Nashville Wrap-Up: A Couple More Race Thoughts and The Event

Indycar photo by Chris Owens

Marti Update: She is doing very well and is awaiting for a space to open up at a rehab facility in Indianapolis. I think we will see a full recovery. Thanks again to everyone for their concern and the many people who asked about her this weekend.

Per my post earlier this afternoon, my condolences to the family of Bob Jenkins, who lost his battle with brain cancer today. He was my favorite broadcaster of this era, and Imissed his voice at IMS this May.

Final Race Musings

James Hinchcliffe and Ryan Hunter-Reay picked up the gauntlet for Andretti Autosport yesterday with their best finishes of the season. Hinchcliffe’s podium is probably too late to save his seat in the 29, but might help him land somewhere else for 2022.

I don’t think enough has been said about how well Marcus Ericsson drove once he got to the lead on lap 56. He easily kept Colton Herta at arm’s length and pulled away from Scott Dixon on the final restart. In spite of his crazy day, Ericsson deserved the win.

Bad races happen, and it is unfortunate that the first Music City Grand Prix turned out to be one. Running 42% of the laps under caution is not great for attracting new fans.

What Needs to Improve

Five things that will improve the fan experience:

  • Signage- as the weekend went on, more directional signs appeared, but not all of the grandstands had exterior signs indicating which sections were at which entrance. More track maps would have helped as well, especially having them near the directional signs.
  • *Water filling stations. The Know Before You Go section said fans could bring an empty water bottle and that there would be places to fill them. Outside of the fountains in the stadium concourse, I only saw one place to fill bottles, and it didn’t appear until Sunday morning. There need to be several of these in different locations, and they need to be there on Friday.
  • Tickets- I hated the electronic tickets. They were difficult to access. Sending tickets via email link that can be screenshot on your phone would be much more convenient, especially when for the first time all weekend, they started checking tickets at the grandstand entrance. It created a backup with everyone having to get out their phone and find their tickets again.
  • Grandstand Access- A reserved seat had to be purchased as a three day package. On Friday and Saturday fans could go into any grandstand they wanted to and no one checked their tickets. On Sunday for the Indycar race, security guards began checking tickets. People who had been sitting in the stands all day had to have their tickets checked. Other street races make Friday a free day to attract more local fans, which leads me to my final point.
  • Pricing- I thought this was the most expensive three day seat I have purchased at a street race. Because of the ticket price, I did not buy a paddock pass. I thought the paddock should have been included at the price point of the seats. It would have made the tickets more reasonable.

Ending With Some Positives

The promoters got what they wanted- a well attended, well promoted event. I saw signs at several major intersections in Nashville during the two weeks I was in town.

There was local buzz. The television ratings in Nashville were exceptionally good. This morning I stooped for breakfast at a Starbuck’s. I was wearing on of my The pit Window shirts. The woman taking my order noticed and asked me if I enjoyed the race. She then asked how I though the event could improve next year. I shared a few suggestions. She said,”Well I hope you come back for it next year.” This is exactly how street races grow.

When I got to the hospital this morning, Marti told me her nurse Sunday afternoon said that everyone at the hospital was talking about the race.

Now that it appears we have another solid street race in the making, let’s find a couple more ovals.

Thanks for following along this past weekend. There is another race this coming weekend, I hear.

Quick Thoughts- Music City Grand Prix

I will have more tomorrow night after i return to Indianapolis. Marti is awaiting the okay to transfer back to a rehab facility in Indianapolis.

I have seen worse races. I just don’t remember when. I don’t mean bad races, such as Texas 1 this year where there is no passing. I mean races where caution follows caution continuously. There were nine cautions today. The frequent yellows threw all pit strategies out the window, and the red flag with five laps to go did bit help things for a race that just needed to be put out of its misery as soon as possible.

It wasn’t all bad, though. Laps 50 -75 were really good, as we watched Colton Herta pick off one driver after another and stalk leader Marcus Ericsson. When Herta locked up his tires in an attempt to pass Ericsson, he needed to settle for second place. His crash brought an effective anticlimactic end to the race.

A very good day for Andretti Autosport turned into just a good day, with James Hinchcliffe earning a podium and Ryan Hunter-Reay finishing fourth. Besides Herta’s crash, Alexander Rossi was running in the top three when came together with Pato O’Ward, ruining both drivers’ chances for a good result.

Winner Marcus Ericsson had an up and down day-literally. On the first restart he plowed into the back of Sebastien Bourdais’ car, lifting the nose of Ericsson’s car in the air, served two penalties, made six pit stops, yet somehow through the chaotic pit stop schedules ended up leading the race.

