Marcus Ericsson crashes in practice but still has no regrets headed into Indy 500

INDIANAPOLIS — (AP) — Marcus Ericsson returned to the Indianapolis 500 with zero regrets but ended Thursday with a violent collision late in the first full day of practice.

Ericsson hit a curb with just over two hours remaining in the session, causing his car to spin and hit the wall three different times.

“Obviously it was quite a decent hit, but the safety in these cars is pretty impressive, so feeling OK,” Ericsson said. "I’m very disappointed and very sorry for my team. They've done a very good job and they have a lot of work ahead of them now and that's probably the worst.

“I think we were in good shape, but obviously you have a big crash like this, it sets everything back to zero. It is what it is — we just have to bounce back.”

But before the crash, Ericsson had moved past the controversial ending to last year's race that cost the Swede a second consecutive win in the "Greatest Spectacle in Racing." And, he has made up with teammate Colton Herta following their spat last weekend.

As for his move from powerhouse Chip Ganassi Racing to Andretti Global, where Ericsson's results have shown a sharp drop-off?

Nope. Nothing to be concerned about there, either.

“Why would I have regrets?” Ericsson asked Thursday. “You should never have regrets.”

And yet the 2022 Indy 500 winner finds himself in a dramatically different situation than he was a year ago, when he waltzed around Indianapolis Motor Speedway as the hottest free agent in the series.

Rival teams found it inexplicable that Ganassi had not yet signed Ericsson to an extension, especially as he entered the biggest race of the year with a victory already on the season and the IndyCar points lead.

Ganassi was holding out for the sponsorship needed to offer Ericsson a lucrative new deal, but by the time he found the funding, Ericsson had already accepted an offer to move to Andretti.

It didn't matter to Ericsson that Andretti had dropped a peg and was no longer at the same level as IndyCar powerhouses Ganassi and Team Penske. And when it came to the Indy 500, the former Formula 1 driver felt the Andretti cars are as capable as any other team on the grid.

“Andretti over the years has been very strong around here,” Ericsson said. “When I came over (to IndyCar) five, six years ago, they were the team to beat around here. They were really strong and then it seems the last couple of years they've lost their edge, maybe. But I thought it was pretty promising."

Ericsson opened the season at St. Pete, where he won last year, with a mechanical failure and 23rd-place finish. He bounced back with a fifth-place finish at Long Beach, but then was 18th at Barber and 16th last weekend on the speedway road course.

More troubling about last week's race was the contact he had with Herta, who was the IndyCar points leader at the time. Herta was incensed on his radio when Ericsson made contact with him, and was still seething after the race.

“Your teammate’s leading the championship and you race him like an ass,” Herta said as he watched a replay after last week's race. “I don’t know what you’re thinking. He probably braked deeper than he did in qualifying right there, and he runs me clean off the track. You’ve got to be smarter than that, man. So, so dumb.”

Ericsson was taken aback by Herta's rage.

“It was some harsh words,” Ericsson acknowledged.

The two talked after the race and then proceeded to have conversations over the next few days as Herta admitted it typically takes him time to calm down. He made no apologies for his comments and or that they were directed at his first-year teammate.

“Typically, after a race, if I'm mad, that's how I react,” Herta said.

Ericsson apologized, and Herta on Thursday became the first driver to step forward and say Josef Newgarden personally apologized to him for the Team Penske cheating scandal when the two spoke ahead of last weekend's race at Indianapolis.

Other drivers have grumbled that Newgarden has not tried to repair his reputation with them, and Newgarden himself has been unclear on how many of his peers he's reached out to in the three weeks since IndyCar stripped him of his season-opening victory for illegally using a software system.

Ericsson did not discuss any possible interactions, only his peacemaking session with Herta. But he did discuss how different a year it is for him as he tries for a second Indy win in three years. He finished second to Newgarden a year ago when a late caution led IndyCar race control to make an unprecedented rule change to allow one final green-flag lap to the finish.

Newgarden passed Ericsson for the win — and his block to hold off Ericsson has since been banned — but Ericsson was fuming because never had IndyCar even discussed with the drivers a rules option in which the cars would leave pit lane and immediately go to green for one final lap.

But he also acknowledged that the discussions about his contract extension at Ganassi made life a lot more hectic as he tried to become the first driver to win back-to-back 500s since Helio Castroneves in 2001 and 2002.

“I feel more calm in many ways because last year was quite a stressful year,” Ericsson said. "With the contract, it was not an easy year. But I feel this year has been good, it's been good getting into a new team. It always takes a little bit of time to get used to things. But this week? The speedway car feels really good.

“I feel pretty confident and looking forward to race here.”


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