Herta’s Very Hot Lap on a Very Hot Day

Photo: Colton Herta after his win at St. Pete

From the practice results and the early qualifying rounds, it was pretrty clear that Colton Herta would win the pole for tomorrow’s Big Machine Music City Grand Prix. The shock was two fold- His margin over Scott Dixon- more than a half second- big by Indycar qualifying standards- and this pole winning lap time-0 1:13.683. Looking at yesterday’s and this morning practice times, I though a lap in the 1 minute 14 seconds range would take the pole. I certainly didn’t expect a lap below 1:14.

Herta finished second in his round 1 qualifying group without going to the alternate red tires. Because of a late red flag in the morning practice, no one got many laps on the reds. Herta then had two sets of freshc reds for the final two rounds of qualifying.

The Andretti Autosport driver will be making his fifth front row start this season, and fourth in a row. Today’s pole is Herta’s second in 2021. He won the pole at St. Pete and ran away from the field in a dominating win. He has won from the pole the lastr three times he started at the point.

Herta is becoming a qualifier in the mold of Will Power. he is always a threat for the Fast Six and can never be counted out for the front row. Speaking of Power, it is hard to believe he has yet to win a pole this season.

Some of the pole drama was lost when Josef Newgarden crashed in turn 10 just as the second round was ending. Newgarden was fast enough to make the Fast Six, but the crash wiped out his best lap. He will start 12th. Newgarden had not shown much pace in practice, but his car was beginning to come alive in qualifying. He has to be a bit frustrated at how his hometown race has gone so far.

Alex Palou, the series points leader, qualified third but will start 9th because of an unauthorized engine change at the test in Portland. I think he is still in good shape He actually gains because none of his closest competitiors won the bonus point for pole.

If there aren’t a lot of yellows or red flags tomorrow, which is iffy, I look for Herta to disappear from the field’s view at the start and not be caught. Given the craziness we’ve seen so far this weekend, that may not happen.


Romain Grosjean continues his quality qualifying. He made the Fast Six at Newgarden’s expense, but it was another top 10 effort from the rookie who may be bound for bigger things kin the series next year.

Grandstand 6 was nearing completion by the end of Indycar qualifying, but the fans who purchased tickets for arguably some of the best views of the track were unable to use their seats for the second day in a row. It appears the stand should be ready for the race tomorrow. The Grand Prix is issuing refunds, but several of the fans I talked to who had tickets in that stand are not happy.

Workmen continue to assemble Grandstand 6 during Indycar qualifying.

There have been long lines at the ticket resolution windows as well. Some people have had trouble accessing their mobile tickets. I did as well, and it still takes me a couple of tries to find them. I think it was a mistake to have ticket access through the Tennessee Titans team app. A direct link sent via email like Gateway and some other tracks do would be much simpler and reliable.

Today’s crowd was bigger than the Friday crowd. The gas station which was closed for the weekend was packed with viewers.

Day 2 at Music City- More Speed with Reds? Palou Penalty

Photo: Jimmie Johnson enters turn three

Welcome to Qualifying Day at the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix. I am eager to see how much times drop on the alternate red tires today.

Today’s schedule- All Times Central

From last night

Herta Leads Successful First Day for Music City Grand Prix

Herta Leads Successful First Day for Music City Grand Prix

Indycar gets on the track earlier today for a 45 minute practice at noon, followed by qualifying at 3:30. Both sessions are streamed on Peacock. Because of the Olympics, NBCSN will not re-air qualifying later tonight. It’s sad that this event does not get any wider media exposure than the race on NBCSN tomorrow. I hope this is an NBC race next year.

Points leader Alex Palou will have a six place grid penalty for an unapproved engine change after the Portland test. This is the second grid penalty this season for the NTT Data team. Palou also started six places lower than he qualified in Detroit Race 1. He finished 15th. Palou needs to qualify in the top three or four to have a chance of maintaining a healthy lead. He was sixth yesterday. Scott Dixon, third in the standings, was second.

I’ll be back later tonight with a qualfying wrap-up.

Herta Leads Successful First Day for Music City Grand Prix

Alex Palou leads Graham Rahal heading to turn 9.