Alex Palou didn’t have a great day as he got stuck in traffic after his first stop and couldn’t seem to pass anyone after that. Still, he ended up seventh and actually increased his points lead over second place. Palou continues to take what the race gives him to get the most points he can. This is why I thnk he will win the championship.

Dalton Kellett completed just 37 laps but seemed to be involved in several incidents.

Marcus Ericsson is fifth in the points with a second and a first in his last two races.

The race took just 18 and a half minutes less to complete than this year’s Indianapolis 500.

I will have more on the race tomorrow night and a weekend wrapup on Tuesday. there is lots to discuss about how this event needs to move forward.

Power Sees Red -Thoughts on Detroit Race 1

Photo of Marcus Ericsson by Chris Owens, Indycar

Let’s begin at the end. The red flag with six laps go was uncalled for. A yellow would have worked. The race may or may not have restarted. I don’t believe in throwing a red flag just so a race can finish under green. Fans are not entitled to a green finish, and drivers accept that sometimes a race finishes under caution.

Congratulations to Marcus Ericsson on his first Indycar victory. He joins Kenny Brack and Felix Rosenqvist as drivers from Sweden who have won at least one Indycar race. Ericsson is the fourth first time winner this season as Indycar continues its streak of a different winner every race. Will the string be broken tomorrow?

Photo by Chris Owens, Indycar

Will Power was furious after the race, as well he should have been. His best drive of the year was wasted. I thought he would come out strong today to make up for his showing in the Indianapolis 500. I thought he was motivated today. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him win the pole and lead every lap tomorrow. Look up his interview with Kevin Lee on NBC Sports. I haven’t seen him this angry since Loudon.

Alex Palou retains the points lead by 15 points over Pato O’Ward. Scott Dixon is 26 points behind. Palou started last and finished 15th.

All three of Chip Ganassi Racing’s full time drivers have won a race this year, while Team Penske is still looking for its first victory in 2021. Penske drivers were having one of their better days of the year today until the red flags quashed their strategy.

Today’s race was probably the best one I have seen at Belle Isle. There was lots of passing, different pit strategies, and end of race drama.

Late news from on Felix Rosenqvist from Dr. Billows:

“Evaluation revealed no life or limb threatening injuries, he remains awake and alert, he will be observed overnight prior to discharge from the hospital”

Rosenqvist’s crash was one of the scariest I have seen. The statement implies that he has not been cleared to drive tomorrow. I’m not sure if the car will be ready.

Takuma Sato ,Graham Rahal, and Santino Ferrucci of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing had outstanding drives today, finishing 4th, 5th, and 6th, respectively. Sato started 16th, Rahal 20th, and Ferrucci 21st. It was the team’s best day of the season.

Today was the first race of 2021 where Team Penske cars looked to have a winning race pace. Simon Pagenaud looked to be on a winning path until the red flag, and Josef Newgarden looked to be in line for a top five finish as well. It seems strange that this team has not won a race yet this year. Today was just the second time in 2021 a Penske driver was not on the podium.

Ericsson Stays With Ganassi in Multi Year Deal

From Chip Gnassi Racing:

Marcus Ericsson and Chip Ganassi Racing Continue INDYCAR Partnership in New, Multi-Year Deal

Posted: October 28, 2020 Chip Ganassi Racing (CGR) announced today that 30-year-old Swede Marcus Ericsson will continue in the No. 8 Honda in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES as part of a new, multi-year deal with the team. Partnership details will be announced in the off-season in preparation for the 2021 INDYCAR season and beyond.

NOTES OF INTEREST:

• About Marcus Ericsson: Marcus Ericsson is coming off his first year with Chip Ganassi Racing, finishing 12th in the 2020 NTT INDYCAR SERIES standings. Prior to his rookie season in INDYCAR in 2019, the Kumla, Sweden native most recently completed his fifth year in Formula 1 in 2018 with a total of 97 starts. Ericsson is a two-time champion (Formula BMW UK, 2007; Japanese Formula Three, 2009), and has twice claimed the Swedish Junior Racer of the Year award (2007, 2009). Ericsson also previously competed in British Formula Three, GP2 Asia and GP2.

• 2020 Rewind: Ericsson started the season with an entry that didn’t exist the year before, and piloted the No. 8 Honda to a season-best fourth-place finish at Road America. His season-best qualifying result came in the first half of the Gateway doubleheader where he started fourth, and overall he scored nine top-10 finishes in the 14 races in his first year with the organization.

