INDIANAPOLIS — Marcus Ericsson is getting comfortable here. After a rookie season with Schmidt in 2019 to where every track with the exception of COTA being new to him, he always said that year, just give me another season to show what I can do.
Let me have experience on these tracks and once I do, I can prove I belong.
Well, when it looked like he’d be back for 2020, he and his teammate last year James Hinchcliffe weren’t. Schmidt merged with McLaren and they brought in two new drivers. Luckily, Ericsson landed on his feet and stayed.
He upgraded to Chip Ganassi Racing. Through 11 races into the season, 2020 is looking much better than 2019. Ericsson, has more than doubled his top fives (3-1) as well as his top 10 (7-3) finishes.
“I think it’s been a pretty good year to be honest,” Ericsson told me on Thursday morning. “I think it’s been a solid year with top 10 speed pretty much everywhere. We’ve been pretty happy with that.”
Ericsson, had five top 10 finishes in his first six starts to the season. He moved up to eighth in points because of that. Then, the Indy 500 altered the course.
Ericsson, qualified 11th but crashed hard on Lap 24. He finished 32nd. Due to the nature of double points, he fell four position in the standings as a result of that accident.
“Obviously the crash in the ‘500 really put me back in the championship,” said the second year driver. “That put me back to 12th because of the double points. That’s a bit disappointing. I think I’m back up to close to the top 10. That’s the goal now to get back up to the top 10. I deserve to be there by the end of the year. Just need 1 big result here in the final three races.”
He’s only 19 points out of 10th, so it’s entirely possible. He was sixth in the GMR Grand Prix back on July 4, so a good result isn’t out of the question. The thing is, he’s still searching for a coveted podium to close out the year strong too.
“We’ve had a lot of finishes between fourth and eighth but no podium yet with is a bit annoying,” he said.
With the goal to get a podium or even a win, but also to get into the top 10, how do you be aggressive but not risk falling further back in the championship standings if it doesn’t work?
“It’s a bit of a balancing act I would say,” Ericsson said. “I’m that close to a top 10 that would be a good result to have a top 10 championship run. That would be a good thing to have with you after my second year in INDYCAR. But, at the same time, it’s tempting to get that big of a result as well. It’s always a balance there. We definitely have a car to win a race by the end of the year. This place we were really strong at earlier in the year. If I get a shot I’m going to go for it. At the end of the day, I’m not going for a championship any more so you can take a little more risk.”
Ericsson, says that the best thing he can do for the rest of 2020 is be a good team player to help Scott Dixon win the championship.
“We want Scott to win and the best way Felix and I can help him is to score as many points. Take points away from his competitors. That’s the big thing. Chip wants us to race and finish as high as possible. As a team we want Scott to close this championship.”
He hopes this can all cumulate him to a second season with Ganassi. Ericsson, is a free agent at seasons end and would love nothing more to be back i the No. 8 Honda for 2021.
“I’m starting to feel really comfortable on these tracks and this series,” said Ericsson. “I think last year was a very steep learning curve for me. I thought I didn’t really show my potential. I’ve been really happy with that. I think people are noticing as well and are always there putting it in the mix. I’ve been happy with that and hopefully continue this for Year 3 and be with Ganassi again next year. I think that would really be interesting what we could do on another season.
“We’re still in talks. From my side and my management we want to keep going. From what I understand the team has been happy with me and my progress. I think it’s a common interest to continue and the 8 car program to continue. There’s a lot more things to fall into pieces before it’s done. The goal is to continue no question about that.
“The level of competition in this INDYCAR field at the moment is extremely impressive. Most tracks from P1 to P20 is covered by a second. A tenth of a second one way can shift you 5-10 position. That’s extremely competitive and it takes the best out of all of us. I really enjoy it.”