Marcus Ericsson

What a difference a week makes. Now, can Sunday’s strong result in the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear resurrect Marcus Ericsson’s disappointing start to the NTT INDYCAR SERIES season?

The driver of the No. 28 Delaware Life Honda certainly hopes so. A week after hitting the Turn 1 SAFER Barrier hard on the first lap of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge, the veteran driver in his first season with Andretti Global delivered an important first step toward returning to relevancy in this series.

Ericsson’s second-place finish on the nine-turn, 1.645-mile downtown street circuit not only was his best placing of the season, it was his first chance to win a race since losing the 2023 “500” to Josef Newgarden on the last lap. Another lap in the Motor City event might have allowed Ericsson the opportunity to overtake Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon for the victory.

Ericsson’s last series race win was in the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg by RP Funding at the beginning of the 2023 season. But his spirits were lifted Sunday simply by being in the lead group when it mattered most. He had earned only a single fifth-place finish in this year’s first five races, with an average finish of 19.0.

“It was very big,” Ericsson said of this result. “After the Month of May we had, it was really, really tough – tough mentally. I’m new to this team, and I want to show myself as a top driver. That’s why they hired me.”

The Month of May couldn’t have gone worse for the No. 28 group. Ericsson crashed in Turn 4 during practice, hitting the outside SAFER Barrier before sliding to the inside wall and the attenuator that separates pit road from the front straightaway. The team opted to return to action with a backup car, and Ericsson barely found enough speed to earn one of the 33 starting positions.

Seconds into the start of the race, rookie Tom Blomqvist spun his Meyer Shank Racing machine in Turn 1, leaving Ericsson no opportunity to take the necessary evasive action. Ericsson’s impact with the outside wall was nose first, ending his day as quickly as it started.

“That Month of May was draining because we had to work so hard, and we got so little (out of it),” he said. “(It) felt like I aged probably five years during that month.”

Ericsson arrived in Detroit with a team that had decided to recommit efforts. He finished the past three seasons with Chip Ganassi’s team in sixth place in the standings, so being 19th after Indy was new and unwanted territory for the 33-year-old Swedish driver. That’s not Andretti Global’s standard, either.

“We just had to do a reset,” Ericsson said. “We had to believe in what we’re doing.

“You can either lie down and feel sorry for yourself, or you get up and you work hard and you prepare yourself and you try and dig deep and go and deliver. I think that’s what we decided on the (No. 28) group. We were going to Detroit, do a good weekend, get our season back on track. Yeah, that was the chat.

“We had a lot of work put in this week leading up to this race. I’m happy it paid off.”

As Ericsson described on NBC Sports’ broadcast, this is now “2024 2.0” for the team.

So far, so good. Ericsson qualified ninth, avoided the issues of the eight-caution, 100-lap street fight, made the right decision to stay off the rain tires and made his last pit stop on Lap 65. In the last third of the race, he never fell out of the top five, passing teammate Kyle Kirkwood and Chip Ganassi Racing’s Marcus Armstrong for position in the final 13 laps for his first podium finish since last year’s “500.”

“I think we were strong all weekend,” he said. “The 28 (crew) and the entire (Andretti Global) team gave us really, really good cars, so I’m really thankful for that.

“The Delaware Life car was really strong out there today. We had so much pace. One more lap, and we might have been able to get that win.”

Ericsson gained five positions in the standings, climbing to 14th. He is only 20 points from being 10th. He’s not where he wants to be, but Sunday was a start toward getting there.