Marcus Ericsson takes memorable victory lap in native Sweden: ‘It was really special’

Marcus Ericsson Sweden
Huski Chocolate
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Before he delivered an Indy 500 victory to his hometown, Marcus Ericsson laughs about the prior claim to fame of Kumla, Sweden.

“We’re mostly known for having the biggest and most high-secure prison in Sweden,” Ericsson told NBC Sports. “That’s like what everyone is thinking of Kumla. So they’re trying to switch the picture of Kumla from being the ‘Prison City’ to the ‘Marcus Ericsson, Racing Driver City.’ ”

Kumla, with a population of just more than 20,000, took a big step in that direction when Ericsson made a triumphant return with the Borg-Warner Trophy in tow a couple of weeks ago.

An estimated 8,000 attended the open event, which was the highlight of Ericsson’s Nov. 3-7 tour of Sweden. The hometown fete included a local musical act and a “This is Your Life”-style recap of Ericsson’s career (including video tributes from Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Scott Dixon and others).

After initially being unsure “if it was going to be a couple of hundred people or like a thousand showing up,” Ericsson was told by organizers the event drew the largest crowd to pack the city square in Kumla’s history.

“It was a big success for them because it’s the biggest event they’ve pulled off,” Ericsson said. “It’s a really small town, and Kumla had done a really good job going all in building this massive stage.

“I was hoping it was going to be special. I was hoping there was going to be a lot of people show up, but the way I went up on stage and the whole city square was filled with people, and knowing it was just for me and my celebration. That sort of blew my mind.”

Marcus Ericsson greets fans at the Westfield Mall of Scandinavia (Huski Chocolate).

Ericsson took photos with fans and signed autographs for nearly three hours after the event, which again reaffirmed the increasing popularity of IndyCar in Scandinavia.

“We have a great opportunity to build my brand but also IndyCar’s,” he said. “We’re all winners here: IndyCar, the Indy 500, BorgWarner. It’s a great chance to grow the interest in Europe and Scandinavia. I think it’s a big market that’s really into IndyCar racing. I’m just happy to try to promote a sport and the series over here as well. I love it and love what I do. I always say if we can get more people to tune in and watch the races and follow it, everyone that does will fall in love with it because it’s such a good series and good product.”

With the emergence of Ericsson and Felix Rosenqvist (and Indy Lights champion Linus Lundqvist possibly forming a Swedish trio at some races in 2023), IndyCar practices, qualifying and races were available live in Sweden this season through Viasat.

Though Ericsson already was well known prior to IndyCar because of his Formula One career, he said the tour showed the Indy 500 win “has been another step” in raising his profile and being recognized in public more often.

“People want to say congrats and take a photo, and it’s cool that so many are into what we’re doing and happy for it,” he said. “The 500 win really has taken it to another level. We’ve had really good TV numbers for an American racing series. They’ve been surprised how good numbers they’ve had.

“There’s a lot of people saying they want to come for next year’s 500, so I think there’s going to be quite a lot of Swedish fans there in the stands next year, which will be really cool. So hopefully fingers crossed we’ll have three guys from Sweden on the grid with Linus. But let’s see about that. That would be huge.”

Marcus Ericsson with the Borg-Warner Trophy in Stockholm (IndyCar).

This year’s Indy 500 Offseason Champion’s Tour marked the fourth time the Borg-Warner Trophy left the United States. The iconic trophy traveled to Japan with Takuma Sato in 2017 after his first Indy 500 victory, and 2019 winner Simon Pagenaud brought the Borg-Warner to Paris in 2019. It also was displayed at the 2018 Goodwood Festival in West Sussex, England.

The Ericsson tour was particularly extensive with stops throughout the country (including two 90-minute meet and greets at the Westfield Mall of Scandinavia in Stockholm).

“They did a really good job with preparing a pretty full schedule for the week,” Ericsson said. “We covered every TV morning and evening show. We did all the magazines and main papers. Going back home with this win and celebrating with my people, it was really special.”

