Photo: Walter G. Arce/ASP, Inc.

Ericsson Fighting ‘Uphill Battle’ in Bid to Win Second Indianapolis 500

By David Morgan, Associate Editor

SPEEDWAY, Ind. – If Marcus Ericsson is to add a second Indianapolis 500 win to his resume, he’ll have his work cut out for him when the green flag drops on the 108th running of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing on Sunday.

After crashing his primary car in practice on May 16, Ericsson has been struggling to find speed in his backup car, culminating with a near miss in qualifying last weekend in which he fell into the Last Row Shootout to even have a chance to make the 33-car field.

In that Sunday session to determine who among the four drivers at the back of the pack would go home, more missteps, including Ericsson mistakenly aborting his qualifying run a lap early, nearly saw the 2022 Indy 500 champion watching this year’s race from the sidelines.

However, Ericsson and his No. 28 Andretti Global team found their way eventually, posting a time quick enough to get them in the field, allowing them to turn their attention to race day and the monumental task ahead of them starting from the back of the pack.

“Since Thursday when I had my crash, we have been struggling with the backup car,” Ericsson said. “I think it comes down to the primary car they’ve been working on for six to 12 months, with preparing everything on that car. When you crash that and sort of have to go to a backup car overnight, it’s going to be hard to get that close or the same to the primary car.

“It’s been a bit of a battle. The team has done a tremendous job to make it better every single day. But I think, especially for qualifying, every little detail really makes a difference around here.

“It’s hard to get the speed out of a backup car in qualifying trim.”

While the time he was able to post in the first true race practice on Monday doesn’t reflect it, Ericsson noted that once his team was able to convert his car over to race trim, they were able to build confidence that they might just have something come Sunday.

“I thought it felt quite good on Monday,” said Ericsson. “Before the crash last week, we were really, really strong in race trim. I think on Thursday, Colton [Herta] and myself were probably two of the strongest cars on Thursday practice. That still hurts a bit thinking about that.

“I do think my car on Monday was getting close to that. I think we were probably a top 10 car on Monday practice, which is promising. I think Colton was the best car out there again on Monday.

“We have a couple more things we are going to do to go a little bit closer to his car for Friday. But also when you have a big crash, you sort of build up a little bit, as well. I think there’s a little bit more in me to get there.

“But, yeah, I thought Monday was really promising. I think the feeling in the car was really good. I could go through and pass people deeper in the pack. I don’t think there was a ton of cars that could do that. That’s obviously what we need to do a lot on Sunday.

Ericsson added that he isn’t stressed about having to start from the last row on Sunday, explaining that he and the team have a plan in place to get through the field, and hopefully he’ll be in position to be in the fight as the checkered flag nears.

“If we have a good race car, which we believe we will have on Sunday, you don’t need to overtake 15 cars in the first 10 laps,” Ericsson said. “Like, it’s a long race. You just need to pick off a few every stint and do a good pit sequence.

“I always say this race is about being there for the last 20 laps. Everything before then, it’s all about positioning yourself for those last 20 laps.

“I’m not so stressed about starting in the back. I’m more focused on making sure on Friday I get the last sort of fine-tuning on my race car. If I can get that feeling I need from it, you can win from anywhere on this grid.”

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David Morgan is the Associate Editor for Motorsports Tribune. A 2008 graduate from the University of Mississippi, David has followed NASCAR since the early 90’s and became hooked at an early age after attending his first race at Talladega Superspeedway in 1993. He has traveled across the country since 2012 to cover some of the most prestigious events both IndyCar and NASCAR have to offer, with an aim to only expand on that in the near future.