before He delivered an Indy 500 win in his hometown, Marcus Ericsson laughs at the earlier claim to fame from Kumla, Sweden.
“We are best known for having the largest and most secure prison in Sweden,” Ericsson told NBC Sports. “That’s how everyone thinks about Kumla. So they try to change the image of Kumla from “prison town” to “Marcus Ericsson, racer town”. ”
Kumla, with a population of just over 20,000, took a big step in that direction when Ericsson made a triumphant comeback a few weeks ago with the Borg-Warner Trophy in tow.
Estimated 8,000 attended the open event, which was the highlight of Ericsson’s November 3-7 tour of Sweden. The hometown celebration included a local musical performance and a “This is Your Life” style recap of Ericsson’s career (including video tributes by Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Scott Dixon and others).
After Ericsson was initially unsure “whether it would be a few hundred or a few thousand visitors,” organizers told Ericsson that the event drew the largest crowd in the town square in Kumla’s history.
“It was a huge success for them because it’s the biggest event they’ve ever put on,” said Ericsson. “It’s a really small town and Kumla did a really good job building this huge stage.
“I was hoping it would be something special. I was hoping that a lot of people would show up, but the way I walked onto the stage and the whole town square was filled with people, I knew it was just for me and my celebration. That blew me away.”
Ericsson snapped photos and signed autographs with fans nearly three hours after the event, again confirming IndyCar’s rising popularity in Scandinavia.
“We have a great opportunity to build my brand, but also IndyCar’s,” he said. “We are all winners here: IndyCar, Indy 500, BorgWarner. It’s a great opportunity to increase interest in Europe and Scandinavia. I think it’s a big market that really cares about IndyCar racing. I’m just excited to try and promote a sport and the series here as well. I love it and love what I do. I always say if we can get more people to watch and follow the races then everyone will fall in love with it because it’s such a good series and such a good product.”
With the emergence of Ericsson and Felix Rosenqvist (and Indy Lights champion Linus Lundqvist, possibly forming a Swedish trio at some races in 2023), IndyCar practice, qualifying and racing were available live in Sweden this season via Viasat.
Although Ericsson was well known prior to IndyCar for his Formula 1 career, he said the Tour showed that winning the Indy 500 was “another step” in raising his profile and gaining more public recognition.
“People want to say congratulations and take a picture, and it’s cool that so many are excited and excited about what we’re doing,” he said. “The 500 win really took it to another level. We had really good TV numbers for an American racing series. They were surprised at how good numbers they had.
“There are a lot of people saying they want to come to the 500 next year, so I think next year there will be quite a lot of Swedish fans in the stands, which will be really cool. Hopefully we’ll keep our fingers crossed that with Linus we’ll have three guys from Sweden on the starting line-up. But let’s look at this. That would be huge.”
This year’s Indy 500 Offseason Champion’s Tour marked the fourth time the Borg-Warner Trophy left the United States. The legendary trophy traveled to Japan in 2017 after his maiden Indy 500 win with Takuma Sato, and 2019 winner Simon Pagenaud brought the 2019 Borg-Warner to Paris. He was also exhibited at the 2018 Goodwood Festival in West Sussex, England.
The Ericsson tour was particularly extensive, with stops across the country (including two 90-minute meet and greets at Westfield Mall of Scandinavia in Stockholm).
“They did a really good job preparing a pretty busy schedule for the week,” Ericsson said. “We televised every morning and evening show. We have all done magazines and major newspapers. To go home with this win and to celebrate with my people, that was really something special.”
Here are some other highlights from Ericsson’s home visit:
—tattoo yourself: Ericsson was reunited with a Kumla native who may be his biggest fan and was among a group of about two dozen fans who traveled from Sweden to see his Indy 500 win in May. When Ericsson learned a few days before the race that they would be gathering at a pub on Main Street at Speedway, he postponed his arrival at a sponsored event to surprise the Swedish fans.
“They had no idea I was going to show up, and all of a sudden I’m there and I’m like, ‘Hey guys,'” Ericsson said. “And this guy was at his first 500 as a fan and he said to me there, ‘Man I’m your number one fan and if you win that race on Sunday I’m going to tattoo you somewhere on me. ‘ I’m like, ‘OK, let’s do it.’ We shook his hand and then he’s screaming under the podium after the race. ‘I will do it! I will do it!’ He was so happy.”
The sequel did not disappoint. After seeing an Instagram photo of the fan with tattoos on their back in honor of the Indy win, Ericsson saw the real article in Kumla.
“He went all in,” Ericsson said. “He’s a cool guy. I appreciate his support and it was fun to see him at Kumla. I was thinking maybe my logo or an ‘I’ somewhere, something subtle. He was very touched by the whole 500 experience and had a great time and it apparently meant a lot to him.”
–The honor of a legend: During a stopover in nearby Örebro, Ericsson visited the statue of Ronnie Peterson, a two-time runner-up in Formula 1.
“He’s still the biggest name in racing in Sweden and an inspiration to me throughout my career,” said Ericsson, whose helmet designs were in vogue with those worn by Peterson in the ’70s.
– Cover type: The most important fashion magazine in Sweden will feature Ericsson on the cover of a forthcoming issue. The photos were taken during a shoot in a vintage car workshop.
“They wanted some sort of vintage racer vibe,” Ericsson said. “I think this is going to be really cool.”
—Royal presence: Although the King of Sweden, a racing fanatic, was unable to attend the Tour, Ericsson drove with the country’s prince in a Porsche Cup event last month.
“I actually spoke to the king there a little bit and he was very sad that he couldn’t go on the tour with the trophy,” said Ericsson. “But he told me he watches all the races and definitely wants to come to an IndyCar race in the future. So I hope we can get this up and running next year. That would be really cool.”