Here were some other highlights of Ericsson’s visit home:

Tattoo you: Ericsson was reunited with a Kumla native who might be his biggest fan and was among a group of about two dozen fans who traveled from Sweden to watch his Indy 500 win in May. When Ericsson learned they’d be having a gathering at a watering hole on Main Street in Speedway a few days before the race, he postponed his arrival at a sponsor event so that he could surprise the Swedish fans.

“They had no idea I was going to show up, and suddenly I’m there saying, ‘Hey guys,’ ” Ericsson said. “And this guy was there as a fan for his first 500, and he told me there, ‘Man, I’m your biggest fan, and if you win this race on Sunday, I’m going to tattoo you on me somewhere.’ I’m like ‘OK, let’s do it.’ We shook hands on it, and then he’s there screaming under the podium after the race. ‘I’m going to do it! I’m going to do it!’ He was so happy.”

Marcus Ericsson Sweden
At his celebration in Kumla, Sweden, Marcus Ericsson met a hometown fan who celebrated his Indy 500 victory with a massive tattoo (Huski Chocolate).

The follow-through didn’t disappoint. After seeing an Instagram photo of the fan’s back filled with tattoos honoring the Indy victory, Ericsson saw the genuine article in Kumla.

“He went all in,” Ericsson said. “He’s a cool guy. I appreciate his support, and it was fun to see him in Kumla. I was thinking maybe my logo or an ‘M.E.’ somewhere, something subtle. He was very touched by the whole 500 experience and had a great time, and it meant a lot to him, apparently.”

–A legend’s honor: During a stop in nearby Orebro, Ericsson visited the statue of Ronnie Peterson, a two-time runner-up in Formula One.

“He’s still the biggest racing name in Sweden and an inspiration for me throughout my career,” said Ericsson, whose helmet designs have been fashion on those worn by Peterson in the ‘70s.

Marcus Ericsson Sweden
Marcus Ericsson with the statue of F1 driver Ronnie Peterson (Huski Chocolate).

–Cover guy: The main fashion magazine in Sweden will featuring Ericsson the front of an upcoming issue. The photos were taken during a shoot at a facility of classic cars.

“They wanted a vintage racing driver sort of vibe,” Ericsson said. “I think it’s going to turn out really cool.”

Royal presence: Though the King of Sweden, a racing fan, was unable to attend the tour, Ericsson raced with the country’s prince last month at a Porsche Cup event.

“I was actually speaking a bit with the king there, and he was very sad he couldn’t be part of the tour with the trophy,” Ericsson said. “But he was telling me he watches all the races and definitely wants to come to an IndyCar race in the future. So I’m hoping we can make that work in the next year. That would be really cool.”

Marcus Ericsson Sweden

Heather Lyne, Dennis Erb Jr. make history in the World of Outlaws Late Model Series

Lyne Erb Outlaws Late
Jacy Norgaard / World of Outlaws
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More than two decades in the making, the pairing of Heather Lyne and Dennis Erb Jr. produced a historical milestone in Dirt Late Model.

Last month, Erb and his long-time crew chief Lyne won their first World of Outlaws Late Model Championship and with this achievement, Lyne became the first female crew chief to win in a national late model series. Their journey together goes back 21 years and tells the story of hard work, persistence and belief in oneself.

After a career-best season with the World of Outlaws, Erb and Lyne secured the points championship at US 36 Raceway in Osborn, Mo. with three races remaining in the season. The consistency and success of their season came down to pinpoint focus. Lyne and Erb are a team of two living out a David vs. Goliath tale. In order to be as successful as possible this year the duo knew they had to do as much as possible with the resources they had.

“It’s always a challenge when you only have two people, both at the racetrack and at the shop,” Lyne told NBC Sports. “I also work full time, so during the day, Dennis has to do a significant amount of work so that when I get down there I can start working and maintaining. It’s planning ahead. It’s having that system in place and making sure that you’re prepared ahead of time.

