NEWTON, Iowa – For a driver who has competed in 97 Formula One World Championship events, Marcus Ericsson has competed on some of the most famous race courses in the world.
But here’s a fact: He has never raced on a track like Iowa Speedway.
Ericsson, whose first oval race came in the Indianapolis 500 in May, will get a chance to experience his first short oval race in Saturday night’s Iowa 300.
The 28-year-old NTT IndyCar Series driver from Kumla, Sweden expects a wild time.
“I watched videos of it, and it looks like a wild one,” the Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver told NTT INDYCAR Mobile. “I went there and tested a few weeks ago. It was a really good test. I got into the driving really well, and I had really good pace. We had a really good car there. It felt like we can have a good chance there. My teammate, James Hinchcliffe, won there last year. We know how to get around that place and I’m looking forward to it.
“You are always side-by-side with someone on a short track. It looks like it’s going to be fun.”
Ericsson had a rough start to the season with a 20th-place finish at St. Petersburg and a 15th at Circuit of the Americas, before scoring his first top-10 finish at Barber Motorsports Park in April when he finished second.
Ericsson scored the highest finish of his career when he was second in the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix Race No. 2 and backed that up the following weekend with a seventh-place finish at Texas Motor Speedway.
Although he finished 20th last Sunday in the Honda Indy Toronto, Ericsson remains confident that he can score a victory in his rookie season in 2019.
“One-hundred-percent,” Ericsson said. “I want to win a race this year and we have the tools to do that. It’s not going to be easy. It’s one of the toughest championships around. The competition is extremely high, but we have it in us.
“That is the goal.”
Ericsson has accepted the challenge of racing in a new series, and he has had a blast.
“It’s been fun, and I’ve been enjoying it a lot,” he said. “It’s a very tough and interesting series. It’s very different than what I am used to back in Europe. Looking at my year so far, we have had good speed in the cars. The results have not been as good as the speed has been. There have been some mistakes on my side, some bad luck, but right now things are picking up. We are getting some momentum. I finished second at Detroit and seventh at Texas. It feels like we are going in the right direction. But this series is such a tough championship.
“To learn all the tracks and all the cars has not been easy. That has been a big challenge this year.”
The highlight for Ericsson, of course, was getting a chance to compete in his first Indianapolis 500.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” he said. “I was thinking that it would be cool and be a big race and not so much more than that. I had not been in American racing before. I went into the month of May and realized how much it meant to everyone and with the history and the buildup to the race and the practice and qualifying was so special. It was such a cool experience and so much more than I ever could have imagined.
“To be out there in the race with so many fans around you and the buildup to the race just blew my mind. I’m so proud to have run the Indy 500 and I’m very proud of it and I really hope to be back there next year. My best experience in a race car was in the Indianapolis 500.”
Ericsson and Chip Ganassi Racing driver Felix Rosenqvist are the first Swedish drivers in IndyCar since the days of Stefan Johansson and Kenny Brack. With two drivers from Sweden in the NTT IndyCar Series, race fans back in Scandinavia have been eagerly following their progress in the series.
“It’s been very good,” Ericsson said of the interest in his home country. “So many fans are following me and Felix. Both of us came here this year has been really good for the series with interest back home. I built up a very good fan base in Sweden during my Formula One years. I wasn’t sure what was going to happen when I came to the IndyCar Series, but it seems like everybody is supporting me and that is great to see.
“For IndyCar, the interest in Europe is growing all the time with more European racers making the move over. It puts more spotlight on the series. I think that has been very positive.”
With six races remaining in his initial season in IndyCar, Ericsson hopes to eventually become the highest-finishing rookie in the series. That would say a lot because this is an extremely deep and talented crop of rookie drivers.
“I think it is very, very high,” Ericsson said of the talent level. “All four of us have had some strong results and strong races. We are all quite close in the standings.
“It’s going to be a good end of the year fighting it out with some very talented drivers.”