Marcus Ericsson is back. Back in Victory Lane, that is.
In his third NTT INDYCAR SERIES season and 37th career INDYCAR race, the Swedish driver scored his first career win in Race 1 of the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit doubleheader Saturday at the Raceway at Belle Isle.
More importantly for Ericsson, it was his first trip to Victory Lane in eight years. His last win was a GP2 victory at Nurburgring in 2013. In 2014, Ericsson began his Formula One career and went winless for five seasons before moving to the NTT INDYCAR SERIES in 2019.
Ericsson joked he was a kid the last time he won a race, and he said going eight years without a win was something he struggled with at times. Ericsson, 30, was a consistent winner in Europe while moving up the ranks in his early days and said winning was almost second nature to him.
And then it went away.
“It was something that you were sort of used to and targeting,” he said. “That's a tough thing with European racing: When you reach the top level like I did in 2014 to F1, I was in smaller teams that didn't have the resources to compete for wins. Then you as a driver sort of forget that feeling to fight and go for wins. It was not until I went to INDYCAR that I realized how much I missed that feeling to go into a weekend and have the mindset to try to win, try to beat everyone.”
Ericsson admitted that his eight-year winless drought took a toll on his confidence at times. But when he moved to INDYCAR in 2019 with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, he said his mentality changed, and he started believing in himself again.
“You need to be mentally strong and believe in yourself, believe in your abilities,” he said. “I've done that. I've bounced back strong. I think that's one of my strengths, that I've been having good mental strength. But, for sure, it's tough.
“I think it would be tough for anyone to go eight years without winning a race when that's what you do. My job is to win a race, and I haven’t done it for eight years. Of course, it's going to take a toll on. Today I think I showed that I can do it. I think it's going to help going forward.”
Ericsson has already been confident in his abilities this season, his second with Chip Ganassi Racing. He has proven to be one of the most consistent drivers in the paddock this season and last.
Last season, Ericsson scored nine top-10 finishes in 14 starts, finishing 12th in the series standings. He opened this season with back-to-back top-10 finishes at Barber Motorsports Park and on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.
After a challenging doubleheader at Texas Motor Speedway where he finished 19th and 12th, Ericsson finished 10th in the GMR Grand Prix on the IMS road course and 11th in the 105th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge. He is now seventh in the championship standings, 74 points behind leader and teammate Alex Palou.
The win was no easy feat for Ericsson on the rough and bumpy Belle Isle street circuit, but it is a track he said is one of his favorite on the schedule. Ericsson said the circuit puts the race in the drivers’ hands and is a track where they can make a difference, which is when he feels he can succeed the most.
For proof, look no further than Ericsson’s only other podium finish of his NTT INDYCAR SERIES career. It also came at the Raceway at Belle Isle when he finished second in Race 2 of the 2019 doubleheader for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.
And in the closing laps today, second at Belle Isle is where he found himself sitting as it looked like Will Power was going to drive to his first win of the season in the No. 12 Verizon 5G Team Penske Chevrolet.
Ericsson was strong all day on the street circuit and was running in Power’s tire tracks in the closing laps when a caution on Lap 65 of the 70-lap race and a subsequent red flag gave Ericsson new life.
After pushing Power late in the race after the final round of green flag pit stops cycled through, Ericsson started to fade to as much as one second behind Power. Then, Romain Grosjean struck the wall in Turn 9 in the No. 51 NURTEC ODT Honda, bringing out a red flag with just six laps to go.
As the field refired their engines after nearly eight minutes, Power’s car wouldn’t start, and Ericsson inherited the lead. He held off a hard-charging Rinus VeeKay in the No. 21 Sonax/Autogeek Chevrolet and Pato O’Ward in the No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet.
Ericsson said when he was sitting behind Power’s silent machine on pit lane, noticing that it wouldn’t refire, he knew the race was his for the taking.
“The immediate thing (I thought) was: ‘This is my day. This is my day,’” he said. “This is the day I've been working eight years to be. I had some bad luck the last couple years. The first red flag was good luck for me. The second red flag and what happened with Will, it was luck. But also we performed. We were fast. We did everything right in the pits, the restarts. We made passes, overtook people.
“Yeah, we had some luck, but we also delivered.”
After taking the checkered flag for just his fifth led lap of the day, Ericsson was grinning ear to ear, taking selfies with his pit crew and taking a dip in the James Scott Memorial Fountain, a tradition for NTT INDYCAR SERIES winners at Belle Isle. He was happy to be in Victory Lane. Happy to be back.
“It's an amazing feeling,” he said. “It's been a long time coming. I've been working very hard for this. The team has been working very hard, believing in me. It just feels great.”