Insider: Marcus Ericsson doesn't mind the doubters. He plans to keep on winning.

Nathan Brown
Indianapolis Star

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Marcus Ericsson may be the kindest veteran in the IndyCar paddock but his patience is running thin.

The Swede, entering his fourth campaign with Chip Ganassi Racing, is an avid, attentive reader, and it’s not lost on him that, despite winning four times across 28 races since mid-2021, he remains a common omission among IndyCar title contenders talk. He acknowledges the depth of talent in the series that stretches at least a dozen title contenders deep. It’s one of many reasons why he’s so adored his mid-career series switch.

But what he doesn’t get – and will never – is why he’s often not listed among the select few toward the top of that chart. Perhaps it’s his relatively unassuming demeanor or emotions that so rarely boil over. Whatever it is, Ericsson’s done trying and happy to let his resume of IndyCar race wins – a mark that reached four Sunday in St. Pete – speak for itself.

Marcus Ericsson grabbed the early points lead and his fourth career IndyCar victory Sunday on the streets of St. Pete.

“It seems like whatever I do, people are thinking maybe I don’t deserve it,” Ericsson said following his late, race-winning pass for the lead of Pato O’Ward, whose No. 5 Chevy suffered a brief plenum fire with three laps to go. “I’m just going to keep doing this. Obviously, I don’t want Pato to have a problem, but from what I heard, the problem was because we were putting pressure on.

“If I wasn’t putting pressure on him and hunting him down, he would’ve been fine, and we would’ve been 2nd. But we were right there on his gearbox – and then we got past.”

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Oddly though, Ericsson holds one of the weirder stats in IndyCar at the moment: All four of his race wins have come in events that have featured red flags. In fact, they are IndyCar’s last four races to have included non-weather-related full-course stoppages, dating back to Race No. 1 at Detroit in 2021.

In two of those instances (Detroit 2021 and Sunday), Ericsson capitalized on late-race mechanical failures of his opponents. His Indy 500 win came after teammate Scott Dixon, the dominant car all day, sped by a fraction of a mile-per-hour on pitlane during his final stop, leading to a penalty and a finish outside the top-10. And the debut of the Music City Grand Prix was more demolition derby than open-wheel race with as many cars failing to finish (9) as cautions.

For good measure, Ericsson took flight briefly in that win on the streets of Nashville to add to the oddity.

Debris come off the car of Marcus Ericsson after he crashed with Sebastian Bourdais in the NTT IndyCar Series race on the final day of the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix in Nashville, Tenn., on Sunday, August 8, 2021.

Sunday’s win for Ericsson, where five cars were eliminated within seconds of the green flag, two cars went airborne, only 12 of the 27 cars finished on the lead lap, 12 more failed to finish and a pair of leaders battling up-front crashed each other, could very well challenge them all. He says, though, it all adds up to bundles of credit he and his team deserve for managing to keep their cool, rearrange strategies on the fly and avoid turmoil on days where so many drivers manage to find mayhem.

“We seem to be able to get everything together in those situations," Ericsson said. "I’m not saying we can’t win without a red flag, but it’s definitely been working for us.”

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Marcus Ericsson grabbed the early points lead and his fourth career IndyCar victory Sunday on the streets of St. Pete.

Despite O’Ward’s power issue with three laps to go, Ericsson contends he had a legitimate shot at a race-winning pass on an even more level playing field. The numbers – trimming a 2.3-second gap with 20 laps to go to a half-second in just over 10 laps – bear that out, he said.

“(Pato) looked a bit struggling through the rears, and I was catching him,” Ericsson said. “I wanted to put pressure on him and see if he did make a small mistake so I could get an opportunity to go for an overtake. Of course, 2nd-place is a good start to the season, but a win is perfect. I’d built up an advantage on push-to-pass as well, so I was definitely going to have a go.”

Despite momentum coming off his 500 win in a year where he’d already logged top-4s at Texas and the IMS road course, Ericsson and the No. 8 Honda crew faded in the back-half of 2022, despite holding onto the points lead until the end of July off a string of eight consecutive top-10s.

When he lost it following the Gallagher Grand Prix, and pressure continued to mount to get it back, he instead dropped one place in the standings each of the next two races and was 4th by mid-August. With a best finish of 7th over his final five starts, Ericsson slid to 6th – the same spot he finished the year prior.

His four wins puts him in a pool of 13 active drivers, with only four of those requiring more full-time seasons before reaching the club. Seven of them have also won the 500.

Marcus Ericsson grabbed the early points lead and his fourth career IndyCar victory Sunday on the streets of St. Pete.

But what Ericsson does have on his side of late is strength. Only Josef Newgarden (7 victories) has won more times since Ericsson picked up his first just under two years ago. If Ericsson can turn his Achilles heel -- a lack of podiums that aren’t wins (3) – around in 2023, he could very well find himself continuing the trend of season-opener winners that have gone on to hoist the Astor Cup (Josef Newgarden, 2019; Scott Dixon, 2020; and Alex Palou, 2021).

“I’m here to win. I want a championship. I want to win another 500. That’s our goal, and what other people say doesn’t matter,” he said. “But I think we’ve proven last year and the year before that we can be up front and run, fighting for a championship. We just need to keep doing that, and what people say, I don’t really mind too much.”