NEWTON, IA — After he scored 2 poles in 2 laps on Saturday morning at the Iowa Speedway, Will Power praised championship rival Marcus Ericsson. See, while Power would start on the front row for both NTT INDYCAR Series races around the .894-mile Central Iowa short track, Ericsson would start 12th and 15th respectively.
With Ericsson holding a 35 point lead on Power entering the weekend, would Power turn his focus to points racing? Especially for a track that someone likely would win from the top 4?
“You can’t think of that,” Power said of points racing now. “You just have to put your mind on the exact time you’re in. You just got to go and do what’s best at the time.”
Power also gave Ericsson some high praise in the process too.
“Yeah, I’m hoping that this is a good weekend for us to catch Marcus because he’s very tough,” he continued. “He’s not the best qualifier, but he’s probably the best racer in the series, in my opinion. Just over the years watching him race, he’s one of the toughest guys. Like he’s very, very good at starting back there and making his way all the way to the front.
“Yeah, try to get some points on him. He’s no joke. He’s tough to beat.”
He called the shot too. Ericsson quickly moved forward on Saturday afternoon. He was 5th by time we got to the first pit stop and was right there with Power the further we went on. In fact, by time we got to the 3rd stint, Ericsson was ahead of Power and going for the lead at that.
Then he made a rare mistake in going high and losing ground in doing so on Lap 162. He was fighting for 3rd but went from 4th to 9th by having to completely lift off the throttle between Turns 1 and 2.
He’d never regain the spots he lost and would finish 8th.
“There was an example of him racing really hard,” Power said of Ericsson’s move. “It hurt the overall finish for him because I was trying to save my tires knowing how long that stint was going to be. Those guys are attacking so hard that they are just going to fall back with someone sitting there conserving the second half of the stint.
“Yeah, he’s tough on restarts. He’s a very, very good racer.”
Ericsson has just 2 top 5 starting spots in 12 tries this season including 6 of the 12 being outside the top 10. However, he always charges. Ericsson has 9 top 10’s now, 5 of which being in the top 5, in 11 races run and another opportunity on Sunday.
He went from 14th to 3rd earlier this year in Texas. He went from 18th to 4th in May’s GMR Grand Prix. He went from 13th to 6th earlier this month at Mid-Ohio.
With 4 straight top 11 finishes in as many tries at Iowa for Ericsson, that’s why Power knows he has to capitalize and not worry about Ericsson because the red and white Chip Ganassi Racing Honda will be coming.
Race winner Josef Newgarden also had high praise for Ericsson. Even said some nice thoughts on Ericsson’s teammate Alex Palou too.
“Yeah, I think he’s done a great job obviously,” said Newgarden. “How could you not say so, right? He’s doing a tremendous job.
“He’s kind of just been level. There’s not a lot of flash to him. I would say even less so than Palou. Palou to me is like the best non-flash driver. That guy is super well-rounded, does everything well. There’s nothing much to him. You’re not seeing a lot of spark.
“Ericsson is like a step below that. I would put him like maybe below Palou. They’re just having a good run. They’re doing a great job. Obviously they have a great team. You can’t do it alone in this series, they’re a great team at Chip Ganassi Racing. It’s a great combination for them.
“He’s not going to be easy to beat. If he keeps doing what he’s doing, that can win championships. It’s great to win four races. Our boring days we need to be finishing second or third. We just can’t seem to do that right now. When we figure that out, I think we’ll be in the mix, we’ll be just fine.”
That’s because Ericsson has had a top 10 in 18 of the last 21 races run if you go back to last year. His consistency is forcing drivers to have to win. I mean Ericsson has 1 win this year and Newgarden has 4. Even with 3 less wins, he’s still ahead of Newgarden by 15 points in the standings.
“I think it’s been very entertaining from a fan standpoint,” said Newgarden. “No one is getting away from anybody. We’re all together. So that’s exciting.
“Typically this is what’s been happening the last couple years in INDYCAR, it’s always gone down to the finale. You always have a couple horses in the race at least.
I don’t know how it’s going to play out, I really don’t. Someone could go on a streak. It could keep going up and down. That’s kind of what’s happening right now. It’s so competitive that you have people sort of winning, then having a bad weekend, then you have guys like Ericsson who is in the middle and level. So no one’s getting away.
“It’s impossible to predict. I have no idea. Someone could just go on a super streak, and maybe not. But tomorrow is not a given, I can tell you that. I think we have a good car and we did a good job today, but that does not guarantee tomorrow’s race. It will be just as difficult as today. Cooler, absolutely. Hallelujah.”