NTT INDYCAR SERIES competitors did a variety of things, including midseason testing, during the two-week break since the most-recent race, held June 12 at Road America. Put Marcus Ericsson’s experience up against all of them.
Ericsson took a short trip home to Sweden, his first such trip since winning the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge. The plan was for his father, Tomas, to pick him up at the airport, but there was a surprise in the works.
“(Dad) was on the phone saying ‘I’m outside the terminal,’ and I’m like, ‘OK, that’s weird,’” the driver of the No. 8 Ridgeline Lubricants Honda of Chip Ganassi Racing said Friday on NBC’s Peacock Premium broadcast. “Then I came outside, and it was all my friends – they had rented a minivan for a bit of a celebration trip there for a couple of hours back to my hometown.”
You can imagine the fun that was had on the 135-mile drive to Kumla, Sweden.
Then, there was a big gathering of Ericsson’s family members and friends at dinner.
“Really good, really good boost of energy from that trip,” the driver said prior to posting the fourth-fastest lap in Friday's lone practice. “It was only five days (home), but it was really, really great to see everyone and gave me a lot of energy now for the second half of the season.”
The Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Presented by The All-New 2023 Civic Type R represents the start of the second half of the season. On the strength of the “500” victory, Ericsson holds a 27-point lead over Team Penske’s Will Power (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet) and a 32-point lead over another of Roger Penske’s drivers, last year’s Mid-Ohio race winner, Josef Newgarden (No. 2 PPG Team Penske Chevrolet).
Last week’s trip home likely won’t be the last “500” celebration. Borg-Warner, which sponsors the prestigious BorgWarner Trophy with likenesses of all Indy winners, has frequently taken the trophy to the winning driver’s hometown in recent years.
Road Course Parity
This weekend’s race will be the fourth this season on a permanent road course, and the balance of power within the NTT INDYCAR SERIES couldn’t be more distributed.
There have been three different NTT P1 Award winners (Rinus VeeKay, Will Power and Alexander Rossi) and three different race winners (Pato O’Ward, Colton Herta and Josef Newgarden). And, the nine podium positions have been occupied by nine different drivers (O’Ward, Alex Palou, VeeKay, Herta, Simon Pagenaud, Power, Newgarden, Marcus Ericsson and Rossi).
Among the nine, five are powered by Honda, four by Chevrolet.
Odds And Ends
* Graham Rahal (No. 15 Fifth Third Bank Honda of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing) is preparing for his 250th career series start, which will tie him with Marco Andretti for 17th place on the sport’s all-time list. Rahal needs 14 starts to match the career total of his father, Bobby, who won four times at Mid-Ohio.
* Mid-Ohio has always supported INDYCAR drivers who qualify well. In 38 races, the winner has been the pole sitter 16 times (42.1 percent). A driver has won from the front row 29 times (76.3 percent). The winner’s average starting position is 3.5.
* Only twice has INDYCAR’s Mid-Ohio winner started outside the first four rows: Graham Rahal (13th in 2015) and Scott Dixon (22nd in 2014).
* Overall, the series has experience balanced at the top of the order as well. The past seven races (of eight) have ended with a different driver leading the standings. Currently it’s Ericsson by 27 over Power and 32 over Newgarden.
* There have been eight different pole winners to start the season. If a ninth comes Saturday, that will tie the number from 1961. The series record is 10, set in 1952.
* Mid-Ohio is naming its media center for the late T.E. McHale, who began his motorsports career as a reporter for the local Mansfield News Journal before moving to public relations to represent CART and Honda Performance Development. McHale, a Notre Dame graduate, lost his battle with colon cancer in December. He was 68.
* The NTT INDYCAR SERIES’ Big Machine Music City Grand Prix in Nashville on Aug. 7 will be followed by an on-site concert featuring Brantley Gilbert and Carly Pearce.
* Hunter McElrea of Andretti Autosport led Friday’s only Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires practice. A second session will be held Saturday morning (8:35 a.m.) with qualifying at 1:45 p.m.
* Indy Pro 2000 points leader Louis Foster of Exclusive Autosport posted the fastest lap of both of Friday’s qualifying sessions. Two races will be held Saturday.
* Myles Rowe of Pabst Racing won his second USF2000 race of the season Friday, finishing 8.7 seconds ahead of Lochie Hughes of Jay Howard Driver Development. Fellow Pabst driver Jace Denmark was a tenth of a second behind Hughes in third. Two races are set for Saturday. Rowe has three career series wins.
* Saturday’s schedule includes the second NTT INDYCAR SERIES practice of the weekend at 9:30 a.m. (ET) followed by three-round knockout qualifying for the NTT P1 Award at 2:45 p.m. All of the action can be seen on Peacock Premium and heard on the INDYCAR Radio Network. Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires has its second practice at 8:35 a.m. and qualifying at 1:45 p.m.