Photo: Jimmie Johnson’s livery for this weekend.
After nearly a year of buildup, the NTT Indycar Series has finally arrived at the inaugural weekend for the Music City Grand Prix on the streets of Nashville. Can the race and the event live up to the hype? I think the event can. I am more confident of a decent race than I was a few days ago. The action on and exiting the bridge should make for some good racing.
All the elements for a successful street race are in place- sponsorship, government support, and community buy-in. People I spoke ith in Nashville last week are aware of the race and looking forward to it.
The organizers hope fans make it an entire day at the track. There are five concerts scheduled over the three days, one each day after track activity ends.
In addition to the race there is a weekend in Nashville. I have already spent a week there, and I like the city a lot. There are lots of great restaurants, the city is clean, and Centennial park is a nice place to go just a break from all the hectic action.
Writing about a new track is hard. There is no history, I’m not sure where the tricky parts are, and we don’t have a driver who has dominated the venue. Still, there are things to watch for as this race is the first of the final third of the season.
The teams and drivers have just two hours total practice time to figure out the new circuit. The 75 minute Friday practice will be interesting.
Big Machine Music City Grand Prix Fast Facts
Helio Castroneves returns to action for the first time since winning his fourth Indianapolis 500 in May. This time, he isn’t going anywhere. Castroneves will drive in five of the last six races in 2021 and will be full time with Meyer Shank racing in 2022.
Castroneves return is great news for the series as he is part of an expanding 2022 grid.
27 Entries- 2022 Preview?
The 27 entries for the Nashville race is the largest non-Indianapolis field since 2013 at Long Beach. That number could be the size of the full time grid next season. There will be several driver changes, which I will discuss next week, but I look for larger grids overall for 2022. I anticipate at least 25 cars for each race the rest of this year.
That many cars on a narrow street circuit means more traffic for the leaders to get through later in the race. It could make for some interesting situations in the later laps.
Palou Looks to Expand Lead
Alex Palou will seek to widen his lead in the championship. He leads Pato O’Ward by 39 points, Scott Dixon is 56 points behind, and Josef Newgarden trails by 69 points.
Palou’s third place at Mid Ohio showed that he has learned to maximize the points he can get. I think he will be tough to beat.
This weekend is a home game for Newgarden, but no one has been able to win twice in a row this season. I think that trend continues.
I think this race goes to a veteran, and Will Power will break both his pole slump and his win slump by the end of the day Sunday. I am not surprised Power hasn’t won a race yet this season. Last year he didn’t win until Mid Ohio in the middle of September. I am surprised that he has not won a pole yet in 2021.
I will be attending the race and I will have reports each evening and at the beginning of each day.