Indy 500 winner Marcus Ericsson seeks maximum points to win IndyCar championship

AUTO: MAY 30 IndyCar - The 106th Indianapolis 500 Marcus Ericsson
Brian Spurlock/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

MONTEREY, California – Though he is mathematically eligible in the battle for the 2022 NTT IndyCar Series championship, Marcus Ericsson of Sweden realizes he is a long shot to win the title.

He is fourth in points, 39 points behind the leader, Will Power, in a title battle with a maximum of 54 points per race.

“We go into this weekend with the aim to win the race, maximize the points, and if we do that, that’s all we can do to try and win it,” Ericsson told NBC Sports. “We can’t do more than that. That’s our mindset to go in here and win and see how things shake out.”

Facing long odds, the driver of the No. 8 Huski Chocolate Dallara-Honda is still in the fight in the last race of the season, Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey at WeatherTech Raceway at Laguna Seca.

“We’re still in it,” Ericsson said. “It’s a bit of a long shot. Things happen. We’re still in the mix. In IndyCar, anything happens and so much happens all the time. We go into the weekend, want to win the race, and see what happens. If anything happens to the other guys, we can still win this thing.

“I’m positive, and I’m looking forward to it.”

Even if the likable driver from Kumla, Sweden, does not deliver the 2022 IndyCar championship to Chip Ganassi Racing, he already has won the biggest prize of the season.

Ericsson won the 106th Indianapolis 500 on May 29, holding off a charging Pato O’Ward in the closing laps of the race to give team owner Chip Ganassi his first Indy 500 win since Dario Franchitti in 2012.

“The 500 is the biggest race obviously and to win that is bigger than anything,” Ericsson said. “It’s been a tremendous year since then. To be in the fight going into the final race is great. I have a bit of a feeling that I have nothing to lose now and I’m already a winner this year.

“It’s a good way to go into the final race of the year.”

Ericsson came to the IndyCar Series in 2019 after a five-year career in Formula One. He had 97 F1 starts but never finished on the podium.

The term “team orders” has been widely used this week because of the five drivers left in the fight for the championship, three are from Team Penske and two from Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ericsson’s teammate, Scott Dixon, is 20 points out of the lead and Ericsson may have to serve as Dixon’s wingman in the race.

But Ericsson is comfortable with the concept from his experience in F1, where team orders more widely are used.

“In a way, F1 is even more in the hands of the team,” he said. “Quite a few races they would swap positions and let your teammate go. That was a common thing even in Race 1 of the season. Let him by or whatever.

“Here in IndyCar, it’s a lot more everyone for themselves. Every team within teams, they have their own sponsors, their own groups. It’s a lot more for yourself. F1 is a lot more about team performance. In a way, that’s why I’m probably more used to that anything.”

In the 2017 race at Baku, Ericsson was ordered to give up a spot to Sauber teammate Pascal Wehrlein — sacrificing the only point he would have scored during that season.

“I’m not very happy about it still,” Ericsson said. “I was in P10 and gave it up to my teammate because the team said it and said they’d swap it back, and they didn’t swap back, and he finished 10th, I finished 11th.”

Tired of the F1 politics and enticed by the tremendous competition of IndyCar, Ericsson joined what was then Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports in 2019. In just his eighth race of his rookie season, Ericsson finished second to race winner Scott Dixon in the 2019 Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix Race No. 2.

Beginning in 2020, Ericsson and Dixon were teammates at Chip Ganassi Racing. He scored his first career win in the first race of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix and claimed Indy win No. 2 in wild fashion in the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix on the streets of Nashville on August 8, 2021.

This year, he became just the second driver from Sweden to win the Indy 500, joining Kenny Brack, who won the 1999 Indianapolis 500.

“Coming in here, after five years I wasn’t super successful in Formula One,” Ericsson said. “It took a while for me to establish myself in IndyCar. But I think my progression throughout the year has been very good. I’ve taken steps every year. That’s one of the big reasons I wanted to come here, to show what I could do. I developed a lot in Formula One.

