DETROIT (AP) — Chip Ganassi tells anyone who will listen that "I like winners” whenever one of his drivers takes the checkered flag. So when Marcus Ericsson was hired, he worried the team owner would see his long losing streak and question the pick.
Ericsson fixed that problem Saturday by scoring his first IndyCar victory in the action-packed opener of the doubleheader at the Raceway at Belle Isle Park.
The Swede became the seventh driver to win through seven IndyCar races this season, and he's the fourth first-time winner this year. It was the first victory for the former Formula One driver since a GP2 race at Nurburgring in 2013.
“Chip always says he likes winners and I came here, haven’t won a race in eight years, I think when he realized that, he was like, ‘Oh, you haven’t won in that long? We need to change that,’” Ericsson said. “I think he’s pretty happy that I won this race. He wants drivers that can win.”
It was the first victory for Chip Ganassi Racing's No. 8 car since 1994 when Michael Andretti won at Toronto. The seven different winners through seven races ties an IndyCar record set in 1958 and matched in 2000 and 2017.
Hours after Ericsson celebrated his win by climbing into the James Scott Memorial Fountain and straddling a lion that was spitting water, the Ganassi organization completed a Saturday sweep at Belle Isle.
Kevin Magnussen and Renger van der Zande teamed to win for the first overall IMSA victory for a Ganassi car since 2015. Ganassi moved down a class in sports cars in 2016 and won its final race in 2019. The team sat out the 2020 IMSA season.
“Pretty big day, I'd say,” said Ganassi.
James Hinchcliffe of Oakville, Ont., finished 17th, just ahead of Dalton Kellett of Stouffville, Ont., who was 18th.
Ericsson benefitted from the second red-flag stoppage of the race, this one with six laps remaining. An earlier accident sent Felix Rosenqvist to a hospital for evaluation and caused a 78-minute stoppage to repair the tire barrier and concrete wall damaged when what appeared to be a stuck throttle sent Rosenqvist smashing into the wall.
Will Power had control and led a race-high 37 of the 70 laps until the final red flag, and he immediately screamed over his radio for Team Penske to bring him water and a fan.
Although IndyCar had mandated the use of an aerodynamic device designed to circulate air in the cockpit, the drivers were overheated on a hot and humid Detroit day. Some drivers wore cooling vests or other new technology to help with the heat on the bumpy, rough 2.35-mile, 14-turn circuit considered one of the most physical in IndyCar.
IndyCar initially stopped the Penske crewmember from going to Power's car, but the series eventually relented and the drivers received aid during the nine-minute stoppage.
It was too late for Power, though. His car would not restart when it was time for the race to resume and IndyCar waved Ericsson past him into the lead as Power waited for a replacement for his electronic control unit.
“I'm mad at IndyCar because I'm the first guy (on pit road) and they wait for the last car to come to get a fan on that car and it roasts the ECU,” Power seethed. "The guys up there in race control never listen to any drivers. They never listen. They don't care. We give them so many good suggestions and they don't care.
“Like, I'm screaming on the radio to get a fan because ECU always overheats. You're working your ass off for this sport, so much money goes into, and just dumb decisions like that. If it's not dumb yellows they throw, it's some stupid idea like this or red flags.”
Power finished 20th and rival Alexander Rossi briefly tried to calm him on pit road. The four-car Penske organization remains winless on the season headed into Sunday's second race.
Chip Ganassi Racing, meanwhile, now has three wins from four of its drivers with Ericsson in victory lane for the first time in 37 races over three seasons. His only other career podium came at Belle Isle in 2019 when he finished second.
IndyCar did not race in Detroit last year because of the pandemic.
“It’s a huge relief. I came over here after five years of F1 and one of the big goals coming over here was to win races again,” Ericsson said. "I feel like I’ve really gotten used to the series, to the cars, to the tracks. I felt like one of the big things for me this year was to get that first win out of the way.
“I think the confidence you get from it, it’s going to help me a lot going forward in this championship.”
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Jenna Fryer, The Associated Press