Marcus Ericsson is riding a wave of momentum, and it’s carried him to fifth in the championship following the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio.
The 30-year-old Swede made a fairly straightforward race interesting with a late run of pressure on race winner Josef Newgarden with his No. 8 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. At one point, Newgarden led by as much as 8s over the field. However, the final stint saw both Newgarden and Ericsson on the primary (black sidewall) tire compound, which heavily favored the pursuing Ericsson.
In the midst of Ericsson’s attempt to pull the upset, Newgarden began to close on traffic. In the end, though, Newgarden managed to hold on, with Ericsson crossing the finish line 0.879s behind. The pair were miles ahead of the rest of the field, with third place finishing more than 22s behind the race winner.
“We were hunting him down there,” admitted Ericsson. “The Honda felt really good on the black tires especially. We lost a little bit too much time on the first stint on the reds (alternate compound). Gap was sort of too big. Another lap I think we could have really been challenging him. He was really struggling with his tires the last five laps. Just catching him quickly.”
Ericsson led a CGR train, with teammates Alex Palou and Scott Dixon finishing behind in third and fourth, respectively.
“I think it was a great day, great day for the team,” Ericsson added. “To have me, Alex and Scott, P2, P3 and P4, it’s a strong result. Shows how strong we are at the moment. Me jumping up to fifth in the championship feels pretty good.
“Very happy with my day. Like I said, another lap or two would be even better, but I’ll take second today.”
A car more favorable to the primary compound was a bit of a twist for Ericsson, who admitted it was quite the opposite from what he felt in qualifying on Saturday.
“Yeah, my car I thought was better on reds yesterday,” he said. “For some reason with the heat, the balance sort of shifted a bit. My car was a bit more difficult on the red tires on the first stint. I couldn’t really get the balance was a bit off. When we got on the black compound, the balance came back to us. I could just go faster on the black tire, basically. Unexpected. I thought the red tire was maybe going to be our stronger one. Stayed on the blacks. I think that was good.”
Much has been made of the rise of Alex Palou, the second-year IndyCar driver in his first season with CGR who is also currently the championship leader. Additionally, there’s six-time IndyCar champion Scott Dixon that everyone’s eyes gaze on. So, in some ways, Ericsson — even after gathering up his first IndyCar win last month in the opening race of the Detroit doubleheader — has somewhat quietly flown under the radar.
For his part, Ericsson is enjoying a career renaissance in his third IndyCar season. Through the opening 10 races, Ericsson has one win, two podiums, and seven top-10 finishes, including four consecutive. All the more reason why his confidence is at an all-time high heading into the summer break.
“Confidence is a beautiful thing when you have it,” Ericsson said. “I think I have some good confidence going now. Obviously, been working very hard with my engineer, Brad (Goldberg), and then the rest of the 8 car team. But also Dario (Franchitt), me and Dario have been working hard. We had some meetings leading up to this weekend with Dario and Jim, our performance coach.
“We worked hard to get to where we are now. I think that’s the bottom line. Especially in a series like this, when you go up against such great competition, you need to be perfect to be out there and fight for wins and podiums. Definitely feel like we’ve taken a step this year. Feels pretty good.”