NTT IndyCar Series: Music City Grand Prix Preview

Josef Newgarden took the win in Race 2 at the Iowa Speedway giving Team Penske a sweep of the INDYCAR weekend. © [Andy Clary/ Spacesuit Media]

Josef Newgarden – ready to race on his hometown track. © [Andy Clary/ Spacesuit Media]

by Paul Gohde

The guitars are strumming along Music Row in Nashville, but very soon they’ll be drowned out by the roar of Chevrolets and Hondas as the NTT IndyCar Series presents the inaugural Music City Grand Prix on the streets of Nashville.

Race Facts: The 80-lap, 173.6-miler will be run over an 11-turn, 2.17-mile temporary counter clockwise street course which includes a 2,500-foot charge (and back) over the Cumberland River by way of the Korean Veterans Bridge, and a quick romp past the Tennessee Titans’ Nissan Stadium. Course designer Tony Cotman estimates that the charge approaching Turn 1 could come close to hitting 200 mph.

Recent Race History: IndyCar (IRL) ran eight times in the Tennessee area from 2001-2008 at the 1.33-mile Nashville Superspeedway in Lebanon, TN. Scott Dixon dominated there winning three in-a-row from 2006-2008. Five drivers entered in Sunday’s race also raced at Lebanon including Ryan Hunter Reay, Will Power, Graham Rahal, Dixon and Helio…

2021 Season So Far: Points: 1) Alex Palou, 384 points, 2 wins… 2) Pato O’Ward, 345, 2… 3) Dixon, 328, 1… 4) Josef Newgarden, 315, 1… 5) Marcus Ericsson, 280,1. Other winners include: Colton Herta, Rinus VeeKay and Helio Castroneves… Manufacturers’ point standings: Honda, 863 points/6 wins…Chevrolet, 790/4 wins.

Race Entries: Twenty-seven car/driver combinations are entered this weekend; a high-water mark in numbers in recent times (other than the Indy 500), equaling the mark of 27 set at Long Beach in 2013. Helio Castroneves returns for Meyer Shank Racing as does Santino Ferrucci with Rahal Letterman Lanigan. Cody Ware also will compete in his final scheduled race of the season.

Notes: Ferrucci has run four Indy car races this season and has finished in the top ten each time along with his part-time work in NASCAR…Helio will run a full schedule for Meyer Shank in 2022; good news for Road America fans who missed him this season…TV: Qualifying, Saturday, Peacock Premium, 3:30pm ET (live)—Race, Sunday, NBCSN, 5:30pm (ET) live.

Our Take: As explained below, teams and their drivers who spend time on simulators and look at set-ups and race history of similar courses have an advantage. Street courses are difficult to compare and learn from, but teams/drivers whose histories include success on street circuits may do better at Nashville. Romain Grosjean may have the most past success in racing on streets during his history in F1 competition, along with the likes of Rinus VeeKay, Marcus Ericsson and Alex Palou. Look for several from this group to do well at Nashville.

“They Said It”: Woody Harvey, crewman for Rinus VeeKay’s Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet: “(New tracks) are always fun because it’s a more even playing field. But the drivers who know what they want (from the set-up) and how to adjust quickly usually know how to get the most out of it.”

Arrow McLaren SP president Taylor Kiel: “Honda has generated its recommendations (for a new track) based on drivers using HPD’s Drivers-in-the-loop (DIL) simulator in Brownsburg, In. The virtual laps replicate on-track situations such as changing track conditions and ambient temperatures, tire grip and wind speed/directions. Also analyzed are projected aerodynamics and engine mapping, all designed to assist drivers (such as Romain Grosjean). I think after the first practice you’re going to see a lot of teams scrambling to make some big changes. Hopefully we can throw the dart as close to the center as we can.”

Next Race: The Big Machine Grand Prix, Saturday, August 14, on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s infield road course.




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