of the typical trip to Qatar. Work on the Losail International Circuit pushed their date back to the penultimate weekend after the series finishes a series of races around the Pacific Rim.

Following Portugal, MotoGP heads to Argentina and the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas for their only visit to the United States before heading back to Europe for most of the next 10 rounds.

Interrupting the long European stint will be the series’ first visit to the Sokol International Circuit in Kazakhstan on July 7, 2023. The traditional summer break will be three weeks and then MotoGP heads to England for the British GP in August.

After three more European rounds at Austria, Catalunya and San Marino, the second new date on the calendar will come on the 16-turn, Buddh International Circuit for a September 24 race date. Both the India and Kazakhstan races are subject to homologation and approval by the circuit.

The next six races will be held in Asia and Oceania before Qatar and Valencia close out the schedule.

“We’re very proud to announce that Buddh International Circuit will be on the 2023 calendar,” said Carmelo Ezpeleta, CEO of Dorna, which manages the series. “We have a lot of fans in India and we’re excited to be able to bring the sport to them.

“India is also a key market for the motorcycle industry and therefore, by extension, for MotoGP as the pinnacle of the two-wheeled world. We very much look forward to racing at Buddh International Circuit and can’t wait to welcome the fans through the gates to see this incredible sport in person.”

One of two new races announced for 2022, in Finland, did not materialize this season and has not been added to the 2023 MotoGP schedule. In addition, the Aragon GP has been removed to keep the rounds at 21.

2023 Provisional Schedule

Portugal GP, Algarve, March 26
Argentina GP, Termas de Río Hondo, April 2
American GP, Circuit of the Americas, April 16
Spanish GP, Jerez, April 30
French GP, Le Mans, May 14
Italian GP, Mugello, June 11
German GP, Sachsenring, June 18
Dutch GP, Assen, June 25
Kazakhstan GP, Sokol, July 9 *
British GP, Silverstone, August 6
Austrian GP, Red Bull Ring, August 20
Catalan GP, Catalunya, September 3
San Marino GP, Misano, September 10
Indian GP, Buddh, September 24 *
Japanese GP, Motegi, October 1
Indonesia GP, Mandalika Street Circuit, October 15
Australian GP, Philip Island, October 22
Thailand GP, Chang International Circuit, October 29
Malaysian GP, Sepang, November 12
Qatar GP, Losail International Circuit, November 19
Valencia GP, Ricardo Tormo, November 26

* subject to approval