(via Indy Star) – They told him Barber Motorsports Park was a tough place to pass.
He reveled in proving them wrong.
Marcus Ericsson whizzed around the picturesque Alabama road course Sunday, picking off competitors — some former IndyCar champions — left and right, climbing all the way up from 20th to a career-best finish of seventh place. His 13-spot climb was the best of the day, barely edging out Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden, who jumped from 16th to fourth (plus-12).
“Everyone told me you cannot overtake here, and I managed to overtake quite a few cars,” Ericsson said with a smile. According to IndyCar, the Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports rookie made 11 passes, finishing tied for third-most behind only Newgarden and Carlin Racing’s Pato O’Ward (13 each).
For Ericsson, who for multiple reasons outside of his control didn’t enjoy many opportunities to overtake during his Formula One days, Sunday was a real treat.
During his short time in IndyCar, Ericsson has enjoyed how closely Indy cars allow him to get to his foes, as well as the “rather big” braking zones that have provided ample passing opportunities.
Ericsson, who executed passes on IndyCar champions Ryan Hunter-Reay and Newgarden during Sunday’s race was particularly proud of a move he pulled on another champion and reigning Indianapolis 500 winner, Will Power.
“I came from really far back,” Ericsson said grinning. “I almost lost it in the corner, but I made it stick. Unfortunately in Formula One, with the downforce they have now, it’s more difficult because the braking zones are shorter. So that’s something I really enjoy about IndyCar.
“I also love how often you’re battling out there. You’re constantly fighting. With different fuel strategies and different tires going on, it’s a lot of action out there.”
While the Swedish import reveled in his ability to overtake, what was more important was that he and his No. 7 Arrow SPM crew finally broke through for a top-10 result.
Ericsson showed blazing speed during practice at the season-opener in St. Petersburg and looked to be line for a top-10 finish before mechanical issues cropped up and derailed his day, forcing him to settle for 20th.
Similar misfortune struck at Circuit of the Americas. He had recovered beautifully from starting 16th and looked primed for a top-five finish before he was waved out of pit lane prematurely and ran into Spencer Pigot. After that, he was forced to settle for a back-half of the field result (15th).
Given how he started his IndyCar career, simply being able to complete Sunday’s race without incident was satisfying for Ericsson. It allowed he and his team to show the world exactly what they’re capable of.
“I’m really, really happy with my performance,” said Ericsson, who finished one spot behind teammate James Hinchcliffe. “Obviously, we want to be better than seventh, but I think starting from 20th, it was probably the best we could do today. So I’m happy with that. Now we just need to break through on Saturdays. If we start qualifying in the top eight, we’ll be challenging for wins and podiums in no time.”