Ericsson back on top after bump, strong push to second
It was mission accomplished for Marcus Ericsson on Sunday at Road America as he powered past his teammate to finish second in the Sonsio Grand Prix at Road America presented by AMR and reclaim the NTT INDYCAR SERIES points lead.
Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge winner Ericsson entered the race weekend wanting to regain the championship lead he lost last weekend after finishing seventh at the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear.
Ericsson climbed to the second step of the podium after a late warning brought the peloton together at Road America. On the restart on Lap 52, Ericsson got a run on the #27 NAPA AUTO PARTS/AutoNation Honda of Alexander Rossi and catapulted himself into second place with three laps to go.
From there, it was smooth sailing for the rider nicknamed the “sneaky Swede” due to his ability to keep a low profile during a race and pounce on the competition when it mattered most.
“It was a really good race for us,” said Ericsson. “I had a few opportunities at the end to try and get a better position. Alex (Rossi) slipped a bit on the last corner so I had a run on him and managed to get out of it. go out.
“P2 is a very good result for the championship and puts us back in the lead, and I’m super happy with that.”
Ericsson entered the weekend just three points behind Will Power, who won last weekend’s race at The Raceway in Belle Isle Park.
However, early race problems for Power, in which his No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet was spun after contact by Devlin DeFrancesco’s No. 29 PowerTap Honda on lap 8, allowed Ericsson to reclaim the lead. championship with a good day.
Ericsson has a 27-point lead over 2014 NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion Power and a 32-point gap over two-time series champion Josef Newgarden in third place, who won Sunday’s race. It is the second time in his career that he has topped the points standings, the first time after winning the Indy 500 on May 29.
“It was one of Road America’s goals, to get back that lead,” Ericsson said. “I think we’re in a strong position, but it’s going to take a lot of hard work and keep doing what we’ve been doing.
“I think it’s going to be a difficult season, a long season. We have put ourselves in a very good position now leading, so we have to keep doing what we have been doing.
While the 14-turn, 4.048-mile road course at Elkhart Lake, Wis., is fun to watch, Ericsson’s day in the No. 8 Chocolate Chip Ganassi Racing Honda Huski was anything but simple.
Ericsson started the race fourth for his best qualifying effort of 2022, but he quickly got off to a rocky start. On lap 4, Ericsson made a pass for third place to teammate Alex Palou. As they drove inside defending NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion Palou, the two men made light contact.
Contact with Palou’s left front wheel was enough to break something on the #10 American Legion Honda. Palou’s car limped off course at Turn 5, and his Chip Ganassi Racing team took it behind the wall for repairs. He returned to the track briefly, but eventually retired and finished last, 27th.
Ericsson regretted the contact with his teammate, but said his overtaking attempt was a fair racing gesture. He apologized to Palou and said he was surprised the two cars even touched in the first place.
“From inside the car, the door was open and I left for the move,” Ericsson said. “I was with him at the top and took the turn. For my part, he crashes into me from the outside lane. You hate to see your teammate withdrawing from any contact with you. That’s the last thing you want to do.
“I don’t see that I did anything wrong. It was an all-running move. It may have been a little early in the race, but this race is a track race. If you have an opportunity, you have to go. »
Palou, who is yet to win a win this season and has fallen to fifth in the championship, 47 points back, was furious after he was checked and released from the care center on the pitch after contact early in the race.
“I think everyone saw that,” Palou said. “I just think he was trying to win the race on lap three. The car broke down and that was it. Game over.
“I was surprised that my teammate hit me, not that the car broke. It’s a single-seater car, right? So if you have a hard hit like that, it breaks. We can also play at this game.
Ericsson went on to defend his decision saying, “There was nothing wrong with that decision. It was clear on the TV pictures.
The Chip Ganassi Racing teammates will have two weekends off to settle their disagreement before the NTT INDYCAR SERIES returns to action on Sunday, July 3 with The Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio presented by the all-new Civic Type R 2023 at noon (ET), live on NBC, Peacock Premium and INDYCAR Radio Network.