It didn’t take long for Marcus Ericsson to realize that winning the 106thIndianapolis 500 will change his life. It struck him while he was drinking the traditional bottle of milk in victory lane at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 29, 2022.
“It was almost like chaos there,” Ericsson recalled. “You are trying to take in that you won the race and see all the people from the team, then you see my girlfriend, my mom and dad were there. It’s an unreal feeling trying to take it all in.
“Then, you drink the milk and that picture of pouring the milk on you is such a classic sports photo. You can’t believe you are doing it, actually.
“That, to me, was one of the strongest moments I remember, drinking that milk.
“I do regret it after doing media five hours afterward. That milk was starting to sour on the uniform.”
The “Bottle of Milk” was Ericsson’s initial memory of winning the Indianapolis 500. But on Tuesday, September 20, Ericsson got a chance to understand the lasting memory that comes with winning the “Greatest Race in the World.”
It’s the famed Borg-Warner Trophy, perhaps the most iconic sports trophies in the world along with the NHL’s Stanley Cup. It features the face of every winning driver of the Indianapolis 500 all the way back to Ray Harroun in 1911. Each driver’s face is a raised Bass Relief image cast in sterling silver that is attached to the trophy.
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There is one raised face cast in gold. It belongs to Tony Hulman, the man who saved the Indianapolis 500 from extinction when he purchased the Indianapolis Motor Speedway from previous owner Eddie Rickenbacker in 1945.
It was 10 years before that the Borg-Warner Trophy made its first appearance in Victory Lane with the winning driver of the Indianapolis 500.
From Louis Meyer in 1936 all the way to Ericsson at this year’s 500, the Borg-Warner Trophy is in Victory Lane to greet the driver of the Indianapolis 500.
It’s a moment in history.
Ericsson took his next step in having his face stand the test of time when he met with famed sculptor and artist William Behrends at his studio in picturesque Tryon, North Carolina.
It’s a small town located near the North Carolina/South Carolina Stateline in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Famed British actor David Nivens discovered the peacefulness and beauty of Tryon in the 1950s and was a regular visitor to the Pine Crest Inn when he wanted to relax.
This serene setting is perfect for an artist and has been Behrends home for nearly 60 years when his family moved south from Wisconsin.
Thanks to BorgWarner and Behrends, I had a chance to join Ericsson and his girlfriend Iris Tritsaris on September 20 for a “Live Study” involving Ericsson and the famed sculptor. It’s the latest step in the long process in creating the face that will go on the Borg-Warner Trophy.
On this day, Ericsson came face-to-face with himself when he saw his life-sized head sculpted in clay.
“Marcus, this is the clay study I did of you from the photographs we took the day after the race,” Behrends said as he removed the wraps. “We’re going to work on this together.”
A big smile came across Ericsson’s face. Tritsaris’ eyes grew with amazement.
“That is great,” Ericsson said. “Amazing. Good job. I think it’s amazing. It’s a bit weird seeing myself. I can definitely see that it’s me, but it’s amazing to see it.
“I think that is so cool.”
Tritsaris said, “It’s so good. It is definitely you.”
“This looks better than real, that’s amazing,” Ericsson said. “It looks really, really good. It’s amazing.
“It looks better than the real Marcus.
“I don’t want to say better than expected because I expected it to be great. I think it’s amazing. It’s even more real than I expected. I know how good William is, but it’s not until you see one of yourself that you realize how very good it is.
“It’s really good.”
This part of the process is relatively new. It began with Juan Pablo Montoya, after he won his second Indianapolis 500 in 2015. Montoya was the first driver to come to Behrends’ studio to sit in while the sculptor worked on the finer details of Montoya’s face.
Thanks to BorgWarner, which unveiled the permanent Borg-Warner Trophy at the 1936 Indianapolis 500, the live study has continued with 2016 winner Alexander Rossi, Takuma Sato in 2017 and 2020, Will Power in 2018, Simon Pagenaud in 2019 and Helio Castroneves in 2021.
Behrends has created the face for every driver on the Borg-Warner Trophy since Arie Luyendyk won his first Indianapolis 500 in 1990.
The last 33 images on the trophy have been created by Behrends.
“The first time I went to the race was 1989, but 1990 was the first time I got to do the image and the winner was Arie Luyendyk,” Behrends told me.
That’s also the same year Ericsson was born in Sweden.
