MONTEREY, California. Although Sweden’s Markus Eriksson is mathematically qualified to fight for the 2022 NTT IndyCar Series championship, he knows he’s a long way from the title.
He is fourth in points, 39 points behind leader Willpower in the title fight with a maximum of 54 points per race.
“We’re going this weekend with the goal of winning the race, scoring as many points as possible, and if we do that, that’s all we can do to try and win,” Eriksson told NBC Sports. “We can’t do more than that. We are determined to come here, win and see how things play out.”
Facing great odds, the No. 8 Huski Chocolate Dallara-Honda driver is still struggling in the last race of the season, Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix in Monterey at WeatherTech Raceway in Laguna Seca.
“We’re still at it,” Eriksson said. “It’s a little far. Things happen. We are still in the mix. Everything happens in IndyCar and so much happens all the time. We go out for the weekend, we want to win the race and see what happens. If something happens to the other guys, we can still win this case.
“I’m confident and I’m looking forward to it.”
Even if the handsome driver from Kumla, Sweden doesn’t bring Chip Ganassi Racing the 2022 IndyCar Championship, he has already won the biggest prize of the season.
Ericsson won 106th Indianapolis 500 on May 29 holding off attacking Pato O’Ward in the closing laps of the race to give team owner Chip Ganassi his first Indy 500 victory since Dario Franchitti in 2012.
“Obviously the 500 is the biggest race and it’s the most important race to win,” Eriksson said. “It has been an amazing year since then. To be in the fight before the final race is great. I have a feeling that I have nothing to lose, and this year I am already a winner.
“It’s a good way to take part in the final race of the year.”
Ericsson entered the IndyCar Series in 2019 after a five-year career in Formula 1. He has had 97 F1 starts but never finished on the podium.
The term “team bookings” was in wide use this week because of the five drivers remaining in the fight for the championship, three from Team Penske and two from Chip Ganassi Racing.
Eriksson’s teammate, Scott Dixon, is 20 points behind the leader and Eriksson may have to act as Dixon’s wingman for the race.
But Eriksson likes the concept, coming from his experience in F1 where command orders are used more widely.
“In a way, F1 is even more dependent on the team,” he said. “A few races they switched positions and let your teammate go. It was common even in the first race of the season. Skip it or whatever.
“Here at IndyCar, it’s every man for himself. Each team within the team has its own sponsors, its own groups. It’s much more for yourself. Formula 1 is much more about team play. In a way, that’s why I’m probably more used to it all.”
At the 2017 race in Baku, Eriksson was ordered to make way for Sauber teammate Pascal Wehrlein, losing the only point he could have scored that season.
“I’m still not very happy with it,” Eriksson said. “I was in 10th and gave it to my teammate because the team said it and said they would swap him back and they didn’t swap and he finished 10th.thI finished 11th“.
Tired of F1 politics and enticed by IndyCar’s huge competition, Eriksson joined what was then Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports in 2019. In just the eighth race of his rookie season, Eriksson finished second behind race winner Scott Dixon in the 2019 Chevrolet Detroit Grand. Prize Race #2.
Starting in 2020, Eriksson and Dixon have been teammates with Chip Ganassi Racing. He took his first career win in the first race of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix and took 2nd in the Indy at the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix on the streets of Nashville on August 8, 2021.
This year he became the second Swedish driver to win the Indy 500, joining Kenny Brack who won the 1999 Indianapolis 500.
“Coming here, after five years, I didn’t have much success in Formula 1,” Eriksson said. “It took me a while to establish myself in IndyCar. But I think my progress during the year has been very good. I took steps every year. This is one of the main reasons why I wanted to come here to show what I can do. I developed a lot in Formula 1.
“The problem is in Formula 1 if you are not in the team to show it. If in the first year you show the same results as last year, that’s all people pay attention to. I believe that I developed and became a better rider.
“That’s the main reason I wanted to come to IndyCar, to show that I can compete at this level and I can fight for wins and a championship. It has been good to do this in the last few years.
“We were in the mix. Especially this year, it’s been an incredible year.”
Superman goes where he’s needed, and with his cap flying behind him in the 18th run of the Knoxville Late Models, Jonathan Davenport scored a $50,000 win over Iowa’s Tyler Bruening at the Knoxville, Iowa, half-mile track.
It was Lucas Oil Late Model’s ninth win of the season in his 29th start, a statistic that included six notable wins in a row from July 24 to August 26. Davenport also has four World of Outlaws Late Model wins and half a dozen other major series wins this season, for a total of 21.
Even with all this success, it was a wish list win for a man named Superman. This is his first race at Knoxville, a circuit famous for spring car racing that is also becoming a staple for the latest models.
Davenport had taken the lead on lap 50 earlier, but fell behind Bobby Pierce on lap 9 as the field turned green again after a warning. Two laps later, Brüning took first place and held it for the next 37 laps.
In the final laps, Brüning extended his lead to two seconds until Davenport found the lead. On lap 45, Davenport closed the gap and by lap 47 he was on Brüning’s rear bumper. Davenport dove into the bottom groove in Turn 1, pulled alongside and took the lead on the next lap, depriving Brüning of the first late-model Lucas Oil. career victory.
— Knoxville Speedway (@knoxvilleraces) September 18, 2022
“I wish I could say I planned it” Davenport said in a press release. “I was too tight there. I didn’t have the best racing car. At first I made a mistake in the roundabout, I thought that I could be rolled out and I would let Bobby [Pierce] around me, so I chose the bottom and let Tyler surround me.
“I tried to compete with Earl. [Pearson Jr.] as clean as I could get there, but I knew I had to get past it. One day I ran into Tyler. I could blow it up, but I knew it might be his first jewel in the crown, so I didn’t want to take it away from him like that.”
Read more: Mike Marlar wins 2021 Knoxville Late Model Nationals
For Brüning, the disappointment was bitter. In 40 combined starts this season with the Outlaws and Lucas Oil, he has earned seven top 10 spots, but the closest he came to winning was a pair of fourths at River Cities Speedway in Grand Forks, North Dakota and Boone Speedway in his hometown. Iowa.
“I think I needed two fewer laps to keep him,” Bruning said. “I don’t know. When you’re ahead for all those laps, it’s pretty hard to get out of your trajectory, which worked the whole race.
“I didn’t know how close he was until it was too late to get out of four. I didn’t know how high I could climb if I had enough of this journey. It was fun to run ahead. We’ve just been beaten by the best in the world.”
Brandon Sheppard finished 25th in the top five of the season and rounded out the podium.