MONTEREY, Calif. — Despite being mathematically qualified to fight for the 2022 NTT IndyCar Series championship, Marcus Ericsson of Sweden realizes he’s a long way from winning the title.
He is fourth in points, 39 points behind leader Will Power, in a title fight with a maximum of 54 points per race.
“We’re going into this weekend with the goal of winning the race, maximizing the points, and if we can do that, that’s all we can do to try and win it,” Ericsson told NBC Sports. “We can’t do more. That’s our mindset, go in here and win and see how things go.”
The driver of the #8 Huski Chocolate Dallara-Honda is still in contention despite long chances in Sunday’s final race of the season, the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey at WeatherTech Raceway in Laguna Seca.
“We’re still in it,” said Ericsson. “It’s a little far-fetched. Things happen. We’re still in the mix. Everything happens at IndyCar, and there’s so much happening all the time. We go into the weekend wanting to win the race and see what happens. If something happens to the other guys, we can still win this thing.
“I’m positive and looking forward to it.”
Even if the likeable driver from Kumla, Sweden, does not give up the 2022 IndyCar Championship to Chip Ganassi Racing, he has already won the biggest prize of the season.
ericsson won the 106thth Indianapolis 500 on May 29thwho held off an attacking Pato O’Ward in the final laps of the race to give team owner Chip Ganassi his first Indy 500 win since Dario Franchitti in 2012.
“The 500 is obviously the biggest race and winning it is bigger than anything,” said Ericsson. “It has been a great year since. To be in the fight before the final race is great. I feel a bit like I have nothing to lose now and I’m already a winner this year.
“It’s a good start to the last race of the year.”
Ericsson joined the IndyCar Series in 2019 after a five-year career in Formula 1. He had 97 F1 starts but never finished on the podium.
The term “Team Orders” has been used a lot this week as five drivers remain in contention for the championship, three from Team Penske and two from Chip Ganassi Racing.
Ericsson’s teammate Scott Dixon is 20 points off the lead and Ericsson may need to serve as Dixon’s wingman in the race.
But Ericsson is familiar with the concept from his experience in Formula 1, where team orders are more commonly used.
“In a way, F1 is even more in the hands of the team,” he said. “In quite a few races they swapped positions and let your teammate go. That was common even in the first race of the season. Let him pass or whatever.
“Here at IndyCar, it’s a lot more of an individual thing. Each team within teams has its own sponsors, its own groups. It’s a lot more for yourself. F1 is a lot more about team effort. In a way, I’m probably more used to it.”
At the 2017 Baku race, Ericsson was ordered to give up a place to Sauber teammate Pascal Wehrlein – sacrificing the only point he would have scored this season.
“I’m still not very happy about it,” Ericsson said. “I was P10 and I left it to my teammate because the team said so and said they would trade it back and they didn’t trade it back and he was tenththi turned 11th.”
Tired of F1 politics and lured by fierce competition from IndyCar, Ericsson joined what was then Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports in 2019. In just his eighth race of his rookie season, Ericsson finished second behind race winner Scott Dixon in the 2019 Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix race #2.
As of 2020, Ericsson and Dixon were teammates at Chip Ganassi Racing. He scored his first career win in the first race of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix and wildly gave Indy his second win at the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix on the streets of Nashville on August 8, 2021.
That year he became only the second driver from Sweden to win the Indy 500, after Kenny Brack, who won the 1999 Indianapolis 500.
“When I came here, after five years in Formula 1, I wasn’t particularly successful,” said Ericsson. “It took me a while to establish myself at IndyCar. But I think my progress over the year has been very good. I’ve taken steps every year. That’s one of the main reasons why I wanted to come here to show what I can do. I developed a lot in Formula 1.
“The problem in Formula 1 is when you’re not in a team to show that. If you show the same results in year one as you did last year, that’s all people look at. I think I developed and was a better driver.
“That’s the main reason I wanted to come to IndyCar, to show that I can compete at this level and fight for wins and championships. That has been a good thing in recent years.
“We were in the mix. This year in particular has been an incredible year.”