He had leader Scott Dixon in front of him and Will Power, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Alexander Rossi in his mirrors, all nose-to-tail as they circled the Belle Isle street course under caution, all waiting on the three-lap restart in Sunday’s Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix.
Rookie Marcus Ericsson was sitting second and possibly a sitting duck with those IndyCar heavies just waiting to pounce on the rookie, or force him into a mistake.
But the Swede was unflustered as he made a superb restart and pulled away from Power to score the first podium of his eight-race IndyCar career.
“There is a risk on any restart, but I was confident,” said the 28-year-old who spent five years in an uncompetitive Formula 1 ride before landing with Arrow Schmidt Peterson in the NTT IndyCar Series. “I didn’t like it when the red flag came out, but it’s great for the fans. I had a great car and it worked out well
“That was so much &^^%$ fun — the whole day. And this is what I’ve missed. To be competitive again is exactly why I came over here, and this is such a tough series and that makes this result even better.”
The first Swedish driver to stand on an IndyCar podium since Kenny Brack back in 2004 was asked the last time he climbed up those stairs: “I don’t remember, it was so long ago,” he answered with a laugh. “But I think it was a GP2 race in 2013, and Alex Rossi won it.”
Prior to Detroit, Ericsson’s best showing had been a seventh at Barber, but that doesn’t really tell the story of how well he’s performed.
“It’s been one of those years because we’ve had the pace but for some reason we just haven’t got the results, and our results aren’t representative of our pace,” he continued.
Case in point? His first Indianapolis 500. He started 13th and immediately worked his way into the top 10 before spinning into the wall on a pit stop. He wound up 23rd.
“I certainly respect the ovals, that’s all new to me, and I’ve learned a lot following guys like Scott. And I have to get used to tires, the cars, the tracks, restarts and pit stops. I’ve learned a lot and what happened at Indy made me even more hungry for a result.”
From the first practice period last March at St. Pete to Sunday afternoon in Detroit, Ericsson has seemed like a man with a new lease on his career, embracing everything IndyCar offers.
“When I came into this year, my goal was to run up front. But maybe it’s a steeper learning curve than I expected…”
Standing on the podium was a nice reward for the Arrow SPM team.
“They deserved that result,” he said. “And it was very special standing next to Scott and Will. I want to do it a lot more.”