QUOTEBOARD:

• Marcus Ericsson, Driver, No. 8 Honda: “I’m very happy to continue my relationship with Chip Ganassi Racing, Honda and HPD into 2021 and beyond. I want to thank Chip and the whole CGR organization for their trust in me. Chip Ganassi Racing is one of the best teams in motorsports and I’m proud to be part of the team. The season we’ve just finished has been full of potential and I feel confident that with what we’ve learned together this year will help us succeed in 2021. I’m looking forward to getting back in the No. 8 Honda!”

• Mike Hull, Managing Director, Chip Ganassi Racing: “Marcus proved that he belongs here, and this season he contributed to the success of our team greatly. That includes being unselfish to his teammates, especially with Scott Dixon who won the INDYCAR championship. He’s a great foundational piece of our overall program and he fits well within our group. That translates into success on the track, and we’re glad to have him continue to grow and move the team toward into the future.” Share This Article:

Ericsson Lands Sponsor

From Indycar

Marcus Ericsson's 2020 car

Marcus Ericsson’s new ride with Chip Ganassi Racing will be backed by a company from his home country of Sweden, the team confirmed Tuesday.

Huski Chocolate will be the primary sponsor of the No. 8 Honda and joins the team’s lineup of PNC Bank for Scott Dixon’s No. 9 car and NTT DATA for Felix Rosenqvist’s No. 10. Chip Ganassi’s team will have more than two full-time entries in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES for the first time since 2017. Dixon is a five-time series champion; Rosenqvist was last year’s INDYCAR Rookie of the Year.

Ericsson is a native of Kumla, Sweden, and he made his INDYCAR debut last year, finishing 17th in the standings. He finished second in the second of the Detroit Grand Prix races. He spent five years in Formula One before coming to INDYCAR.

Huski Chocolate’s headquarters are located in Stockholm, Sweden, and they currently maintain sports-related partnerships with McLaren in F1 as well as the Millwall Football Club of the English Football League Championship, the second tier of English football after the Premier League.

One-time INDYCAR driver and NASCAR veteran Stanton Barrett is CEO of Huski Chocolate Americas. Barrett competed in four INDYCAR races in 2009.

“This partnership is a great fit for our entire company,” Barrett said in a statement released by the team. “We have watched Marcus in Formula 1 and last year’s transition into INDYCAR. Marcus has great potential and now he can capitalize on his talents by teaming up with Chip Ganassi Racing in INDYCAR.

“This partnership with my friend Chip and CGR, a 12-time INDYCAR Champion team, is a critical and valuable platform to reach a strong racing fan base in North and South America. As Huski Chocolate continues expanding into important markets for our B2B and B2C products, CGR and Marcus will continue to pave the way for success on and off the track for Huski Chocolate. We can’t wait to get the season started in St. Petersburg with the Huski Chocolate Honda on the grid.”

INDYCAR’s 17-race schedule begins March 13-15 with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. The year’s first open test is set for Feb. 11-12 at Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas.

 

Ericsson to Ganassi: Updated

News just broke that Marcus Ericsson will drive the number 8 car for Chip Ganassi racing in 2020. No sponsor was announced. Ericsson drove for Arrow Schmidt Peterson (now Arrow McLaren SP) this year. He finished 17th in the points standings with a best finish of second in Detroit Race 2. Ericsson had an up and down season with two top 10s. He missed the Portland race as he was on standby with Alfa Romeo in F1.

The announcement likely eliminates the possibility of Meyer shank racing with driver Jack Harvey forming an alliance with Ganassi. Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing now appears to be where they will end up.

It was long suspected Ericsson would not return to AMSP. The question is will James Hinchcliffe return as announced earlier.  This might be a spot for Indy Lights champion Oliver Askew.

I see the following seats open or unconfirmed:

Carlin (2)

Foyt (1) if Kanaan returns

Carpenter (road course in the 20). Pigot has not been confirmed for the 21.

Arrow McLaren SP (1) for now. Conor Dqaly was informed last week that the team is going “in another direction.”

Coyne (1). Ferrucci is scheduled to return but no formal confirmation yet.

Update:

Per Marshall Pruett, Ganassi is continuing to explore ways to add a fourth car for Askew. I applaud the team’s efforts to keep their Ford GT teams employed after that program ends this weekend.

Indycar Drivers’ European Vacations

Above: Pato O’Ward at Road America last week.

Indycar began a three week summer break after Road America last weekend. The Series returns to action in Toronto July 14.  What do drivers do in their weeks off?  They go to Europe. One may not return. It’s complicated, and we’ll discuss that last.

The week before the REV Group Grand Prix Scott Dixon and Sebastien Bourdais went to Le Mans to participate in the 24 hour race for Chip Ganassi’s Ford GT teams. It was the last Le Mans for this car. Ford is shutting the GT program down. My hope is that they return in another class, preferably the prototypes.

