Indianapolis ( Associated Press) – “Winning the Indy 500, it ain’t bad for a pay driver.”
This was Marcus Ericsson’s message after the biggest victory of his life, the Indianapolis 500, that perhaps he would get some respect as a race car driver.
Not that Ericsson was some rich kid who bought his way into Formula One without a seat warrant. In fact, Swedish investors hoping to develop the country’s next racing superstar found Ericsson when he was 15 years old and provided the necessary financial support to rise through the European ranks and make it into F1. Of.
His supporters never stopped believing in him and stayed with him through 97 winless F1 races. He supported Ericsson when he decided to pack up and move to the United States for a fresh start, and stayed with them after his first uninspired IndyCar season.
Ericsson drove for Sam Schmidt in his rookie IndyCar season, but was let go when McLaren bought in the team ahead of the 2020 season and replaced the entire lineup.
Ericsson needed a new job and was interested in Chip Ganassi Racing – until Ericsson got the money to drive the car. They partnered with Swedish company Husky Chocolate, which sponsors the No. 8 car that Ericsson drove to victory at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday.
The victory placed Ericsson as the only Swede to win the Indy 500 with Kenny Brack in 106, and Ericsson legitimized his career as much more than a “pay driver”.
“You know, that’s what people tell you if you come in and have strong support,” Ericsson said on Monday. “I don’t come from a wealthy background, I come from a normal family in Sweden, and I have worked very hard in my career to find opportunities and get people to believe in me.
“And then they put a label on you as a pay driver, and I’ve had that label all my F1 years and even in America. Coming here, I don’t think I’m going to see me here in IndyCar. A lot of people were very excited for this, and that’s something that connected with me.
But the Ganassi organization is not a backmarker team and Ericsson was now driving cars capable of winning races. They had an adjustment period in 2020 adapted to a new culture of sharing information with teammates who cheered for each other rather than trying to beat them, and Ericsson was still rebuilding trust Which was shattered over five F1 seasons.
He didn’t get his first IndyCar win in his second season with the team until Detroit last June – it was Ericsson’s first win in eight years – and an August win in Nashville gave him a contract extension that Ericsson called “several years.” Is.”
The so-called salary driver is now a Swedish hero. One of Ericsson’s longtime supporters, Finn Rousing, attended his first Indy 500 on Sunday and then kissed bricks in celebration of his investment victory. Rousing also sent a congratulatory message to Ericsson from King Carl XVI Gustaf, Emperor of Sweden.
Ericsson also got paid; His Indy 500 win earned him a payout of $3.1 million from a record total wallet of $16 million. And because the Indy 500 is worth double points in the standings, Ericsson jumped from eighth to the IndyCar points leader as he prepares to return to Detroit this weekend and defend last year’s breakthrough victory.
The past 12 months have certainly helped Ericsson prove itself in IndyCar and the Indy 500 win brought them global recognition. But it’s still something Ericsson wants to legitimize.
A journalist from his hometown in Sweden attended the Indy 500 and told Ericsson that he would visit every single souvenir stand in a fruitless search for a single merchandise depicting the driver. But his teammates are six-time IndyCar champion Scott Dixon, seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmy Johnson and current IndyCar champion Alex Palu, so it can be difficult for a sober Swede to stand out.
“I use it as inspiration, but I also understand that you have (my partner). It’s so obvious that I’m not one to be in the spotlight,” Eriksson said. “But I have a reporter here from my local newspaper … He didn’t find a single T-shirt, hat or anything with Marcus Ericsson. Almost every driver in the area, but not a single Ericsson thing.
“Things like that, it’s a little annoying. Like maybe I can have a T-shirt? You know, that would be cool.”
More Associated Press Indy 500 coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/indianapolis-500 and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
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