Ovals were Ericsson’s kryptonite in prior seasons, after a 3rd place run in Texas, now he’s confident on them, “I’m feel confident, ready to take that fight and get the championship.”

FORT WORTH, TX — Marcus Ericsson told me following his runner-up in 2019 at Belle Isle that he was excited for what his future was going to be here in the NTT INDYCAR Series. See, that was his rookie season and most of these tracks were the first time that he’s seen them. In Belle Isle, he saw the track a day prior. For the doubleheader weekend, he was runner-up the second time that he saw the track.

The thing is, for 2020, he joined a new team at Chip Ganassi Racing. Unfortunately, a pandemic ensued which didn’t help the learning curve. It’s hard to get to know a new team with social distancing. How can you get full laps when practice is limited and testing outlawed. So, 2020 was essentially a second rookie season. He’d still get nine top 10’s which is up from three in 2019. He also had three top fives and went from 17th to 12th in the final standings.

2021 he was back with Ganassi and now finding his groove. He’d score 12 top 10’s in 16 races but most importantly, two victories. That propelled him from 12th to 6th in points and had him thinking championship for 2022.

So far, those championship dreams are legitimate. Ericsson, was ninth in the season opener in St. Pete and now third in Texas. He’s fifth in points (-39) after two races and hopeful to become the third different Ganassi driver to win the championship in as many years.

He beat those Ganassi teammates on Sunday in the XPEL 375 as he led the four car Ganassi brigade across the finish line in the end. They’d finish collectively 3-5-6-7.

“It was a great day for us in the No. 8 Huski Chocolate Honda,” Ericsson said. “We started a bit further back than we would have liked. I didn’t really have a great run yesterday in qualifying. Had some work to do.

“But I did a really good start, some good restarts, then my guys did really good strategy. My car was pretty difficult to drive in the beginning of the race, but we adjusted throughout the race to get it better. That was pretty helping me.

“Huge team effort today, get all the way from 14th up to the podium, yeah, a very good day. I’m very happy with that.”

That learning is what helped him give great feedback to his crew to get the car dialed in to be among the best there at the end. The thing is, he doesn’t know exactly as to what clicked but it’s something that definitely has.

“I don’t know,” he said on why he’s bee so fast on ovals already. “But it’s been something, to be honest, ever since I came to INDYCAR, I’ve enjoyed ovals. There’s been a lot to learn coming from European racing, no oval experience. It’s been a quite steep learning curve.

“I felt pretty comfortable on them, but I haven’t really got any results on them until today. That was one of the big areas that we focused on in the off-season this year, to really analyze, for me to look at lots of data, onboards, trying to understand oval racing better so I could get some more results on the ovals.”

He says that in order to win that championship he so covets, an oval improvement was needed and a third place run already is what he needed. That’s the final gap to close in order to legitimately challenge for a title.

“If you look at the championship last year on road and street, I think I was second or third in that championship, but on ovals 12th or 13th,” he continued. “An area we’ve been focusing on this season. To get to the first oval of the year, get my first podium on the oval, I think shows all that work that I and my engineer and the rest of the 8 car group, Dario, all the work we put in is paying off.

“I feel like that was the biggest reason why I wasn’t, like, really in the fight for the championship all the way last year. On the road and streets, I had enough points to take it down to the last race. Just lacking too much on the ovals.

“It’s been a big focus for us. We worked really hard. I worked really hard, studied I don’t know how many onboard videos of Scott Dixon, Indy, trying to understand the racing on the ovals especially.

“I think that’s so much experience, being tactical, thinking ahead, being on top of your tools and all that. It’s been something, like I said, I’ve been working a lot on. It’s such a great feeling to see that work is paying off, we get this podium.”

Ericsson said that he hopes this podium in Texas is comparable to his win in Belle Isle. You have to get over the hump to make future success happen.

“When I got my first win, it was a big relief. You go on from there because you get a lot of confidence. I’m hoping and thinking it will be the same thing here: I get my first podium on an oval, build on that and go to Victory Lane next time.

“I went into this season with the goal to win the championship. I was sixth last year. Running up front in the championship, winning races.

“Started off this year, St. Petersburg, I think we should have been on the podium without the pit lane penalty that put me back from fourth to 25th. I think that shows how much pace me and the car had there.

“To come to Texas, superspeedway, finish on the podium, we’re going to be contenders. We will be all year. I’m feel confident, ready to take that fight and get the championship.”

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