“The problem in Formula One, if you’re not on a team to show that. If you show the same results your first year as your last year, that’s all people look at. I believe I developed and was a better driver.

“That’s the biggest reason I wanted to come to IndyCar to show that I can compete at this level, and I can be fighting for wins and championships. It’s been good to do that the last few years.

“We’ve been in the mix. Especially this year, it’s been an incredible year.”

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500

IndyCar Detroit GP starting lineup: Alex Palou wins first pole position on a street course


DETROIT — Alex Palou won the pole position for the second consecutive NTT IndyCar Series race and will lead the Detroit Grand Prix starting lineup to green on a new downtown layout.

The 2021 series champion, who finished fourth in the 107th Indy 500 after qualifying first, earned his third career pole position as the first of three Chip Ganassi Racing drivers in the top four (Scott Dixon qualified fourth, and Marcus Ericsson sixth).

Scott McLaughlin will start second, followed by Romain Grosjean. Coming off his first Indianapolis 500 victory, Josef Newgarden qualified fifth.

INDYCAR IN DETROITEntry list, schedule, TV info for this weekend

It’s the third career pole position for Palou and his first on a street course — a big advantage on a nine-turn, 1.645-mile track that is expected to be calamitous over 100 laps Sunday (3 p.m. ET, NBC).

“It’s going to be a tough day for sure,” Palou told NBC Sports’ Marty Snider. “It feels good we’ve had a great car since the beginning, and it was just about maximizing. They did a great strategy on tires and everything. We need to finish it (Sunday).

“I got off a lot in practice. We wanted to see where the limit was, and we found it. It’s a crazy track. I think it’s too tight for Indy cars and too short as well, but we’ll make it happen.”

QUALIFYING RESULTSClick here for Detroit GP qualifying speeds | Round 1, Group 1 | Round 1, Group 2 | Round 2 l Round 3

The narrow quarters (originally listed as a 1.7-mile track, its distance shrunk by a couple hundred feet when measured Friday) already were causing problems in qualifying.

Colton Herta, who has four career poles on street courses, qualified 24th after failing to advance from the first round because of damage to his No. 26 Dallara-Honda. It’s the worst starting spot in an IndyCar street course race for Herta (and the second-worst of his career on the heels of qualifying 25th for the GMR Grand Prix three weeks ago).

Andretti Autosport teammate Kyle Kirkwood also found misfortune in the second round, damaging the left front of his No. 27 Dallara-Honda despite light wall contact.

“I’m disappointed for the crew because that was a pole-winning car,” Kirkwood told NBC Sports’ Kevin Lee. “Man, I barely touched the wall. I touched it way harder in all the practices, and it’s just like the angle at which the wall was right there, it caught the point and just ripped the front off the car.

“If the wall was rounded, that wouldn’t have happened. That’s just unfortunate for the guys, but it’s my mistake. It’s hard enough to get around this place let alone race around it. We’ll see how it goes.”

Many IndyCar drivers are expecting it to go badly, which isn’t uncommon for a new street layout. The inaugural Music City Grand Prix in Nashville, Tennessee, was the biggest crashfest of the 2021 season with 33 of 80 laps run under caution plus two red flags.

It could be worse at Detroit, which is the shortest track on the IndyCar circuit. It also features the series’ only split pit lane (with cars pitting on opposite sides and blending into a single-lane exit), a 0.9-mile straightaway and a hairpin third turn that is considered the best passing zone.

“If there’s one day you need to be lucky in the year, it’s tomorrow,” Grosjean told NBC Sports’ Dave Burns. “A lot is going to happen, and it’s being in the right time at the right place.”

Said Dixon: “Expect probably a lot of unexpected things to happen. We’ll try and get through it. I think it’ll be similar to Nashville and maybe the last man standing is the one who gets the victory.”

