By Christopher DeHarde, Staff Writer
INDIANAPOLIS — Many drivers that came up through the road racing ranks either embrace oval racing or have an intense dislike for it but Marcus Ericsson seems to have fallen into the former category ahead of Sunday’s 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500.
The Swede qualified 13th in the 33-car field and was the fastest car for Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and their affiliated entries on the first day of qualifying. For Ericsson, this was an enjoyable new experience.
“Last weekend, qualifying, I thought that was really fun,” said Ericsson. “The whole system with qualifying, going out there on track and trying to do four laps, that was a lot of fun and then Monday practice, running in a pack there and fighting it out with people, that was so much fun.”
Monday’s post qualifying practice was an interesting experience for the driver of the No. 7 Arrow Electronics Honda. After misjudging the following distance to Felix Rosenqvist, Ericsson brushed the wall exiting Turn 3 and did not damage the car.
“I just let it run wide and I knew that’s what they’ve been telling me like if you have a moment just try and hit the wall square and it’ll be all right and that’s what happened,” said Ericsson. “They told me I did a 10/10 brush with the wall, no damage, nothing and we kept going so that was good to get that over with.”
It was Ericsson’s first brush with the wall on a superspeedway and a bit of a wakeup call. Before moving to the NTT IndyCar Series, Ericsson was fighting it out in Formula One for five years on road and street circuits around the world. In Indy car racing, however, there are a decent mix of ovals to contend with between superspeedways, fast bullrings and an intermediate in Texas Motor Speedway.
“Before my first test I was very nervous,” said Ericsson. “I didn’t know at all what I was going to feel like and I didn’t know if I was going to like it [or] if I was going to hate it. You hear different stories from different drivers and some drivers just seem to try to get through them, some seem to love them.
“I really didn’t know and had that first test at Texas, to be honest first of all I thought this was madness, I didn’t feel comfortable at all but then when I got more and more laps in I started to feel comfortable, went away from there reasonably happy and I had done a decent day. Then I could build from there and now every day I’m out there on track and enjoying it more and more.”
Ericsson embraced the challenge by remembering faster Formula One circuits like Spa and Suzuka which he enjoyed more than the slower circuits. Looking ahead to the race, Ericsson was adamant that the race will be run in a series of goals, the first one being to finis the race.
“I want to do all the laps because like I said I’m still learning out there,” said Ericsson. “The second goal is to finish in the top 10 because I think we have a car that can do that and depending on how the race develops I think that should be possible and if we could do that it would be an amazing result.
“But with that said, if we’re running inside the top 10 with 30 laps to go, we’re definitely going to go for it, it’s no question about that and then anything can happen. Alex (Rossi) showed a couple of years ago that you can win as a rookie as well so that’s sort of how I look to the race as sort of some steps.”
The 103rd Indianapolis 500 will start May 26th at 12:45 p.m., weather permitting.