McLaughlin on Music City Pole

A frantic penalty filled qualifying session and a great fight in the Fast Six saw Scott McLaughlin come out on top with his second pole of 2022. He will kead the field to the green flag in tomorrow’s second Big Machine Music City Grand Prix. McLaughlin is the onkly driver to win from pole this season. He won the openeing race at St. Pete from the pole. Romain Grosjean will start second, just nissing his second career pole. The lasy minute of the Fast Six saw Christian Lundgaard jump to the top, then he was qickly replaced by Pato O’Ward. Mclaughlin nabbed the pole on his last lap.

Qualifying started 90 minutes late as thunderstorms and heavy rain moved over the track just before Indy lights qualifying was scheduled to begin. Indy Lights will now line up according to entrant points for tomorrow’s race.

The first group in round one got off to a ragged start. Ddevlin DeFrancesco stopped in turn 4 on the initial out lap. DeFrancesco was not allowed to continue. With a minute left in the session and several drivers about to start their hot kap, Colton Herta slid into the turn 4 tires. Herta lost his fastest two laps, but he cost at least two drivers a chance to advance. Simon Pagenaud and Alexander Rossi did not get to turn a lap on the quicker alternate tires. Pagenaud will start 13th and Rossi 17th.

Will Power led a clean group 2, but in the round of twelve Power had to go through the runoff area and rejoin the track. He lost his best lap and will start eighth.

In the Fast Six Christian Lundgaard just missed his frist career pole. He will start third.

Josef Newgarden starngely chose not to switch to the alternate tires in the Fast Six and will star sixth. Is he saving the alternates for the race?

I will have a pre race story tomorrow morning with an updated weather forecast. I have a feeling we could see a repeat of today.

Day 2 at Nashville- Will Rookies Stay Up Front?

Todeay’s Schedule. All Times Central

9:00 AM GATES OPEN

9:00 AM-5:00 PM PRO WATERCROSS ON THE CUMBERLAND

9:30 AM TRANS AM SERIES QUALIFYING

10:15 AM INDY LIGHTS PRACTICE 2

11:15 AM INDYCAR PRACTICE 2 Peacock

12:30 PM TRANS AM RACE

1:55 PM GT AMERICA QUALIFYING

2:30 PM INDY LIGHTS QUALIFYING

3:30 PM INDYCAR QUALIFYING Peacock

5:45 PM VINTAGE INDY SESSION

6:15 PM STADIUM SUPER TRUCKS RACE 1

7:25 PM GT AMERICA RACE 1

8:30 PM HEADLINE CONCERT – TIM MCGRAW

10:00PM FIREWORKS SHOW

Usually the second practice yields much different results than the Friday practice. The track has more rubber down, and teams make adjustments overnight. Will yesterday’s top three of rookies Christian Lundgaard,and David Malukas, plus Felix Rosemqvist continue at or near the top of the charts?

I’m still looking at the usual suspects for pole- Colton Herta, Josef Newgarden, Will Power, and Rosenqvist.

Weather could be a factor. there is a chance of from 1 pm to 4 pm with temperatures in the upper 80s.

Some Improvements, Some Things Still Needed.

I was happy to see that all grandstands were finished and spectator ready yesterday morning. That is a major correctionfrom last year’s grandstand 6 debacle.

The grand prix has added at least two cool down tents. Each tent has misting fans in all four corners. It was a pleasant relief from the heat and humidity.

Since the start of the race and all restarts will take plac on the Korean War Veterans Bridge, a new flag stand is in place.

The water bottle filling station is a great service, but there needs to be a way to keep the water cold. Refilling your bottle with warm water doesn’t help.

One thing I would like to see the event add is a tram service for those sitting in the grandstands on the outside of the backstretch. There are ADA trams, but if fans in the outer stands want to visit the paddock or friends in the infield, they have a long walk. Another crossover bridge would be helpful.

I will say the Music City Grand Prix did not skimp on bleacher and stands. The seating areas are well constructed and among the sturdiest I have seen. The crossover bridge fromNissanstadium to the infield has two separate one way sets of stairs. with short flights. It was mus=ch easier going to and from the infield.

I’ll be back later with practice results and to set the qualifying groups.

Lundgaard Paces Music City Practice 1

Indycar photo by Joe Skibinski

Rookie Christian Lundgaard led today’s opening practrice for the Big Machine MGrand Prix this afternoon with a lap of 1:15.5659. Felix Rosenqvist anbd David Malukas, another rookie were second and third.

There were several stoppages. Dalton Kellett caused the first red flag when he went into the turn 1 runoff area and stalled. Rinus VeeKay brought out the red for a similar issue a few minutes later. Colton Herta caused the final red flag with about 25 minutes left in the session as he also stalled in the turn 1 run off.

Hwlio Castroneves, who installed a fifth engine and will lose six grid places after qualifyiung, had contact with the wall after locking his brakes in turn 1. He broke the toe link but was able to drive the car back to the pits.

