Ericsson Eyes 'Cracking the Code' at IMS

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Marcus Ericsson

Marcus Ericsson has the oval at Indianapolis Motor Speedway figured out. He approaches this year’s Month of May carrying top-two finishes in the past two years, including a 2022 Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge triumph.

The problem is, Ericsson who is in his first year with Andretti Global, hasn’t “cracked the code” on IMS’ 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course.

“This place is always tricky,” the driver of the No. 28 Delaware Life Honda said. “On the road course it seems like it’s always extremely tight.”

Entering Saturday’s Sonsio Grand Prix (3 p.m. ET, NBC, Peacock, INDYCAR LIVE and the INDYCAR Radio Network), Ericsson has made 10 starts on the road course configuration, the last nine as a member of Chip Ganassi Racing. He has finished 11th or better in eight of those races with CGR. The reality is, just one of those -- a fourth-place result in 2022 -- landed inside the top five.

Can a change to a new team boost Ericsson towards a top-three finish in Saturday’s 85-lap race? That’s what he is hoping for.

Andretti Global swept both road course races in 2022 with Colton Herta winning in May and Alexander Rossi victorious that summer. Last year, CGR swept the pair of races with Alex Palou in May and Scott Dixon last August.

Ericsson is hopeful Andretti Global returns to form. That’s why the team elected to burn a test day on this road course in late March. The three drivers -- Ericsson, Herta (No. 26 Gainbridge Honda) and Kyle Kirkwood (No. 27 AutoNation Honda) -- divided and conquered the work load to test several different setups to apply to the race cars in the return trip this week.

Ericsson said even with all three cars going in different directions on the testing program, they all ended up near each other in the speed department.

“We tried quite a few different setups on the Andretti cars, and we all ended up within a couple of hundredths of each other,” he said. “We were all like, ‘How is this possible?’”

Four of the past six winners of this May race entered their race 10th or worse in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES points standings. Will Power was 10th in 2018, Simon Pagenaud 11th in 2019, Rinus VeeKay 11th in 2021 and Herta 11th in 2022. Ericsson, who was leading the points at this point in last season is 14th in the standings.

Ericsson had a mechanical failure while racing solidly in the top 10 during the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by RP Funding. For the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach, he finished fifth. At Barber Motorsports Park, Ericsson’s car just wasn’t fast enough, and he failed to advance out of the opening round of qualifying and finished 18th.

Trends say Ericsson has a great chance of rebounding Saturday. The past five IMS road course race winners had an average finishing position of 10.25 in the race preceding the victory on this layout. Ericsson finished 10th here last August.

Could this be the race where he cracks the code? Could be.