Having the Indianapolis 500 as a “double points” event is a definite positive for whoever ends up victorious. Marcus Ericsson certainly felt this way as he claimed the championship lead after winning this year’s edition of the 500. But could he become the third driver in 14 years to win both the 500 and the IndyCar Series title?
While both are tremendous achievements, winning the Indianapolis 500 is often held as more important than the series championship. However, there have only been two drivers that have achieved both in a single season: Scott Dixon in 2008 and Dario Franchitti in 2010. With Marcus Ericsson sitting comfortably at the top of the standings halfway through the season, how should he feel about his chances at a title?
Can he do it?
That is the question on the minds of many fans, media members, and perhaps Mr. Ericsson himself. Going into the 2022 season, some fans described the 31-year-old Swede as a driver who didn’t truly earn his two wins in 2021. But the past few weeks have all but proved those doubters wrong. Starting at the Indy GP in mid-May, Ericsson has finished 4th-1st-7th-2nd, proving himself to be at the very least, a consistent driver. With eight races down and nine to go and a 27-point championship lead on his hands, all Ericsson needs is more consistency.
Speaking to the media after his runner-up finish at Road America, the Chip Ganassi Racing driver said “Yeah, I think we’re in a strong position, but it’s going to require a lot of hard work, keep doing what we’ve been doing.” However, the hardest part of the season may be behind him. Up ahead lie three oval races, where Ericsson has thrived, and two street courses, including the streets of Nashville, where Ericsson took victory last August.
Where did he come from?
Fans that are new to the series may be surprised at the Swede’s sudden rise to the top of the points lead. Ericsson started out his career in his native Sweden, quickly getting noticed by 1999 Indianapolis 500 winner Kenny Bräck. He made his way up through the European junior series and ended up grabbing a seat with the Caterham F1 Team in 2014.
Ericsson spent 2015-2018 with Sauber in F1, for which he scored zero points, and was more known for flipping during practice at the 2018 Italian Grand Prix and “hitting” Romain Grosjean in Azerbaijan than anything else. In 2019, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (the predecessor to Arrow McLaren SP) saw something in the now-veteran Formula 1 driver and signed him for the IndyCar Series season.
In his first two years in Indycar, he picked just one podium at Detroit in 2019. However, 2021 turned out to be Ericsson’s year, as he captured wins at both Detroit and Nashville. He finished the 2021 season at a personal best sixth place in the championship.
Who is he up against?
Marcus Ericsson said it best after his Indianapolis 500 victory. “I think mental toughness.” That is what he pinned as what he learned during his time in Formula 1 that allowed him to get to this point. One can only assume that he needs a bit more of this mental toughness to beat some of his new championship rivals. Ericsson has to hold off former champions like Alex Palou, Josef Newgarden, and Will Power. Simply put, Ericsson, in just his fourth IndyCar season, finds himself in the middle of a tight championship fight against many seasoned vets and young guns.
How will he cope with the title fight? Let’s just wait and see.