Points leader Will Power had the seventh quickest lap. Defending race champion Marcus ericsson was 11th.

Lundgaard’s fast lap is another positive step for the Rahal Letterman Lanigan team. Last weekend Lundgaard finished second in the Gallagher Grand Prix and Graham Rahal finished seventh. We will see if the team’s new found momentumwill continue through the weekend.

Green Tires Debut

Firestone’s new sustainably made tires with a green band made their official raceweekend session debut. Jimmie Johnson was the first dri er to try them out. It was a bit of a shock to see the green banded tire=s the first time by. It was more of a shock to to open the Indycar app and see the trademark F surrounded by green.

Results- Top 12

In the morning I will talk about what has improved since last year and preview qualifying.

Indycar Announces Grid Penalty for Castroneves

From Indycar

INDYCAR Announces Nashville Grid Penalty 
 INDIANAPOLIS (Friday, Aug. 5, 2022) – INDYCAR officials have announced a six-position starting grid penalty for the No. 06 Meyer Shank Racing entry for an unapproved engine change following Saturday’s race on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.The team was in violation of:Rule 16.2.3.2 A fifth (5th) Engine is eligible to earn Engine Manufacturer points if a Full Season Entrant has completed the Full Season Entrant Engine Mileage with its first four (4) Engines. Otherwise, a fifth (5th) or more Engine does not earn Engine Manufacturer points and will be considered an Unapproved Engine change-out.According to Rule 16.6.1.2, the penalty is a six-position starting grid penalty on road and street course events and nine positions at oval events and will be served at the series’ next event, which is the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix Sunday, Aug. 7 on the streets of Nashville. 

Music City Grand Prix Preview- Altered Track, New Tires- Better Race?

Today’s Schedule: All Times Central

9:30 AM GATES OPEN

9:30 AM-5:00 PM PRO WATERCROSS ON THE CUMBERLAND

10:15 ATRANS AM SERIES PRACTICE 1

11:55 AM GT AMERICA TEST SESSION

12:30 PM GT AMERICA PRACTICE 1

1:15 PM TRANS AM SERIES PRACTICE 2

2:00 PM INDY LIGHTS SERIES PRACTICE 1

3:15 PM INDYCAR PRACTICE 1 Peacock

4:45 PM STADIUM SUPER TRUCKS QUALIFYING

5:20 PM FREEDOM FRIDAY MILITARY DEMONSTRATION

6:15 PM GT AMERICA PRACTICE 2

7:00 PM

FREEDOM FRIDAY TRIBUTE CONCERT FEATURING AARON LEWIS

The second year of a race, especially a street race, usually sets the tone for the event’s future. I tend to gave new races a pass the first year. The Music City Grand Prix had some issues in 2021, from customer service- grandstands weren’t complete until Sunday, some security and other staff were a bit, shall we say, overzealous- and the race itself was perhaps the worst one of last season.

Things look much better for 2022. It appears all infrastructure is set to go this morning. The track has been tweaked a bit to improve the racing, and fans are returning. I checked the ticket availability Wednesday. I saw fewer than 500 grandstand tickets available. I expect a much improved event.

Track Changes

Two turns have been modified, the start and all restarts will take place on the bridge, and some areas have been repaved.

Turn 9 has narrowed to 60 feet from 85 feet. This will slow the cars down and should create another passing area as the cars need to slow after exiting the bridge. Turn 11 has been widened by six feet in hopes of eliminating the bottleneck which was created last year by cars getting sideways and causing one the red flags in 2021.

Bridge entrances and exits have been repapved and the big bump in turn 5 has been reduced.

Today’s first practice at 3:15 Central time will tell us a lot about the effectiveness of the changes.

New Alternate Tires Debut

Nashville is the first race test for Firestone’s new alternate tire, produce fro the guayule plant, a more sustainable, more quickly replaced rubber substance. The tires have a green band in place of the traditional red on the alternate tire. In May Cara Krstolic told me Firestone chose Nashville for the tire’s race debut because they wanted to start with a low load track. The tire is scheduled to be the alternate for the full 2023 season.

Drivers expressed concerns about the consistency of the red alternate tires last weekend. I am interested in hearing their comments this weekend.

Paretta, Simona Return

Nashvile is the third and final race of the year for Paretta Autosport with driver Simona DeSilvestro, unless funding can be found for one of the west coast races. The team partners with Ed Carpenter Racing. I hope they can expand their program next year.

The Championship

With just four races to go, only 46 points separate the top five drivers in the standings. Will Power leads Marcus Ericsson by just nine points. Ericsson won this race in 2021 whoile Power did not finish well afetr a couple of spins in turn 11.

I think Power slightly increases his lead over Ericsson, but a couple of other contenders will gain ground. Josef Newgarden was disappointed in his showing in his hometown race in 2021, and carries aq lot of motivation into the weekend. Colton Herta dominated Nashville last year until he crashed late in the race.

