There was nothing flashy or spectacular about Marcus Ericsson’s drive last Sunday in the XPEL 375 at Texas Motor Speedway.
But the end result was really good.
After starting 14th, the 31-year-old Swedish talent executed a masterful drive on the 1.5-mile superspeedway to finish third – his first career podium on an oval in the NTT IndyCar Series.
“It was a great day for us in the No. 8 Huski Chocolate Honda,” Ericsson said. “We started a bit further back than we would have liked. I didn’t really have a great run yesterday in qualifying. Had some work to do.
“But I did a really good start, some good restarts, then my guys did really good strategy. My car was pretty difficult to drive in the beginning of the race, but we adjusted throughout the race to get it better. That was pretty helping me.
“Huge team effort today, get all the way from 14th up to the podium, yeah, a very good day. I’m very happy with that.”
Ericsson led a stout day for Chip Ganassi Racing, which also saw Scott Dixon, Jimmie Johnson and Alex Palou finish fifth-seventh.
The result for Ericsson is already a significant improvement over last year on a track discipline where he only managed one top 10 (ninth at World Wide Technology Raceway) in four events. While he enjoyed a strong 2021 that featured two wins en route to sixth in the championship standings, there was a point of emphasis to improve on ovals over the off-season.
“We as a group focused a lot on the ovals this off-season to improve because I feel like that was the biggest reason why I wasn’t really in the fight for the championship all the way last year,” said Ericsson. “On the road and streets, I had enough points to take it down to the last race. Just lacking too much on the ovals.
“It’s been a big focus for us. We worked really hard. I worked really hard, studied I don’t know how many onboard videos of Scott Dixon, Indy [Indianapolis 500], trying to understand the racing on the ovals especially.
“I think that’s so much experience, being tactical, thinking ahead, being on top of your tools and all that. It’s been something I’ve been working a lot on. It’s such a great feeling to see that work is paying off, we get this podium. Also a bit like last year, when I got my first win, it was a big relief. You go on from there because you get a lot of confidence. I’m hoping and thinking it will be the same thing here: I get my first podium on an oval, build on that and go to Victory Lane next time.”
Additionally, the podium comes after a ninth-place finish at the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg last month. Those combined efforts have him already thinking championship, where he currently sits fifth in the standings.
“Very much so,” Ericsson said. “I went into this season with the goal to win the championship. I was sixth last year. Running up front in the championship, winning races.
“Started off this year, St. Petersburg, I think we should have been on the podium without the pit lane penalty that put me back from fourth to 25th. I think that shows how much pace me and the car had there.
“To come to Texas, superspeedway, finish on the podium, we’re going to be contenders. We will be all year. I’m feel confident, ready to take that fight and get the championship.”