Ericsson back on top after bump, strong drive to second

Ericsson back on top after bump, strong drive to second

The mission was accomplished for Marcus Ericsson on Sunday at Road America, when contact with his teammate finished second in the Sonsio Grand Prix at Road America presented by AMR and recaptured the NTT INDYCAR SERIES points lead.

Indianapolis 500, presented by Gainbridge winner Ericsson, went into the race weekend looking to regain the championship lead it lost last weekend after finishing seventh in the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear.

Ericsson stormed to the second step of the podium after a late race caution piled up the field at Road America. At the restart of lap 52, Ericsson got a run on Alexander Rossi’s No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS/AutoNation Honda and catapulted into second with three laps to go.

From there, things went smoothly for the driver nicknamed the “sneaky Swede” for his ability to lie low during a race and attack the competition when it matters most.

“It was a really good race for us,” Ericsson said. “I got some chances there at the end to try and get a better position. Alex (Rossi) had a bit of a slide out of the last corner so I got a run on him and managed to get by.

“P2 is a really good result for the championship and puts us back in the lead, and I’m super happy about that.”

Ericsson came into the weekend just three points behind Will Power, who won the race at The Raceway at Belle Isle Park last weekend.

However, early racing problems for Power, in which his No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet was spun after contact from Devlin DeFrancesco’s No. 29 PowerTap Honda on lap 8, saw Ericsson take back the championship lead with a strong day.

Ericsson is 27 points ahead of 2014 NTT INDYCAR SERIES Champion Power and 32 points ahead of Josef Newgarden, the two-time series champion, in third, who won Sunday’s race. It is the second time in his career that he has led the points standings, the first time after winning the Indy 500 on May 29.

“That was one of Road America’s goals to regain that lead,” Ericsson said. “I think we are in a strong position, but it will take a lot of hard work and to keep doing what we were doing.

“I think it will be a difficult season, a long season. We’ve now put ourselves in a really good position by leading, so we just have to keep doing what we were doing.”

While the 14-turn, 4.048-mile road track in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, is a sight to behold, Ericsson’s day in the No. 8 Huski Chocolate Chip Ganassi Racing Honda was anything but easy.

Ericsson started the race fourth for his best qualifying effort of 2022, but he soon had a rough start. On lap 4, Ericsson made a pass for third on his teammate Alex Palou. As they drove to the inside of defending NTT INDYCAR SERIES champ Palou, the two made light contact.

The contact with Palou’s left front wheel was enough to break something on the No. 10 The American Legion Honda. Palou’s car limped off course in Turn 5 and his Chip Ganassi Racing team took it behind the wall for repairs. He briefly returned to the track, but eventually retired, finishing last, 27th.

Ericsson regretted contact with his teammate but said his attempted pass was a fair race move. He apologized to Palou and said he was surprised the two cars touched each other at all.

“From inside the car the door was open and I went for the move,” Ericsson said. “I was standing next to him on the top and made the turn. For my part, he turns into me from the outside track. You hate to see your team-mate withdraw from contact with you. That’s the last thing you want to do.

“I don’t see that I did anything wrong. It was a full race move. Maybe a little early in the race, but this race is a track position race. If you get the chance, go for it.”

Palou, who has yet to take a win this season and dropped to fifth in the championship standings 47 points back, was furious after being checked and released from the care center after the early race contact.

“I think everyone has seen that,” Palou said. “I just think he was trying to win the race on the third lap. The car broke, and that’s it. Game is over.

“I was surprised that my teammate hit me, not that the car broke down. It’s a single seater, right? So when you take a hit like that, it just breaks. We can play this game too.”

Ericsson continued to defend his move, saying: “There was nothing wrong with that move. It was clear in the TV footage.”

Chip Ganassi Racing teammates have two weekends off to resolve their differences before the NTT INDYCAR SERIES returns to action with the Honda Indy 200 in Mid-Ohio on Sunday, July 3. Presented by the all-new 2023 Civic Type R at 12:00 p.m. ET, live on NBC, Peacock Premium and INDYCAR Radio Network.

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