With the field at 27 cars, Palou estimated the length of the course leaves a gap of about 2.4 seconds between each car, which he preferred would be double. During practice Friday, there were six red flags and 19 local yellows as teams tried to sort out the tricky and tight layout.

“I don’t know what the perfect distance is, but I would say adding 30 seconds to a track or 20 seconds would help a lot,” said Palou, one of many drivers who also said the streets were too bumpy despite work to grind down some surfaces. “We have a lot of cars. It’s crazy. It’s really good for the series, for the racing. But when it comes to practice, and we have 10 red flags, 25 yellows, it’s traffic all the time.”

It seems certain to be a memorable reimagining of the Detroit GP, which was moved downtown by IndyCar owner Roger Penske after a 30-year run at the Belle Isle course a few miles north.

McLaughlin, who drives for Team Penske, believes the race will be very similar to Nashville, but “it’s just going to be up to us with the etiquette of the drivers to figure it out along the way. I think there’s going to be a lot of passes, opportunities.

“With the track, there’s been a lot of noise I’ve seen on Twitter, from other drivers and stuff,” McLaughlin said. “At the end of the day, this is a new track, new complex. I think what everyone has done to get this going, the vibe is awesome. Belle Isle was getting old. We had to do it.

“First-year problems, it’s always going to happen. It’s just going to get better from here. The racetrack for the drivers is a blast. We don’t even know how it races yet. Everyone is making conclusions already. They probably just need to relax and wait for (Sunday).”

Here’s the IndyCar starting lineup for Sunday’s Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix (qualifying position, car number in parentheses, driver, engine and speed):


1. (10) Alex Palou, Honda, 1 minute, 1.8592 seconds (95.734 mph)
2. (3) Scott McLaughlin, Chevrolet, 1:02.1592 (95.271)


3. (28) Romain Grosjean, Honda, 1:02.2896 (95.072)
4. (9) Scott Dixon, Honda, 1:02.4272 (94.862)


5. (2) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 1:02.5223 (94.718)
6. (8) Marcus Ericsson, Honda, 1:02.6184 (94.573)


7. (12) Will Power, Chevrolet, 1:02.1817 (95.237)
8. (60) Simon Pagenaud, Honda, 1:02.1860 (95.230)


9. (6) Felix Rosenqvist, Chevrolet, 1:02.1937 (95.219)
10. (5) Pato O’Ward, Chevrolet, 1:02.2564 (95.123)


11. (11) Marcus Armstrong, Honda, 1:02.2958 (95.063)
12. (27) Kyle Kirkwood, Honda, 1:04.6075 (91.661)


13. (7) Alexander Rossi, Chevrolet, 1:02.5714 (94.644)
14. (21) Rinus VeeKay, Chevrolet, 1:02.1911 (95.223)


15. (20) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 1:02.9522 (94.071)
16. (77) Callum Ilott, Chevrolet, 1:02.2644 (95.111)


17. (29) Devlin DeFrancesco, Honda, 1:03.0017 (93.997)
18. (45) Christian Lundgaard, Honda, 1:02.6495 (94.526)

ROW 10

19. (55) Benjamin Pedersen, Chevrolet, 1:03.1599 (93.762)
20. (78) Agustin Canapino, Chevrolet, 1:02.9071 (94.139)

ROW 11

21. (18) David Malukas, Honda, 1:03.2126 (93.684)
22. (14) Santino Ferrucci, Chevrolet, 1:02.9589 (94.061)

ROW 12

23. (06) Helio Castroneves, Honda, 1:03.3879 (93.425)
24. (26) Colton Herta, Honda, 1:03.4165 (93.383)

ROW 13

25. (30) Jack Harvey, Honda, 1:03.7728 (92.861)
26. (51) Sting Ray Robb, Honda, 1:03.7496 (92.895)

ROW 14

27. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, 1:03.8663 (92.725)