Officially, the distance between the Indianapolis headquarters of Chip Ganassi Racing and Andretti Global is a single mile, but that’s driving from one parking lot to another. Cut through the yards that separate them – as the crow flies – and it’s probably a three-minute walk.
Driving down Zionsville Road from the north side of the city, as Marcus Ericsson does regularly, there is an intersection at 79th Street. Turning right is the path to Chip Ganassi’s shop. Continuing straight funnels to Michael Andretti’s place. Take your pick: It’s 30-40 seconds either way.
You get the idea. Ericsson’s journey to work is basically the same since he has moved from CGR to Andretti Global. It’s almost everything else that’s changed.
The co-workers. The approach to tackling the same 17-race NTT INDYCAR SERIES schedule. Even the look and feel of the race car he drives.
“It’s all very new,” Ericsson said.
Ericsson, the champion of the 2022 Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge who also nearly won Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s marquee event this year, is just beginning to settle into his new digs. The contract he signed with CGR precluded him from moving forward with his next gig until earlier this month, and it was only during hybrid testing Oct. 13 at IMS that he was able to don a suit and climb into an Andretti Global race car.
So much about the experience was different, keyed by the approach Andretti takes. After so much success with Brad Goldberg engineering the car at Ganassi, Ericsson is now working with Olivier Boisson, who spent the past two seasons with Romain Grosjean. Ericsson is learning to adapt to the Frenchman’s approach and how established Andretti drivers Colton Herta and Kyle Kirkwood like to work, but that’s part of the challenge.
One of the primary differences with the new employer, Ericsson said, is the optimism he senses. When he arrived at Ganassi for the start of the 2020 season, his resume consisted of five winless years in Formula One and a relatively nondescript first NTT INDYCAR SERIES season. He led only four laps in those 16 races with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, never tracking higher than 14th in the standings before ending the year in 17th.
That first year at Ganassi was spent in the massive shadow of Scott Dixon, and Ericsson failed to score a podium finish and crashed out of the “500” on Lap 25. Ericsson acknowledged the lack of “excitement” in that period.
“I hadn’t really shown what I can do (in this series),” he said.
Things have changed. Today, Ericsson is a four-time race winner in this series with nine podium finishes over the past 44 races. In 2022, he was atop the standings with five races to go, and this year he brought the points lead to the Month of May. The 33-year-old Swede has legitimately contended for the series title each of the past three years, although he has finished sixth each season.
And, Ericsson begins his journey with the Andretti team as the only driver to have won the “500.” Now, he is part of the team’s spotlight heading to 2024.
“I think you can definitely feel that excitement from the organization and the team for me to get (to Andretti),” Ericsson said. “I’m excited to get going and get working.
“I think the potential is really big in the team. They are ready to really push hard to be at the top. I’m excited to be part of that journey that we’re going to do together.”
Ericsson noted his career change appears to have lined up nicely with the NTT INDYCAR SERIES’ introduction of the hybrid system for 2024. In most years, there would be limited opportunities to test during the offseason, but certainly those on the Andretti, Ganassi, Arrow McLaren and Penske teams have gotten more track time so far, and there will be more of it in the months ahead.
Yes, much of Ericsson’s attention in the Oct. 13 test was on the hybrid system, including how to capture and disperse the additional energy, but he was able to start speaking Andretti’s language – and them his. And that’s a benefit.
“It’s a great opportunity to start interacting, sort of building that relationship with Olivier and other people in the team,” he said. “That’s obviously what I’m already working on.
“(It’s) my way of saying feedback – every driver is different about how they talk about the car. That process is obviously great that we can get started from (Oct. 13) onwards.”
One change still to come is the color of Ericsson’s race car as the primary sponsor has not been announced. It’s expected the team will continue to use No. 28, although information on that, too, is forthcoming. Meanwhile, Ericsson wore a black suit Friday, a stark contrast from the Huski Chocolate-inspired red that defined his four seasons at Ganassi.
“Yeah, it’s different for sure,” he said, smiling.
A lot of things are. Everything but the drive to work.