By David Morgan, Associate Editor
NASHVILLE – With four races left in the 2022 NTT IndyCar Series season, it’s all about going on offense for Marcus Ericsson, starting with Sunday’s running of the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix.
Ericsson ascended to the points lead following his victory in the Indianapolis 500 earlier this year and held onto the top spot for six of the next seven weeks, until last weekend’s return to the Racing Capital of the World. On the IMS road course, he made the most of a bad day, finishing 11th after an engine failure in qualifying relegated him to the tail end of the field to start the race.
Heading into this weekend’s race in Nashville, Ericsson sits just eight points behind Will Power and noted that his No. 8 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda team is shifting from defense into offense as they look to reclaim lost ground in the points. That shift couldn’t come at a better place as Ericsson was victorious in the inaugural race in Nashville last season, even after going airborne early in the event.
“I think they’re good,” Ericsson said of his chances of a repeat win. “We’ve been strong this year, obviously, running up front in the championship. This track brings a lot of good memories. I’m really excited about this weekend and I’m definitely looking to go two-for-two.
“It’s about maximizing now every weekend. Last weekend, we were obviously very unlucky with the engine failure in qualifying, so we had some catch-up to do on race day from 25th. Had a really good race coming all the way up to 11th, so I was pretty happy with that. It was good damage limitation and those points will be important when we sum things up in Laguna in a couple of weeks.
“This weekend, again, we need to maximize and take what’s on offer. If we can go and win the race, we’re going to go and do it, but we need to go and maximize now.”
Ericsson and the rest of the driving corps return to Nashville on a track that has undergone some changes since the inaugural event in an effort to minimize some of the carnage that took place during the race in 2021.
Those changes include the narrowing of Turn 9 by 50 feet, the Turn 11 apex being widened by six feet, repaving longer transitions on and off the bridge, and Turn 5 resurfacing to minimize the bumps.
“Turn 9 is a little tighter this year and that’s probably going to present a bit more opportunity for overtake because there is a bigger braking zone there,” Ericsson said. “That will be interesting to see how that plays out when we get out on track and actually drive the cars. And then Turn 11 is a bit more open, so that’s going to make that corner a bit more different. All in all, before I’ve driven a lap, I feel like the changes they’ve done is positive.”
Ericsson and the other drivers won’t have to wait long to put the track changes to the test, with first practice taking place at 4:15 pm ET on Friday afternoon. The session will run for 75 minutes.
Saturday will consist of a 45-minute practice at 12:15 pm ET, leading into qualifying at 4:30 pm ET.
On race day, teams will have a warm-up session at 10:15 pm ET before the green flag drops at 1:10 pm ET.
Practice and qualifying will air on Peacock, and Sunday’s 80-lap main event will be shown on NBC.