“When you have a problem at the track, making sure you have all that stuff ready so it’s a quick change and not a lengthy process to make a repair. We had zero DNFs in the World of Outlaws, we had only one DNF out of 96 races [combined among all series].”

Dennis Erb clinched his 2022 championship before the World of Outlaws World Finals. Jacy Norgaard – World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Taming Time

This was not an easy feat. Between a full travel schedule and Lyne’s full-time job as an engineer, time comes at a premium. What they lack in time and resources they made up for in patience and planning.

“We buckled down, and we got all the equipment that we needed back, motors freshened, and things of that nature,” Lyne said about the mid-point of last season. “We were able to keep up with that. We just had a higher focus. I tried to reduce my hours at my day job as much as I possibly could while still maintaining what I need to get done at work. I got rid of a lot of the other distractions and got a more refined system in place at the shop.

“We did certain tasks on certain days so we had time to recover. We were on the road a little bit more, as opposed to coming home to the shop. So we had to be more prepared to stay out on those longer runs. It was just really staying on top of things a little more. It was a heightened sense.”

This was Lyne and Erb’s fourth full season with the Outlaws, but they’ve been on the road together for the last 21 seasons starting in 2001. Their partnership began with Lyne’s bravery. When one door closed, she was quick to open another. In 2001, Lyne’s dad was ready to stop racing. Her mother wanted to regain her weekends, but Lyne knew this was her life path and wasn’t prepared to lose it.

“I’ve always been a tomboy at heart,” Lyne said. “I watched racing with my dad. Growing up he watched NASCAR. In high school, I got tired of playing at the lake house, so I went to the local dirt track and fell in love with it. I just couldn’t get enough. It took a year for me to convince my dad to come to the track with me. He finally did and we sponsored a car that year, the following year he started to race limited cars. He ran hobby stocks and limited late models.”

At some point, Lyne and her father’s level of commitment drifted apart.

“He did it for about five years,” Lyne said. “And then my mom said: ‘I’m done racing. I want my weekends back. It’s just not fun anymore.’ I wasn’t ready to hang up my wenches and Dennis raced out of the same hometown so I, on a dare, went down and introduced myself; told him if you ever need any help, I’ll drill out rivets, I’ll help wash, whatever you need. Twenty-one years later here I am.”

Heather Lyne became the first female crew chief to secure a national touring late model championship in 2022. Paul Arch / World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Breaking Through

Lyne entered a male-dominated job in a field that is also male-dominated – and where there were few examples of women creating these places for themselves. In this way, Lyne became a blueprint for other women as they strive to find a place for themselves in racing and in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) overall. She has her mother to thank for providing a strong role model, her father for sharing her passion, Erb for taking a chance on an unknow entity and most importantly herself.

“I was raised to believe that I can do anything, I want to do, as long as I put my heart and soul into it.” Lyne replied when asked about role models in the sport growing up. “My parents did not raise me to have that limitation. But from a racing role model perspective, I went in there completely green and just introduced myself to Dennis, the fact that he was brave enough to take that risk and bring a girl to the racetrack. Someone he didn’t know at all speaks volumes for him.”

Lyne and Erb have learned how to survive and succeed with each other on the road. They do this by leveraging decades of combined experience and an ability to adapt to the everchanging landscape of dirt late models. Next year the World of Outlaws visits nearly a dozen new tracks and Lyne sees it as an opportunity for continued success.

“I just want to do it again,” Lyne says going into next season, “I’m looking forward to the competition, I always do. I wouldn’t do it if I wasn’t competitively driven.

“There are some new tracks on the schedule that I’m looking forward to trying for the first time that I haven’t been to myself,” Lyne said of the 2023 season, “Dennis seems to do well on those first timers. We won out at Marion center, we finished second at Bloomsburg. We have a good solid notebook of information to tackle them over the last three years with these rocket race cars that we’re running. It’s good to have that information and leverage it to try some new things.”