This coming week (July already? Really/) Marcus Ericsson will participate in a Pirelli tire test in Austria on Tuesday.  Ericsson is still a reserve driver for Alfa Romeo. When the Indycar season ends he will spend more time at the remaining F1 races.

RA19 062
Ericsson heading to Turn 14 at Road America

O’Ward Fills in for Banned Driver; Japan Next?

Pato O’Ward’s weird itinerant season continues. This weekend he is driving for MP Motorsport in Formula 2 in Austria. O’Ward replaces Mahaveer Raganathan, who accumulated enough penalty points to earn a one race suspension. Jordan King is O’Ward’s teammate this weekend. O’Ward qualified 17th Friday, one second off the pole speed and just 0.25 seconds slower than the more experienced King. It was O’Ward’s first time in this type of car, first time at this track, and of course first time on this particular tire.  Overall, he did a great job.

F2 runs two races this weekend, a race on Saturday which includes a pit stop, and a sprint race on Sunday.i am anxious to see how Pato does in the two events.

News from japan’s Super Formula that Dan Ticktum is losing his Red Bull backed ride has led to speculation that O’Ward will finish the season there. Nothing is confirmed. Ticktum has scored just 1 point this season. His teammmate has out performed him significantly.

Since O’Ward is under contract to Red Bull, he may complete his season there. That would be a big loss to Indycar, which thought they had a rising star. Considering Ticktum’s struggles, this may be a difficult situation for O’Ward. doesn’t work out, will there still be room for him back in Indycar? Let’s hope so.

I’ll be back next week with a look at another past Indianapolis 500 program.

 

Ericsson to Drive Car #7 for Schmidt-Peterson Motorsports

From Schmidt Peterson Motorsports this morning:

Marcus Ericsson Joins SPM for 2019 Season

Marcus Ericsson Joins Schmidt Peterson Motorsports For 2019 Season

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Oct. 30, 2018) – Schmidt Peterson Motorsports announced today that Marcus Ericsson will pilot the No. 7 Honda for the 2019 IndyCar Series season. The current Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team driver will make the move to the North American open-wheel racing series following the conclusion of Formula One’s season later this year in Abu Dhabi.The Kumla, Sweden native is a two-time champion (Formula BMW UK, 2007; Japanese Formula Three, 2009), and has twice claimed the Swedish Junior Racer of the Year award (2007, 2009). Ericsson also previously competed in British Formula Three, GP2 Asia, GP2 and currently has 95 starts in Formula One.

“It’s a great honour to be picked as one of the drivers at Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and IndyCar for the 2019 season,” the Swedish racing driver commented. “It feels like a perfect step for me and my career after five years in F1. I can’t wait to start work with SPM and all the people in the team which I’ve heard a lot of good things about. They’ve had some great success over the years, and I’m looking forward to work hard to continue and improve on that path. The racing in IndyCar looks great and I feel really excited to be part of it in the future. It will be a lot to learn including new tracks, oval racing, etc. I know it won’t be easy, but it’s a challenge I’m very much looking forward to and I can’t wait to get started.”

While the No. 7 Honda will be his primary focus, the 28-year-old will remain on Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team’s lineup as reserve driver for its F1 program due to his strong relationship with the team and its partners. Ericsson most recently finished ninth in the Mexican Grand Prix in Mexico City.

“Ric (Peterson) and I are excited to welcome Marcus to the team,” said SPM co-owner Sam Schmidt. “He has a ton of experience racing in the top levels of motorsports, so we believe that he will be able to contribute to our development program that began in earnest in 2018. While the circuits on the IndyCar schedule will be brand new to him, particularly the ovals, we have a lot of confidence and trust in his eagerness to learn along with his work ethic. We think he and James (Hinchcliffe) will be a good fit to push one another and fight for those wins.”

Ericsson joins series veteran James Hinchcliffe who will continue his appointment in the No. 5 Arrow Electronics Honda, while Briton Jack Harvey will maintain his part-time ride through the collaboration with Meyer Shank Racing. The No. 6 Honda remains open for 2018 IndyCar Series and Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year Robert Wickens when he wants to and is able to return.

Marcus Ericsson will be available to media at the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports shop (6803 Coffman Road, Indianapolis, IN 46268) for 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, October 31. Media mustRSVP attendance to SPM Press Officer Veronica Knowlton prior to Wednesday.

Thoughts-

Ericsson joins Sebastien Bourdais, Alexander Rossi, and Max Chilton,and Takuma Sato on the Indycar grid as drivers who have driven in F1.
Only the second Carlin seat remains open. R. C. Enerson was in the car yesterday at COTA.
While this is probably a decent move for SPM, it is another seat not going to a driver from the Road to Indy.