• Tue. Mar 28th, 2023

Marcus Ericsson wins attrition-filled IndyCar season opener at St. Petersburg

ByStaff Contributions

Mar 5, 2023
Marcus Ericsson drives at St. Petersburg

Photo courtesy of IndyCar

The temperatures were hot in St. Petersburg, Florida Sunday afternoon but the action was scorching around the 1.8-mile, 14-turn street course in the Sunshine State for the 2023 NTT IndyCar Series season opener.

Attrition was the word of the day as 1/3 of the field failed to finish the race due to a handful of terrifying multi-car wrecks and incidents that ended the days of race-winning hopefuls.

Surviving the calamity was defending Indianapolis 500 winner Marcus Ericsson who capitalized on a closing-lap mechanical issue by Pato O’Ward to take his fourth career win in the series.

O’Ward appeared on his way to victory with Arrow McLaren SP but in the final turn before the main straight, O’Ward’s engine shut off due to a small, internal explosion that cut power. Ericsson was able to grab the lead down the frontstretch and hold it for the final two laps to beat O’Ward by 2.41 seconds.

“That’s racing. I feel bad for Pato having an issue but that’s racing,” Ericsson said in Victory Lane. “The car was fantastic all the way through and we were hunting him [O’Ward] down and putting the pressure on and then things happened so really proud of the Huski Chocolate team and everyone at Chip Ganassi.

“I think people forget us in some conversations as well when they talk about the championship,” Ericsson added. “We’re here to win and we won the 500 last year and we were leading the championship for a long time and that’s our mission this year. This is a good start.”

O’Ward was noticeably and understandably upset exiting his car on pit road after his second-place finish.

“We did everything right today. It’s just…there’s always something….the boys deserve that,” O’Ward said. “Yeah. Dallas [Texas Motor Speedway] is next and we’ll fight for that one. Compared to where we were last year here, it’s a massive step. We just..we gave that one away. We can’t have that happen anymore. Like I know we’re second but yeah.”

Scott Dixon joined Ericsson and O’Ward on the podium while Alexander Rossi and Callum Ilott rounded out the top five.

At the drop of the green flag, the 27-car field squeezed their way through the tight corners of the course but couldn’t complete a lap without a crash as Scott Dixon contacted the wall that catalyzed a multi-car wreck in the back of the pack.

It started with an Helio Castroneves spin that collected his Meyer Shank Racing teammate Simon Pagenaud, Santino Ferrucci and Felix Rosenqvist. The worse of the incident came when rookie Benjamin Pedersen blindsided Devlin Defrancesco, sending the No. 29 Andretti Autosport car spinning in the air.

Action resumed on the track and calmed down as polesitter Romain Grosjean paced the field in the first long green-flag run of the day. The next caution wouldn’t come out until Lap 37 as Conor Daly went for a spin. Some scoring controversy took place during the caution as Dixon exited pit road in front of the leaders of Scott McLaughlin and Grosjean. However, he was scored in fifth following review.

The race delved into utter chaos and calamity following the restart on Lap 42.

Another car went airborne as Rinus VeeKay went into the tire barrier in Turn 4, collecting the No. 30 Honda of Jack Harvey and the No. 27 Honda of Kyle Kirkwood who barrelled over the top of Harvey. The NBC broadcast reported that Harvey was taken to a local hospital as a precaution for further evaluation following the incident.

Halfway into the race and shortly after a restart, defending series champion Will Power made contact with Colton Herta battling for second place, sending Herta into the Turn 8 tire barriers and ending his day.

Drama peaked on the final pit cycle as with 28 to go, McLaughlin narrowly beat Grosjean off pit road but with Grosjean on hot tires, he made an attempt to outbreak McLaughlin into Turn 4 but McLaughlin locked his brakes and sent both he and Grosjean into the tire barrier.

“You saw it on TV so I’m not gonna elaborate too much on that. I’m very very disappointed and I hope there’s going to be rules put in place,” Grosjean said after the wreck. “Today I think what we saw on track was not racing.”

The former SuperCars driver said he was disappointed in himself for the incident.

“I’m very sorry to Romain. He’s a friend of mine and I know we’re both going for the win there. I just made a big mistake and tried to push on cold tires and so I didn’t have the grip like I did on the greens and locked the rears,” McLaughlin said after the race. “Look I don’t race like that. I feel like I’ve had plenty of good battles with many a drivers. I really do apologize to Romain and I will go see him soon.”

It will be a month before IndyCar returns to action and it will be at high speeds as they hit Texas Motor Speedway for the PPG 375 on Sunday, Apr. 2 (12 p.m. ET, NBC, Peacock).


indycar race results