Rosenqvist, Ericsson happy to lead INDYCAR's Swedish invasion

Updated: 

They’re understated by nature in keeping with the personality traits often associated with people from Sweden.

And although drivers Marcus Ericsson and Felix Rosenqvist will be representing their small country as rookies in the NTT IndyCar Series this season, it’s the first time they’ve raced against each other since about 15 years ago in go-karts.

As their racing paths converge, both look forward to not only a new challenge but also becoming good friends.

“The fact we’re going to live in the same apartment building downtown in Indy, I’m sure we’re going to hang out quite a bit,” said Ericsson (at right in above photo), who will drive the No. 7 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda. “For sure, we want to beat each other on track, but we want to have fun. Being two Swedes here in America, it’s going to be fun.”

Rosenqvist (at left in above photo), who will drive the No. 10 NTT DATA Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing, won the 2015 FIA European Formula 3 championship and celebrated 28 wins in four seasons. The 27-year-old driver is also a two-time winner of both the prestigious Masters of Formula 3 and Macau Grand Prix races.

Ericsson, 28, is making the transition are five seasons in Formula One, where he had 11 top-10 finishes.

What are the odds that two drivers from Sweden — a country with an area land mass comparable to California but with roughly 27.3 million fewer people — could end up in INDYCAR?

“That’s like 10 percent (of INDYCAR drivers),” Rosenqvist said with a chuckle. “It’s really cool for our country to have two guys in one of the strongest racing series in the world.

“Many people are happy that Marcus came here from Formula One because it’s very different and I think he has a proper chance to actually win races and fight for podiums. There, he raced for a team that wasn’t competitive and he couldn’t win races. Now, anyone can win races and I think that’s really cool.

“I really look forward to racing against him. It’s a good time for our country. We have a lot to prove.”

Kenny Brack and A.J. FoytThey’ve generated heightened interest back home, and a fellow Swede looking forward to watching the duo is Kenny Brack, the only driver from that country to win the Indianapolis 500, a 1999 accomplishment for legendary four-time winner A.J. Foyt.

“It’s fantastic that you have not one but two that’s going to race there,” said Brack, the 1998 NTT IndyCar Series champion who drove a total of nine Indy car seasons. “That, for sure, will bring a bigger interest in Sweden again for Indy car racing. As you know, I’m very fond of that type of racing. I will be happy to stand on the sidelines watching it.

“I wish them well. I keep a close eye on Indy car racing no matter who is driving. At the end of the day, it’s not really about nationality. It’s about the people. All the people that I used to know when I raced are still there, in terms of team owners and team managers. Some of the drivers are still active, how that could have happened I don’t know.

“I have a keen interest. To me, the IndyCar Series is more about family. I feel attached to it and I feel attached to the fans. It’s been a big part of my life, driving for A.J. Foyt, Bobby Rahal, Chip Ganassi, Rick Galles.”

Brack helped get Ericsson’s career going in finding sponsors in the junior formula and GP2 ranks.

“Any young driver needs some help and I did take him under my wing,” Brack said. “I put together all the financing for him to go through. I worked with him for about six years, from go-karts to GP2.”

Ericsson is aware of the buzz they’ve generated back home, and he hopes that enthusiasm will build this season. Already, INDYCAR Media has signed an agreement through 2021 for Nordic Entertainment Group (NENT) to air all NTT IndyCar Series races through streaming and subscription television services, with some races available on over-the-air TV. NENT’s reach covers Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland.

“It’s fantastic that INDYCAR will be available for fans in the Nordic region. NENT Group have broadcast almost my whole career – from Formula 3 in Macau 2009, GP2 and of course my five years in Formula 1. Their people are very knowledgeable, so I know their INDYCAR offering will be great.

“It’s good for the sport and good for INDYCAR to grow interest in Northern Europe.”

Both drivers sound amused when asked about their humble personalities.

“I think that’s the Swedish way,” Ericsson said. “We’re more laid back and kind of calm in a way. It’s the mentality from us Swedes, but it doesn’t mean we can’t get heated up on the racetrack. Don’t worry about that. We’re going to enjoy racing over here.”

Adds Rosenqvist, “I’m not too intense. We’re Scandinavian, so we’re relaxed people.”

Ericsson and Rosenqvist are expected to be part of a nearly full field of NTT IndyCar Series drivers testing Friday at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, site of the 2019 season finale. The team test is open to the public for $20 or $10 for ticket holders to the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey on Sept. 22.

Following that, all full-season entries (including Ericsson and Rosenqvist) and several part-timers will participate Feb. 12 and 13 in INDYCAR Spring Training, the two-day open test at Circuit of the Americas. The noted road course in Austin, Texas, is hosting the series for the first time this year, with the INDYCAR Classic set for March 24.

The first day of the COTA test is open to the public for $20 (free admission for those with tickets to race weekend). It will also stream live on IndyCar.com beginning at 11 a.m. ET Tuesday.

From the fans