NASHVILLE, Tenn — Marcus Ericsson can’t explain how he won Sunday’s inaugural Big Machine Music City Grand Prix on the streets of Nashville. One moment his No. 8 Honda is flying airborne thinking that his day was done to the next he’s celebrating in victory lane under the warm dusk sky in the capital city of Tennessee.
“I’m trying to figure out how I won the race after being up in the sky, thinking my race was over. Yeah, I can’t believe it,” Ericsson said after scoring Chip Ganassi Racing’s 118th career win.
“INDYCAR, anything can happen. It’s been like that over the years. Once again today it shows that you can never give up, you have to keep pushing all the time, keep believing. If you have a strong team like I have, anything’s possible.”
Ericsson’s journey to victory lane was as crazy as the race itself. It was almost fitting. The Chip Ganassi Racing driver ran literally over Sebastien Bourdais’ car on the Lap 4 restart and went airborne in the process. Somehow, he was able to keep continuing on but with severe front end damage.
Under the caution flag, Ericsson’s crew changed the front wing assembly and made some minor repairs. He was set to resume action but would be in the back. He’d not only pit on Lap 6, but have to do so on Lap 9 for fuel only. He did it again on Lap 11 to serve a stop and go penalty.
Remarkably, the Swede would be the one celebrating his second career NTT IndyCar Series victory. How he got there was nothing short of amazing.
“I thought my race over there,” Ericsson continued. “Then we had to repair the car. I got a stop-and-go. We were dead last. It was all about trying to recover. I think the car got some damage, as well, from that flight. There was definitely some damage on the car.
“I thought I would try and recover as many positions as possible and have a solid, what, top 15 was sort of my game plan after that incident. Then, yeah, the team did a great job with the strategy. Pit stops were great. There were so many incidents. For sure there was a little luck there, as well, no doubt about that.”
He said his driving in the end to hold off the best car in Colton Herta as well as a six time series champion off in Scott Dixon proves that he belongs here for the future. He feels like the best is still yet to come.
“It feels amazing. I think it backs up what I said, that that was probably the best performance of my career to keep him (Colton Herta) behind for that long,” Ericsson said. “When he pulled off behind me, I was thinking this is not going to work. We’ve seen all weekend how fast he’s been. I’m thinking, I’m not going to be able to hold him back.
“I just went into my myself and tried to focus on where can I save most fuel where he cannot attack me, where can I push to make sure I stay ahead. I was really trying to just use all my experience to try and figure out how I was going to keep this guy behind. I was really proud of doing that.
“I think he definitely deserved to be on the podium, so I feel bad for him crashing. But that also showed he was pushing to the limit as well to try to get that victory. Yeah, that was, like I said, one of my best performances to keep that.”
Ericsson, now puts himself back into the championship hunt. He made up 25 points in the process in going from -104 back in fifth to -79 arrears. While the deficit is still quite large, it’s not something that he can’t make up over the next five races.
No one has scored as many points over the last five races as Ericsson. He has a top six in four of those five races including three of which being in the top two. He will have to fight two of his teammates for that championship though.
“I think it’s a great thing,” Ericsson continued. “Chip Ganassi Racing is such a great organization, and I think this year the team we have with me and Scott and Alex and Jimmie and also T.K., there’s such a good atmosphere between us. Even though we are all fighting each other, we always do it fair, and we always help each other.
“We are very open. I think that’s why we are three cars in the top five, is because we help each other become better. That’s a great thing.
“We’re going to keep doing that. We’re going to keep fighting each other, but keep doing it in a fair way. It’s like Chip says, if we win 1-2-3, we take points from our competitors. That’s the way we’re going to try and keep doing.
“We know we have a good thing going. We’ve been very strong in the races. Going into this weekend I was feeling very confident. I think I showed that in the practice sessions. We were right up there.
“Obviously very disappointing yesterday with the qualifying and the incident I had there because that put us on the back foot for today. But still went into the race with a good sort of feeling. I thought top eight or even a top six was possible. That was sort of my mindset.
“Obviously it was a crazy race, so happened a lot of other things. But, yeah, a lot of confidence going into the end of year now. We are sort of in the hunt, as well, in the championship.
“Yeah, it’s looking good. Just trying to continue to work hard and continue to put all the hard work with the engineers and with the team, try again next weekend.”
He says that while he’s a free agent at seasons end, he hopes this run of finishes proves that he should stay with the team for a third straight year in 2022.
“I mean, it’s no secret I want to stay with Chip Ganassi Racing,” he said. “When I came here a year and a half ago, we created a new team within the team. I was the new guy that came with some INDYCAR experience, but came mainly from the GT program. It took time for us to sort of get going last year. We gelled straightaway. We worked really, really hard. I have a great relationship with my engineer Brad Goldberg, the rest of my crew, a core group that really works well together.
“My biggest wish is to continue here in the 8 car, continue in this program for many years to come because I think we’ve shown, especially the last month or so, that we can definitely be up there and compete against the best. Yeah, I want to see where that can get us.
“To be fighting up front, to be winning races on this level, it’s amazing. To finally show after all the tough years in F1, being a back marker in small teams, people thinking you’re not good enough, so on, to be able to come here and show what I can do, just show that I can deliver, show that I can win races, run up front, it means a lot to me.
“It’s been a long time, a lot of tough days to get me here. So I’m really enjoying this year so far to finally show what I can do.
“Yeah, nothing is done yet. Hopefully Chip took notice today.”