IndyCar: The championship-caliber season that is being overlooked

Marcus Ericsson, Chip Ganassi Racing, Indy 500, IndyCar - Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Marcus Ericsson, Chip Ganassi Racing, Indy 500, IndyCar - Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

Marcus Ericsson has had what would be a championship caliber IndyCar season any other year. But it has flown under the radar due to the dominance of his teammate.

Alex Palou continues to steal the spotlight in the NTT IndyCar Series, having won three of the last four races and been P1 on four of the last five on-track weekends if you include his record-breaking pole position for the Indy 500.

Palou’s only non-win during that span came in the Indy 500 itself, when pit lane contact with Rinus VeeKay mired him down in 30th place. He still battled back to finish in fourth.

The 2021 series champion has opened up a massive 74-point lead in the championship standings over teammate Marcus Ericsson through eight of the 17 races on the 2023 schedule.

While the point scoring system used in IndyCar is different than it is in Formula 1, the fact that Palou’s lead is currently bigger than Max Verstappen’s (69 points) on the Formula 1 side through eight races amid his own dominance makes it even more impressive.

But sticking with the IndyCar comparisons of impressive seasons, one which is largely being ignored is that of Ericsson, simply because it is being overshadowed by that of Palou.

In any other IndyCar season, Marcus Ericsson would be having a championship-caliber year.

At +550, Ericsson is tied with Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden as the second favorite to win the title at DraftKings Sportsbook, which is currently offering $150 to those who sign up and bet $5.

He has yet to finish outside of the top 10 this year, the highlight being his season-opening victory on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.

Ericsson led the standings at this point last season and would have had 243 points if the Indy 500 not been a double points race.

This year, the Indy 500 was not a double points race, and through eight races, Ericsson has scored 250 points. Using this year’s Indy 500 scoring format, eventual 2022 champion Will Power had scored 251 points through eight races last year.

Consistency has proven paramount in recent championship runs. Palou would have won the 2021 title if all of his wins had been runner-up finishes, thanks to the strength of his other results, and Power won have won the 2022 title if his lone win had been a runner-up finish, thanks to the same. He was the first one-win champion since Tony Stewart in 1996-97.

But consistency can only go so far if you’re consistently finishing behind the guy on whom you need to make up ground, which is exactly why nobody is talking about Ericsson at this point.

His last two results are respectable ninth and sixth place efforts, yet he has dropped from 20 points to 74 points behind Palou during that span.

Next. All-time IndyCar wins list. dark

Can Ericsson close the gap this weekend in the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio presented by the all new 2023 Civic Type R? The race is set to be broadcast live on USA Network from Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course starting at 1:30 p.m. ET this Sunday, July 2. Be sure to begin a free trial of FuboTV now and don’t miss it!