Winning the Ericsson 500 helps fuel Swedish dynamics in IndyCars

INDIANOPOLIS (AP) – Felix Rosenquist has felt that Swedish racing fans have once again started to seriously follow IndyCars in 2019.

Marcus Eriksin’s victory in the Indianapolis 500 only fuels the momentum.

After Eriksson became the second winner in the 500 from Sweden, Eriksin’s return home later this summer may be appropriate for the King.

“I plan to go home in the middle of summer, it could be a good party in the middle of summer, right?” he said on Sunday, winning with Hulski Chocolate, a Swedish company as its main sponsor.

First, Ericsson has to go through a week-long winning tour. This will be followed by races next Sunday in Detroit and next Sunday on Road America, before a break for two weekends may finally allow Eriksin to bask in the celebration of his home country.

But the 31-year-old Ericsson is not against a busy schedule, especially given the long and difficult journey he has taken to join his teacher Kenny Breck in the world of IndyCar racing. Breck won the 500 in 1999.

And Eriksin’s rapid ascent is likely to support interest in American races across Europe.

Ericsson’s campaign can serve as a model for other international racers. After failing to climb the podium in 97 Formula One starts, Eriksin left IndyCars in 2019. He finished 17th in points as a rookie, was stripped of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and bought a ride from Chip Ganassi Racing.

Since then, Ericsson has relied on the advice Breck offered all these years ago to get three top fives in each of the last three seasons and three wins, including Sunday. Breck is not surprised by the results – and understands how Sweden will receive its new star.

“Nice to see you, so congratulations,” Breck said during an impromptu phone call Sunday. “I don’t think you yet understand what it means for your career, but you will learn over time.”

Although Eriksin’s victory spans Sweden, it’s also good for the series.

Three Nordic drivers are already full-time IndyCar drivers – Ericsson, Rosenquist and 21-year-old newcomer Christian Luundgaard of Denmark. Add 21-year-old Rinus Vekey from the Netherlands and teammate Eriksin, the current champion of the series Alex Palou from Spain, and you will have a clearly influential European flavor.

As American racers such as Colton Hertha and Joseph Newgarden, Mexico’s Mexican Pata O’Ward of Mexico, who finished second in the 500, and a strong but aging group of South American drivers continue to win the hearts of IndyCar fans, there is no sign of global talent.

Four-time Indian winner Helio Castroneves compares what is happening in Northern Europe today to the transformational South American contingent he helped lead two decades ago.

“That’s right,” said the Brazilian. “I can’t even pronounce the names of these guys because they are Swedes, but I think all these guys are watching what’s going on and should. If you have enough talent, why don’t you come to a place where, if you’re good, you’ll have the opportunity? “

Rosenquist and Eriksson certainly found him in America.

They made the leap together after completing the Rosenquist quest in Formula One. He originally joined the Ghanaian team, receiving the Newcomer of the Year award in 2019 and his first career victory on Road America in 2020.

Rosenquist moved to the Arrow McLaren SP last year, and although he has yet to return to the winning streak, the 31-year-old won one pole, posted four finishes in the top 10 and fought for victory on Sunday before ending his career- best fourth, giving the Swedes two places in the top five.

“Obviously, the word is spreading about the people who follow me and Marcus,” Rosenquist said. “There was a big surge in 2019 when we both came here, and now Sweden has a growing fan base. With all the new talent in Sweden, I think we have a good future in the US. “

The question is, how big will Ericsson win?

Pilots with previous experience in Formula 1, such as Ericsson, Ramen Grosjean from France and Takuma Sato from Japan, have been more successful in America than abroad.

Two-time world champion Fernando Alonso of Spain could also return to the top 500 at some point.

There is no indication that the influx of talent or opportunity is declining.

The series already has 26 full-time applications, the highest in ten years, and at least three additional teams – Cusick Motorsports, Paretta Autosport and Dreyer & Reinbold Racing – would like to work full-time.

This could open the door for even more Swedes, as the victory of the Ericsson 500 gives it first place in IndyCar as the new leader in points.

“This is what you have been dreaming about for so long. To really do that, you need to pinch yourself, ”he said. “All this support (from Sweden) is very important to me. I am very grateful for that. I hope they enjoyed this moment. “

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