It was literally a “Good Friday” of activity at Texas Motor Speedway on April 19 as three NTT IndyCar Series rookies hit the 1.5-mile oval for rookie testing, including Marcus Ericsson of Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.
The others were Ben Hanley of DragonSpeed and Colton Herta of Harding Steinbrenner Racing. The trio of first-year IndyCar drivers ran laps at TMS in preparation for both the 103rd Indianapolis 500 on May 26 and the DXC Technology 600 at Texas Motor Speedway on June 8.
James Hinchcliffe made preliminary laps in the Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports entry before turning it over to teammate Ericsson.
“He had a lot of advice,” Ericsson said of Hinchcliffe. “I’ve been leaning on him a lot the last few weeks, talking about ovals, watching clips together and he’s been trying to help me out on things to think about and keep in mind. That’s been really helpful for me.
“And also, like I said, with Robby (Wickens) as well. I’ve been speaking to him. I talked to him for a long time last night on the phone, as well. Both of them have been super helpful and that’s very important for me in getting up to speed.”
Ericsson comes from a road racing background. The Indianapolis 500 will be his first experience on an oval. Texas will be his second, and his first on a high-banked oval.
“It’s been a good first experience,” Ericsson said. “Obviously, I’ve never tried anything like it before so, for sure, I was a bit nervous this morning. But it was a good feeling, like nervous but very excited to try it.
“It’s been a long buildup since I signed my IndyCar contract back in last year. The road and street courses is stuff I’ve done all my life, but the oval is the one sort of big new thing for me, so it’s been a long buildup for that. We’ve been speaking a lot about it in the team, and also, I’ve been speaking with James (Hinchcliffe) and Robby (teammate Robert Wickens) about it a lot and they’ve been really helpful. I think it’s one of those things that before you actually experience it yourself, you don’t really know what it’s like. That’s why I’m really happy here today and managed to do my first laps.”
Ericsson said Texas Motor Speedway seems so much smaller than the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Texas measures 1.5 miles and Indianapolis is 2.5 miles in length.
“I’ve been on the Indianapolis (Motor) Speedway, and it’s such a really big track and everything and here it feels quite a bit smaller,” Ericsson said. “The banking looks very steep here so that was something that surprised me when I got here. So, it’s definitely quite different from the Indy oval but I think it looks really cool and it was really fun to drive, as well.”
“I’ve been a bit nervous, for sure, but it was really nice to have James here. We went out to dinner last night and he was talking about it and this morning we went on track with rental car to show me the lines and everything. The team had a really nice setup there and I’m really lucky to have such an experienced team, like James, to lean on and then, like I said, Robby has been very helpful with his experience because he went through the exact same thing last year learning everything from scratch. It’s been really helpful for me.”
Ericsson was a big fan of fellow Swede Kenny Brack, the 1998 Indy Racing League champion and 1999 Indianapolis 500 winner. He never knew his career would follow the same path as Brack’s on an oval.
“I watched Kenny when I was a kid, on Swedish television, so we had that live on Swedish television,” Ericsson recalled. “I remember watching it with my dad when I was a kid. But being in Europe, my sort of goal was always to get to Formula 1, so I didn’t really think too much about it (IndyCar) but I was always following it because it’s a series and type of racing I always got excited to watch.
“That’s why, when F1 didn’t work out, I was 100 percent keen to go America and try IndyCar because I thought it was going to be the best series to do so I’m happy to be here.”
The Indianapolis 500 will be the longest race of Ericsson’s career and that is a daunting prospect because of his lack of oval racing knowledge.
“In one perspective, it’s good that it’s the 500 because you have so much practice leading up to it, so you get so much days in the car before the actual race,” Ericsson said. “But I think, obviously, racing people on an oval will be completely new for me, like in the proper fighting for track position for the first time will be in the Indy 500. That’s maybe not ideal.
“It would have been nice to maybe do a race before that to get the feel for that but I’m a quick learner and that’s been one of my strengths all my career. I just need to do the same now.”
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!