INDIANAPOLIS – Winning the Indy 500 naturally was life-changing for Marcus Ericsson, but more importantly for his IndyCar future, it also has changed how he is perceived as a driver.
As the Swedish star awaits a contract extension offer from Chip Ganassi Racing, Ericsson has been attracting interest from other teams around the paddock.
“I’ve noticed my phone being quite busy the last few months, and teams being pretty interested in my future,” Ericsson told reporters Wednesday morning before practice began at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “So that’s definitely a new thing for me. Yeah, it feels like people are taking notice and rating me as a driver, and that feels great.”
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That reputational enhancement has been a lifelong career goal for Ericsson, who scuffled through a midfield ride in Formula One for five years and 97 starts. He moved into the NTT IndyCar Series in 2019, but he secured the ride by bringing the sponsorship of Huski Chocolate that was spearheaded by his longtime backer, Swedish billionaire Finn Rausing.
While he has won four times since 2021 and become a star at Ganassi, Ericsson is in a deal that was predicated on his Huski sponsorship, and he has made it clear the next contract he signs will contain no such requirement that he brings money.
The milk was hardly dry on his firesuit after last year’s Indy 500 victory when Ericsson quipped winning the world’s biggest race was “not bad for a pay driver.”
He wants to be paid and regarded in the same league as six-time championship teammate Scott Dixon, Josef Newgarden and Colton Herta – all of whom have seven-figure deals independent of whether they are attached to corporate sponsorship.
Now the ball is in team owner Chip Ganassi’s court. While Ericsson can listen to interest from other IndyCar teams, he isn’t allowed to negotiate with them yet (and probably not until midsummer). But he is confident in what he’s hearing.
“I think there’s a lot of interest for sure,” he said. “I have great support from Sweden and my backers and sponsors and everything, and I’ve had that all my career, and I’m very, very thankful of that. But I feel where I am now in my career, and what I’ve achieved, that shouldn’t be like the reason why I’m hired.
“I think that’s important for me is I should be hired for the skills I have as a driver, and not for the potential sponsor I can bring or not bring to the team.”
Ericsson said Ganassi and his management team would need to work out those details.
“It would have been nice to have them worked out before already now obviously, but that’s not been the case,” said Ericsson, who opened the season by winning the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. “I just have to focus on delivering on track. I feel I’ve done a strong start to the year, and that should hopefully help my case.
“I’m not stressed about it. I feel there is a lot of teams interested if Chip is not. Let’s put it that way. So I’m not too stressed about it, but of course as always, you want to get things sorted for your future, and the earlier the better so you know what you’re doing. If I keep delivering on track, something is going to work out I’m sure.”
Aside from Team Penske (which has its three drivers signed beyond 2023), there would seem to be many landing spots for Ericsson with Andretti Autosport and Arrow McLaren either having possible openings through driver changes or additional cars.
Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing also could be in play with Graham Rahal saying Tuesday that “anything is on the table” for him after this season.
Though there’s been no offer yet, Ericsson said Ganassi has told him the team intends to keep him.
Two days before Ericsson won St. Pete, Ganassi told a small group of reporters at St. Pete that “I want (Ericsson) here beyond this year.
“It’s interesting because with that (Indy) win, you’ve seen a positive change in him,” Ganassi said March 3. “It’s been a nice thing for him to win that. He’s matured a bit. Not that he was immature before. Maybe I’m reading my own clippings, but he seems to have gotten more out of winning the Indy 500 than anyone else has of recent time, which is a good thing. He did a good job. He’s been everywhere.”
Ericsson has noticed that as Indy 500 activity has ramped up this month at the Brickyard. His face adorns a massive poster at the track’s main entrance on 16th Street, and he is on all of the tickets for the 107th Indy 500 as the defending winner’s tradition.
“People told me it’s life-changing, and I think you don’t really know what that means until you experience it,” said Ericsson, whose Brickyard triumph is the focus of a new documentary that is available on NBC Sports platforms. “I do believe it’s life-changing. I think for me as a driver, it’s definitely changed my life and the way people look at me as a driver. But also for me and myself, you put in your work all your career to achieve something big, and winning the biggest race in the world, it doesn’t get much bigger than that.
“So it’s definitely changed my life.”