A Honda Track?

Honda cars were quickest in 2021 in Nashville, and they showed well in Toronto this year. This track has many of the same elements as Toronto, and I look for the Ganassi team to be the class of the field. Like last week at IMS, a driver leaving his team at the end of the year will come away with a win. Defending champion Alex Palou will keep the Music City GP trophy in the Ganassi camp.

Look for a wrapup later this evening. I will report what I can from the track.

VeeKay Stays with ECR

Ed Carpenter Racing announced today that Rinus VeeKay has signed a multi year agreement and will remain with the team. VeeKay is currently 11th ib the NTT Indycar Series points standings with one pole in 2022. He has three top 5 finishes and six top 10s.

The announcement from ECR:

(NASHVILLE, Tenn.) August 4, 2022 – Ed Carpenter Racing announced today that Rinus VeeKay will remain the driver of the No. 21 Chevrolet for the 2023 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season and beyond as part of a multi-year agreement. The 21-year-old joined ECR prior to the 2020 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season and has spent the entirety of his Indy car career with the Indianapolis-based team. VeeKay will compete in the full 2023 NTT INDYCAR SERIES schedule behind the wheel of the No. 21, which he will campaign for a fourth consecutive year.

“I am very excited to continue with Ed Carpenter Racing for what will be my fourth year in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES! Ed Carpenter gave me the opportunity to drive for the team when I came out of Indy Lights and has let me showcase my talents in an Indy car ever since,” VeeKay stated. “The continuity at ECR is great, there have barely been any changes in my time here and it’s very nice to have the same group of people around me all the time. We have been stepping up our game every season and with the support of Todd Ault and BitNile, we can really move forward as we head into 2023.”

Raised in Hoofddorp, Netherlands, Rinus van Kalmthout began karting in 2009 at the age of 8. With sights set firmly on the pinnacle of North American open wheel racing, he transitioned to the Road to Indy in 2017 and launched his U.S. career driving as Rinus VeeKay. Just four years later, VeeKay not only reached the NTT INDYCAR SERIES but earned the 2020 Rookie of the Year honors. The following season, he joined the ranks of NTT INDYCAR SERIES race winners with his first career victory on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

ECR team owner Ed Carpenter watched VeeKay’s progression through the Road to Indy, which included one championship, two second-place finishes in points standings, 16 wins and 36 podiums in just 48 races. Carpenter selected the Dutch driver for his team in late 2019 and VeeKay has been with ECR for every race since. “I am so happy to be able to extend our relationship with Rinus, he is an extremely versatile and talented driver,” stated Carpenter. He continued, “It has been and remains our hope to build our team to new heights with Rinus helping lead the charge. Our goals and expectations are to win races and to compete for championships. With Rinus’s growth and the support from BitNile and Todd Ault, we are primed for success.”

VeeKay is midway through his third season as an NTT INDYCAR SERIES driver and continues to build on his impressive resume. In addition to his Rookie of the Year title, his debut season included his first pole position and first podium finish. Two weeks after his first victory in May of 2021, he started on the front row of the Indianapolis 500. He replicated that in 2022, again starting from the 3rd position. VeeKay has been the fastest Chevrolet-powered driver in the field for each of his Indianapolis 500 starts. He also earned his second pole position this season, this time at Barber Motorsports Park, where he took the checkered flag in 3rd. VeeKay has put together a string of strong results in the recent summer stretch, finishing in the Top 6 in three of the five races that took place in July.

VeeKay is grateful for the support he has received. “I really want to thank Ed, Tony George, Stuart Reed for giving me the opportunity to continue with ECR. The entire team deserves my gratitude, everyone out in the race shop that works so hard every day to make me fast on track.” He continued, “We still have a season to finish this year, but it’s great to know future plans. It motivates me, the team and everyone around us to get more great results before we focus on next year!”

VeeKay is the longest-tenured full-time driver in Ed Carpenter Racing’s 11-year history. Since its inception in 2012, ECR has raced exclusively in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. The team has shown its versatility by earning eight wins across each style of track the series competes on – street and road courses, short ovals and super speedways. ECR boasts 40 Top 5 results to date, 24 of which have been podium finishes. For 10 of the team’s 11 Indianapolis 500s, ECR has had at least one car qualify in the first three rows. An ECR Chevrolet has sat on the front row eight of those years, including three pole positions by Carpenter (2013, 2014 and 2018).

Four races remain in the 2022 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season, including this weekend’s Big Machine Music City Grand Prix in the streets of downtown Nashville, Tennessee. ECR’s 2022 campaign includes two full-time entries: VeeKay in the No. 21 Bitcoin Racing Team Powered by BitNile Chevrolet and the No. 20 BitNile Chevrolet, driven by Conor Daly. Carpenter competes in the oval events in a third ECR entry, the No. 33 Alzamend Neuro Chevrolet. The 2023 NTT INDYCAR SERIES schedule will be announced at a later date.