“When I was approached to do his, I thought, ‘Wow.’ Yes, I wanted to do it,’” Behrends continued. “I didn’t know at the time I would do it for more than one year. At that time, they intended to have a different person do it every year.
“For some reason, they stuck with me over the years.
“That first one was Arie Luyendyk, and he had long hair. I did the hair. It was different than the other ones. I didn’t know if BorgWarner would like that.”
BorgWarner loved Behrends’ work so much, his relationship with the automotive products and technology company has continued into its fourth decade.
Creating the face begins the day after the race when Behrends spends time with the driver and takes a number of photos from different angles. Behrends uses those photos for the clay study and for the actual size work.
“I do this step in his presence to enrich the work and learn the face better,” Behrends said. “It makes for a better product, having him here and being able to do a life-size clay study before I begin the smaller image that goes on the trophy.”
Behrends will use the full-size, clay head when he starts the process of the wax process. He uses the larger head as a reference point when he starts the meticulous process of reducing the face to about the size of an egg.
“I will start over again, so I use this to study the face,” Behrends said. “I do everything the old-fashioned way. I’m very unusual for a sculptor, I don’t use 3-D scans.
“What I do can take a year to finish.”
Once the wax process is completed, he will use the same type of plaster that is used for dental molds to create another face in a dense, plaster-like material. That allows him to smooth and create more detail. Then, he makes another wax figure of the face. That bass-relief image is cast in Sterling Silver.
When Behrends gets that back from the silversmith, he is able to put the final touches on that Sterling Silver face with the very small sculpting tools that he uses.
At that point, the face is then attached to the trophy and is usually unveiled sometime in late November or early December.
There is a possibility the Borg-Warner Trophy could travel to Sweden, but those discussions and details have not been completed. The Borg-Warner Trophy traveled to Japan with Sato after his first Indy 500 win in 2017 and went to France with Pagenaud when he won the Indianapolis 500 in 2019.
“Really good job,” Ericsson told Behrends. “I’m very impressed.”
Behrends was making notes for the structure of Ericsson’s face such as bone structure and forehead.
Ericsson asked Behrends questions about the process and marveled at how well the sculptor is at his craft.
“It’s really a process of memorizing the face,” Behrends said. “To have a clay head as a reference point is very important.”
Next year will be Behrends’ 50th year as a sculptor.
He is the longest-running sculptor in the history of the Borg-Warner Trophy and maintains an outstanding client relationship with BorgWarner.
It’s more than a client relationship with a corporation, he’s almost part of the family.
“I’m so fond of BorgWarner and the people there,” Behrends said. “It really is like a family situation. In recent years, it is more collegial and more welcome every year. I couldn’t be more appreciative of BorgWarner and the culture of that organization.”
Frederic Lissalde is the CEO of BorgWarner and is very supportive of its IndyCar program. BorgWarner builds all of the turbochargers that are used on every IndyCar engine.
“You don’t have to be around BorgWarner and their presence at the Indianapolis 500 every year very long to realize they take it very seriously,” Behrends said. “They cherish this trophy and the history and stewardship of it for many years.
“They are very serious about it and make sure it is appreciated as the iconic trophy that it is.”
When Michelle Collins became BorgWarner’s Director Global of Marketing and Communications, she saw the trophy as a valuable asset to help raise the profile of BorgWarner. Along, with publicist Steve Shunck, they have aggressively marketed the Borg-Warner Trophy and its importance to the Indy 500.
“I can’t say enough the gift William Behrends has to make these faces so lifelike, it’s really stunning,” Collins told me on Tuesday. “There is something special the way he does it with his own hands and his own tools. It’s a lost art. Who can do this and create it like he does?”
Collins loves seeing the expression on the faces of the winning drivers when the clay head is unveiled.
“We try to capture the essence of the driver and that is what we try to do in this special setting that we have,” Collins said. “The drivers seem pretty overwhelmed when they see it for the first time.
“What’s really neat is you get to the know the driver as a person and not just on the professional level. That’s very special to me.
“Who we are as a team, as a company has respect for the past, but we also look to the future. We take this tradition very seriously and have an obligation to maintain it and preserve it. For us, that’s an honor and privilege to do.
“The same turbos that are used on Indy cars, can also be purchased from our aftermarket team — Engineered For Racing (EFR). People can get a piece of the Indianapolis 500, too, even if they aren’t an IndyCar driver. That’s special to us.”
