Ericsson reveals full extent of his Nashville miracle

Barry Cantrell/Lumen Digital

Ericsson reveals full extent of his Nashville miracle

IndyCar

Ericsson reveals full extent of his Nashville miracle

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If Marcus Ericsson’s recovery from a crash, flight, and stop-and-go penalty prior to winning the Music City Grand Prix in Nashville wasn’t enough of a miracle, the Swedish ace revealed his race and chance of victory nearly ended two more times after the No. 8 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda returned to earth after launching off the back of Sebastien Bourdais’ car.

“When the incident happened, I thought it was game over and my race was finished,” he said. “And then when the car was somehow drivable, even with the front wing flapping around in front of me, I quickly realized that I needed to try and get this car around this lap and back to the pits, and then see if we can salvage something from it.

“So I’m doing my best to try and get around, and at one point, around the Turn 6-7 tight section there, the front wing jammed underneath my front tires, and I couldn’t steer the car and I went straight into the wall! And I was running against the wall because I had no steering. I was literally reaching for the switch-off button on the car, thinking I cannot steer the car anymore, I need to switch it off and retire the car.

“When I’m reaching for the button, the wing somehow magically pops up again and goes away from being underneath my tires. And I get back the steering. So I take my hand off the button and start steering the car again. That’s how close it was.”

Limping back to the pits with sparks flying off the front wings as they dragged on the ground, Ericsson — and his entire CGR pit crew — was shocked to learn the No. 8 Honda was ready to keep racing after a new nose and wing assembly was installed.

“We had to go through the pits multiple times and the crew did an amazing job to keep me on the lead lap and change the front wing quickly enough to still be on the lead lap,” he continued. “I did a couple of more stops to check the car. There was no suspension damage, and then obviously the race got restarted. And yes, before we go, we stopped to top it up with fuel — that was becoming really crucial because that top-up really made our strategy unique in the field.

“And then on top of that, we had the stop-and-go penalty, so when I started my race again, I was 20-plus seconds behind the (last car). I couldn’t see a single car at that point; my mindset was ‘OK, damage limitation. Let’s try and get a top 15 to get at least get some points.’ The biggest thing for me where things turned to my favor was that big pile-up on one of the restarts.”

Not far from where he catapulted over Bourdais, Ericsson went from hopelessness to opportunism when Team Penske’s Will Power made contact with teammate Simon Pagenaud in Turn 11 and caused a track blockage and red flag to deal with 11 cars stranded on course.

“I went from P18 — because I’d made some passes, and some people had pitted — to P11 when I managed to get through that huge pile-up in Turn 11,” he said. “The interesting thing there is that I go into the back of (Dalton) Kellett in that pile-up, and my car dies completely. I managed to quickly grab the clutch and bump-start to make sure I get the car rolling and not get stuck in that pile.”

Having staved off his third race-ending scenario in a span of 20 laps, a little lightbulb went off over Ericsson’s head while sitting idle on pit lane as the track was being cleared.

“So I get the car rolling and realized during this red flag that every car in front of me hasn’t done their first stop of the race yet,” Ericsson said. “So on my strategy, I’m actually leading if this strategy is going to work out and be the best strategy. So that red flag point when I’m sitting there on pit lane, I’m actually realizing that, hang on, this can actually work out really well.

“Obviously, there’s still like 60-something laps to go, so a lot of things are still going to happen. But I knew at that point that things can actually go our way.”

Soon after the restart on lap 23, Ericsson would take control of the race on lap 33 and run up front for 37 of the final 47 laps to score his second win of the season.

Listen to more of Ericsson’s recollections of the Nashville race in the podcast interview below, or click here.

 

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