Marcus Ericsson prior to getting on track. (IndyCar photo)

Don’t ‘Sleep’ On Marcus Ericsson

INDIANAPOLIS — It’s hard to call a driver who qualified fifth for the 106th Indianapolis 500 a “sleeper pick.”

But when that driver has a six-time NTT IndyCar Series champion and 2008 Indianapolis 500 winners, the defending IndyCar Series champion, a seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion and a 2013 Indianapolis 500 winner and 2004 IndyCar Series champion as teammates, Marcus Ericsson tends to get overshadowed.

That’s just fine with the driver from Sweden, who will start his fourth Indianapolis 500 from the fifth position after qualifying his No. 8 Huski Chocolate Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing with a four-lap average of 232.764 mph.

“I thought the run was really good, it felt really good, and the car was really good,” Ericsson said. “It was actually too easy to drive, if that ever happens at this place.

“Personally, I’m a little disappointed, but overall, super happy.”

Ericsson’s teammates are Scott Dixon, the six-time champion, Alex Palou, the defending IndyCar champion, Jimmie Johnson, the seven-time NASCAR champion and Tony Kanaan, the 2013 Indy winner and 2004 series champion.

Chip Ganassi Racing was able to use some of Ericsson’s feedback and data to help Dixon and Palou qualify even faster later in the Fast Six.

“We have my teammates and I told them that and they were adjusting on Alex’s and Scott’s cars because of my feedback. The two cars are P1 (Dixon) and P2 and then myself and Tony are in the second row.

“I was pretty sure Scott was going to get the pole because I know how good our car is and I know how he can drive such a light downforce car around this place,” Ericsson said. “He’s the king of this place, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to try to beat him next Sunday.”

This is Ericsson’s best Indy 500 starting position since he left Formula 1 and joined the series in 2019. His best previous was ninth place last year before he finished 11th.

“We put five cars here for the month of May and for all of them to make the Fast 12 and four of us in the Fast Six, that’s such an incredible achievement for the organization,” Ericsson said. “I’m very proud to be a member of this organization.”

And the organization is happy to have Ericsson on the team.

Marcus Ericsson (IndyCar)

“I think the difference, what we have in Marcus is a driver who has immense ability and talent and a lot of experience, and he knows how to win,” said Chip Ganassi Racing managing director Mike Hull. “But I think what happens at least at Chip Ganassi Racing if not the other IndyCar teams, I don’t know the other IndyCar teams in this way, but we’re very unselfish, and we really work hard for these drivers as well as the team members to be totally unselfish about what they do.

“I think for drivers like Marcus, that’s hard to understand at the very beginning, that he can actually find out what the other drivers are doing, that they’re in this together.

“Indianapolis is the pinnacle of that. If you’re unselfish with each other, the greed that normally is associated with individual people, drivers, team members, owners, and so on, goes out the window.”

Ericsson has accepted that role and has arrived at this year’s Indianapolis with a quiet inner confidence.

“Like Mike says, we are a very strong and open team. We work together as a big team, and that’s one of the biggest strengths with Chip Ganassi Racing, and that’s helped me develop a lot, to be able to learn from my teammates,” Ericsson added. “It’s been huge. This year to have five cars and five such strong cars, it’s been really good so far.

“Going into this year for me personally, for my fourth year, I feel like I have that experience to know what I need from the car, which I maybe didn’t have previous years as much. It’s definitely a place where experience pays off.”