BorgWarner continues one of the great traditions in sports with its involvement in the Indianapolis 500. But the Michigan-based company is also heavily involved in the future of the automotive industry.
On September 20, BorgWarner acquired the Hubei Surpass Sun Electric (SSE) – a leading company in the DC Fast Charging market. It will complement existing BorgWarner European and North American charging by extending its footprint into China. It will also improve the supply chain for valuable battery and charging materials and assets.
“This transaction makes good business sense as we continue to bolster our fast-charging capabilities globally,” Lissalde said. “SSE will bring enhanced offerings while supporting Charging Forward, our strategy to accelerate our growth in electrification. We look forward to welcoming their talented team to BorgWarner.”
BorgWarner also makes batteries and integrated drive units to prepare for the future.
“We have a reverence for where we came from, but have to evolve for the future,” Collins said. “If racing moves to electrification, we’ll be there to help support it.”
What is most remarkable about BorgWarner, sponsors come, and sponsors go, but it’s fairly remarkable that the company, in various forms, has been a constant at the Indianapolis 500 trophy since 1936.
“They are a company that has been around for more than a century and their commitment has been around since 1936,” Behrends said. “That’s fairly remarkable.
“I’m fortunate to be able to do this every year as a sculptor and a race fan. My wife and I know how fortunate we are. To know that long after I finish as a sculptor, these faces will remain. I’m proud, very proud.”
For the first time since 2019, Behrends got to sculpt a new face on the trophy. In 2020, Takuma Sato won the Indianapolis 500 for the second time in his career after his first Indy 500 win in 2017. In 2021, Helio Castroneves became the fourth, four-time winner of the Indianapolis 500.
Castroneves became the first driver that Behrends sculpted their face for all four of their Indy 500 victories.
“Every year, I try to do something different to it,” Behrends said. “This is the only thing I do that occurs more than once. Everything else is one of a kind. I want to bring something different and distinct to the driver.
“On the Borg-Warner Trophy, I always try to do a better job than the one I did last year. But every one of these that I do is unique. I want each one to be very distinctive in their own way.
“I want somebody standing 10 feet away to look at the trophy and say, ‘That’s Marcus Ericsson’s face.’ It has life, it has the exuberance he felt when winning the race. It has everything that win was to him.
“I want it to stand out.”
From the egg-sized faces on the Borg-Warner Trophy, Behrends has also created larger than life statues that stand outside of Oracle Park, home of the San Francisco Giants. Those include Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal, Orlando Cepeda and Gaylord Perry. At Petco Park, home of the San Diego Padres, Behrends has sculptures of Tony Gwynn and Trevor Hoffman.
The statues immortalize the great players from those teams.
His latest baseball statue was unveiled in April when Behrends created a statue of New York Mets pitcher Tom Seaver at CitiField in Flushing Meadow, New York.
Behrends has also been commissioned to create statues of Vice Presidents of the United States that are on display at the United States Capitol Building.
After the live study at Behrends’ studio was completed, Ericsson and the Borg-Warner Trophy moved to the outside of the Tryon Theater in this artsy resort community that bills itself as the “Friendliest Town in the South.”
Fifty years ago, David Nivens’ arrival in Tryon was big news because he was a famous international actor.
On Tuesday, it was Ericsson who had his name in bright lights on the Tryon Theater marquee.
“BorgWarner Congratulates 2022 Indy 500 Winner Marcus Ericsson. Chip Ganassi Racing. Huski Chocolate.”
Ericsson posed for photos in his driving uniform. Tritsaris was wearing a skin-tight, short black dress.
To complete the theater theme was a giant box of popcorn. The two playfully tossed popcorn at each other, one kernel at a time, trying to get it into each other’s mouth like a basketball going through the hoop.
When it was all over, Tritsaris planted a kiss on top of the Borg-Warner Trophy, leaving a lipstick stain on top of the famed Sterling Silver trophy.
“Winning the 500 is amazing, it’s hard to put into words, but all the things you get to do after is what makes it even more special,” Ericsson told me when it was all over. “The Sculpture and getting your face on the trophy is the best thing with it. To come here and spend time and get to know you is very special. I can’t wait to see the final product.
“We can make this a tradition as well. I’m fine with that.”