Marcus Ericsson revels in Borg-Warner Trophy reveal: 'I'm still pinching myself'

Nathan Brown
Indianapolis Star

For Marcus Ericsson, the reality of his breakthrough Indianapolis 500 win is just starting to settle in. It’s also finally been etched into history.

Thursday in downtown Indianapolis at a small, celebratory gathering at Union 50, the Swedish driver was shown for the first time his likeness on the Borg-Warner Trophy that sculptor Will Behrends molded during Ericsson’s visit to the artist’s North Carolina studio last month.

And as is the case for many first-time winners, the annual ritual caught the Chip Ganassi Racing driver nearly speechless.

“Amazing. I love it, just looks great – perfect,” Ericsson said on-stage at the ceremony IMS president Doug Boles emceed. “Seeing the end result and being on this trophy, I’m still pinching myself, but it’s getting more real when I see myself on it.”

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The final product came together just in time, as the Borg-Warner prepares for a flight to Sweden for a whirlwind media tour from Nov. 3-7, where, as Ericsson said, “I’m going to be with this guy” – motioning to the Borg – for days of interviews, VIP events, a gathering at Sweden’s biggest mall and a block party in his hometown of Kumla.

Unfortunately, he said, the king of Sweden, who called Ericsson’s manager minutes after the driver’s 500 victory to offer his congratulations, won’t attend. The pair, though, connected when Ericsson took part in the Porsche Carrera Cup Scandinavia season-finale earlier this offseason.

“He’s become a big IndyCar fan,” Ericsson said. “He watches a lot of races.”

Marcus Ericsson's likeness on the  Borg-Warner Trophy sits surrounded by Helio Castroneves and Dario Franchitti, something the Ganassi driver hopes signifies what may be to come in his IndyCar career.

During that trip overseas, Ericsson said he shared a quiet, private moment with his family that marked the start of his Indy 500 victory starting to feel “real.” As his parents finalized the sale of Ericsson’s childhood home they’d owned for more than 30 years, he, his parents and his two brothers gathered for a final dinner to reflect on the memories made inside its walls. That night, Ericsson said, the group watched the final 30 minutes of the victory that featured him storming to the front after his final pit stop, a nerve-wracking red flag pause in the action caused by his teammate Jimmie Johnson and the restart where he snaked down the front-straight and held off a final attack from runner-up Pato O’Ward.

“We all had tears in our eyes,” Ericsson said. “That was pretty special. I’d rewatched the last 30 minutes or so a few times, but that was a special moment.”

In typical Ganassi fashion, Ericsson did his best to keep the ultimate goal in focus through the summer as his 500 victory and the double-points that come with it, propelled him into serious IndyCar title contention. Not until his race results slipped over final month did those hopes slip away – which is why the past six weeks have been a heavy time of reflection.

“I pulled away, opened the gap and did everything I needed to win that race, and then I almost had to do it twice because of what happened,” he said. “And then I had that test of having to sit there for 10 minutes, knowing I’m two laps away from winning the biggest race in the world that would change my life forever, and I had to sit there and try to fight off all those thoughts in an empty car, just waiting.

“It doesn’t get much more intense in the sporting world than that. No one had been able to lead a restart all day because of the way the downforce was, so to be able to pull that off was amazing.”

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Already, he said, the team is planning how they can do it again. Ericsson’s win snapped a 10-year drought at the 500 for CGR and made him just the fourth driver in team history to take the checkered flag, joining Juan Pablo Montoya, Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti. Next, he has his eyes set on becoming the first Indy 500 winner to repeat since Helio Castroneves won his first two starts in 2001-02.

But even if that doesn’t happen, Ericsson knows his feat nearly five months ago has forever changed his life – just as the Kenny Brack, the only other Swede to win the 500, said in a prepared video shown at Thursday’s ceremony.

“To win the biggest car race in the world and the world’s biggest one-day sporting event is something really special. It cements your place in history,” Brack said. “A.J. Foyt once said to me, ‘You ain’t (expletive) if you haven’t won the Indy 500’ – and I’d say he’s right.”