Arrow Schmidt Peterson driver, Marcus Ericsson, has stated that his drive through the field to his first NTT IndyCar Series top ten finish at Barber Motorsports Park “shows the potential” that both he and the team have. Ericsson started the race way down in twentieth place, but he would charge through the order on Sunday to take seventh place.
In the opening two practice sessions on Friday, Ericsson would finish in fifteenth and fourteenth, each time trailing his team-mate James Hinchcliffe; who was starting to garner attention by setting great times towards the top of the time-sheets.
After practice, Ericsson would talk of how much he was enjoying his first laps around Barber Motorsports Park, before going to state that his team-mate’s good pace was a good indicator of where he could be once he had gotten to grips with the circuit.
“It’s a really cool track,” Ericsson said on Friday, “First time here for me, obviously, but really enjoying it; it’s a lot of fun to drive. I think for us, we’ve done a good job with the Arrow car. James showed in both sessions that we can be really fast around here, so that’s really positive.
“For my side, I’m still building up to it, getting a hang of the track – it’s a difficult one; I’m sure by tomorrow we’ll be there. We have a bit of homework to do tonight to catch up, but then we should be right up there tomorrow.”
Final practice didn’t go exactly to plan for the Swedish driver, with Marcus ending the session in twenty-first place after crashing his #7 Honda. What was worse, was that later in the day, Ericsson’s qualifying misfortune would continue into his third race weekend.
In the season-opener at St. Petersburg and the second race at COTA, Ericsson was caught out by red flags during each opening qualifying session. This would prevent him from advancing any further on those occasions. This time, there were no red flags. After being eliminated in round one and subsequently qualifying down in twentieth place, Marcus would admit that his car was simply “not quick enough” to advance.
“It was not a great session, obviously,” Ericsson said after qualifying, “We were out in [Round 1] again, so that was very disappointing. The Arrow car felt quite good, but we are not quick enough to transfer so we need to dig into that. Again, we know we have a good race car; we’ve shown that all year. You just have to trust in that, but obviously, we will be starting further back than we would’ve liked.
“Big thanks to the Arrow guys for rebuilding the car after the incident in P3. They did a great job to get the car back together and ready for qualifying.”
In the race, Ericsson was one of the drivers to commit early to a three-stop pit-strategy instead of a two-stop. Marcus pitted on just lap six of the race and soon found himself fighting his way up the order when the rest of the field made their first stops.
Throughout the race, Ericsson would go wheel-to-wheel and toe-to-toe with some of the most experienced drivers on the grid. He quickly established the turn five hairpin as his favourite passing point, passing the likes of Josef Newgarden and Will Power during his tear through the field.
Ultimately, Ericsson would climb from twentieth on the grid to an eventual finish of seventh place; an astonishing and combative drive in only the Swede’s third IndyCar event. His race bore many resemblances to his drive at the Circuit of the Americas two weeks prior, where Ericsson similarly showed great pace as he drove through the order. Sadly, on that occasion, he was pushed back out of the top ten after receiving a drive-through penalty for an unsafe release in the pits.
This time, however, Ericsson was able to seal the deal and secure his first top ten finish in the NTT IndyCar Series. He would finish just one position down on team-mate, Hinchcliffe. Post-race, Ericsson would exclaim how happy he was to finally get a strong race result in the books.
“It was another great race for us,” Ericsson said on Sunday, “I think like St. Pete and COTA, we’ve shown how strong we are in the races. Going from an obviously disappointing qualifying starting from P20 going all the way up to P7, I think that shows the potential we have and the whole package that we’ve got. So, I’m really, really happy with my race; we got the strategy perfect again like we have done the last couple of times, as well.
“It was really nice to finally get the result as well. We should’ve been in the top five in COTA without that penalty and also in St. Pete we were in for a top-eight finish. It’s so nice to finally bring it home and not get that bad luck to cause our problems like the last two rounds.
“It’s really positive and really happy for the Arrow guys – they did a great job again this weekend. We can definitely build on this performance. Now we just need to sort it out so that we can qualify a bit higher because if we can do that, we can really challenge for podiums and wins.”
After his fantastic effort in Alabama, Marcus will be hoping to carry his positive momentum into the fourth round of the 2019 season this weekend. The Grand Prix of Long Beach will take place on Sunday, April 14.