(via AUTOWEEK) – Marcus Ericson once turned laps around the Streets of Monaco and at Spa-Francorchamps, but he had never seen anything like Iowa Speedway until Friday morning.
The Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports rookie completed 97 Formula 1 Grands Prix before making the switch to IndyCar over the winter.
And again, after dining with royalty and the insanely wealthy during that period of his life, how in the world did the 28-year-old Swede find himself in Des Moines, Iowa this weekend? Well, the abbreviated version is that his pathway to a winning ride became murky, so he decided to take his bags to the United States to jump start his career in IndyCar.
He’s taken it on the chin on occasions, with eight finishes, but also with a podium at Belle Isle (race 2) and a seventh-place at Texas Motor Speedway.
It’s hard to imagine a guy with five seasons worth of experience as a rookie, but he’s also never experienced anything like this discipline and is the first one to admit it.
“American racing is very different than what I’m used to coming from the European racing scene,” Ericsson said. “Days like this is completely different than anything I’ve ever experienced before.
“It’s fun though, the tracks have so much character. And what has been especially cool to me is that you have to be flexible. You have to master road courses, street courses, super speedways, short ovals. It takes mastering all different kinds of race tracks to run up front in the championship.”
He has enjoyed his American foray but also admitted that he would never have had a reason to ride through Des Moines if not for his racing career. He has enjoyed the corn fields, Casey’s General Store and the unusual midwestern summer heat.
He also heated-up the timing charts with a 10th-place qualifying effort for Saturday’s Iowa 300. He never would have predicted a top-10 at Texas or a chance to contend on Saturday on a short oval. He credits his team for quickly making him comfortable with this style of racing.
“The biggest positive this year is how I’ve learned ovals because it’s completely new to me and not like anything I’ve ever done,” Ericsson said. “I actually feel comfortable. I have to thank my SPM guys for that because they’ve given me a really stable and consistent car to work with on the ovals and that’s given me confidence.”
His first test on an oval came at Texas in April. He was lost. But he did his homework and felt completely comfortable when he came back in June. The results showed it too.
But not even Texas or Indianapolis can prepare him for Saturday’s race. Unlike those tracks, drivers are in constant traffic on the short oval. Despite his admirable qualifying effort, he suspects he still has much to learn about ‘short track racing.’
“It’s just that you keep turning all the time,” he said. “It’s like a constant corner. You never get time to think about what the car is doing between the corners. Think about Indy. You have two corners and then you get to think about what you need, the tools you have, and here, you’re constantly turning, and you don’t get to think about what you should have done differently until the run is over.
“This place is so bumpy. And during the race in traffic, you’re constantly side-by-side with someone and that’s really something I’ve needed to get used to.”
His latest first test will come on Saturday night at 7:15 ET on NBCSN.