GROWING UP in Sweden, the 2022 champion remembers feeling inspired watching fellow countryman Kenny Brack win the 1999 Indy 500. Now, as a Borg-Warner winner himself, Ericsson hopes to motivate young drivers all over the globe.
What was your first introduction to the Indy 500?
I remember the 500 from an early age growing up in the 1990s. Kenny Brack was very big in Sweden. I remember watching the 500 with my dad on TV because of Kenny. Since then, it was always in my head.
What did it mean as a racer coming up in Sweden to see a fellow countryman like Brack winning that legendary race?
It meant a lot. It’s all about having dreams as a kid. When you’re pursuing a career, you want to dream big and see someone go on the journey you’re about to go on yourself. Seeing Kenny succeeding in America let me know that it was possible.
The 500 and IndyCar are gradually becoming more and more international again. How important is that for growing the sport and the race across the globe?
It’s important. Growing up in Europe, my natural career path was in European series with Formula 1 as our main goal. I achieved that and was very proud. But it didn’t work out the way I’d hoped. There, it’s all about what team you’re on. So, I started to look to IndyCar and the 500. When my contract was up in F1, I told my manager we needed to look at options in IndyCar.
What was it about the 500 that appealed to you?
The competitiveness. It’s essentially a one-spec series. Everyone has a chance to win. For me that was a big thing to come over and show both myself and the world that I could win and be successful. And to do the 500, the biggest race in the world, was a big goal. One of the first things I did when I signed with Schmidt Peterson Racing at the end of 2018 was go to the Speedway. It was winter, and it was snowing. But I remember being blown away by the size of the place. It was overwhelming. I remember going to the top of the pagoda and looking around. “Wow,” I thought. “This place is so big. I couldn’t imagine it full on race day.”
What was it like when you finally saw it on Race Day?
I knew it was the biggest race in the world, but being from Europe, I didn’t really understand how big and how much it means to people. So that first Month of May changed the way I saw the 500—the history, the speeds, the meaning for people. It’s truly a unique event. I had goosebumps all day. I was blown away.
What was it like to actually win three years later?
It’s a life-changing thing. I will always be an Indy 500 champion. To be in that exclusive club, I’m still pinching myself over that. Every other race, you win and you celebrate for a day or two. This is the win that keeps on giving—a yearlong celebration.
And what was it like to take the trophy home to Sweden?
When I was able to bring the Borg-Warner trophy to my hometown in Sweden, it was so special. To see how big it was for all those people who came out to see me and celebrate; that was super special.