Colton Herta took first day honors on the first day of practice for the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix. Herta has been on the front row of the last three races, and he showed no signs of letting that streak last. Herta’s time of 1:16. 587 beat Scott Dixon by 0.38 seconds. Points leader Alex Palou was sixth fastest as Hondas took the first six spots and seven of the first twelve. Dalton Kellett sat out the session with a wiring issue discovered after his installation lap.

The top 13:

I thought today’s practice round was one of the best of the season. It might have been the novelty of the new track, but it just felt like a great session to me. Pato O’Ward hit the wall hard exiting turn 3, causing a six minute red flag. The session ended early when Conor Daly spun into the tire barrier in turn nine with less than five minutes to go.

Pato O’Ward hits the wall exiting turn 3. Photo from O’Ward’s Twitter account

It was fun seeing the cars going both directions on the bridge at once. It looks like there are several places to pass. The most difficult places on the track are turn 1 where it runs alongside pit out. Tis area could be dicey on race day; turn 3 is very difficult- there is is bump right at the apex of the turn. Some drivers figured out how to get through the corner without touching the bump. Drivers tried several different lines,many of which resulted in a significant wiggle upon exit. The turn 4 and 5 complex at the far end of the bridge is tight, and there were several close calls there. Overall, this track is great for Indycar.

Graham Rahal approaches turn 3

A Great First Day

The Music City Grand Prix had a great first day. There were the usual first day glitches- grandstands not complete, some staff not sure how to solve issues,and some materials not cleaned up. I think tomorrow will be much smoother.

The rain passed without falling. There was a cloud cover and a breeze with made the temperature a little more comfortable. The next two days are expected to be warmer.

There is an advantage to having a football stadium as a base for a street race. It provides a place for shelter should the weather turn bad, it allows the race management to have ticket space and entry gates built in, and they have ready made concession stands.

The food choices aren’t limited to the stadium. Multiple food choices abound inside and outside the track. On one side of the stadium sat a line of food trucks with a large variety of offerings from empanadas to cupcakes. It is probably the largest variety of concessions I have seen at a track. I liked that fans did not have to travel far to find food. At some tracks some grandstands are not close to any concessions. The promoters have made sure no one has to go far for food and drink.

I am already thinking about next year’s event.

It Begins

It is time. The Big Machine Music City Grand Prix has its first on track activity today. While Indycar isn’t on track until 3:10 Central Time, there is plenty of action until then with Trans Am and SRO GT America beginning at 11:00. The Indycar practice is streamed on Peacock. I will be heading to the track around noon.

It’s great that the gates don”t open until 10 so fans are not fighting the Friday commuter traffic. That has been an issue at other street races on Fridays.

Today’s schedule:

I will have a report on today’s action this evening.

Music City Grand Prix Preview

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 Returns

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.

Alex Palou

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.

Big Machine Music City Grand Prix Fast Facts

Photo: Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves returns to the track this weekend in a different livery.

Race weekend: Friday, Aug. 6 – Sunday, Aug. 8

Track: Streets of Nashville, an 11-turn, a 2.17-mile temporary street course in Nashville, Tennessee

Race distance: 80 laps / 173.6 miles

Media links: Entry List | Driver Video Quotes 

Push-to-pass parameters: 150 seconds of total time with a maximum time of 15 seconds per activation.

Firestone tire allotment: Seven sets primary, four sets alternate to be used during the event weekend. One additional set of primary tires may be used by teams fielding a rookie driver. Teams must use one set of primary and one set of new (sticker) alternate tires for at least two laps in the race.

Twitter: @MusicCityGP, @IndyCar, #MusicCityGP, #INDYCAR

Event website: www.musiccitygp.com/

INDYCAR website: www.IndyCar.com

2020 race winner: Inaugural event

2020 NTT P1 Award winner: Inaugural event

Qualifying record: Inaugural event

NBCSN telecast: 5:30 p.m. ET Sunday, NBCSN (live). Kevin Lee is the lead announcer for NBC Sports telecasts this weekend alongside analysts Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy. Marty Snider and Dave Burns will report from the pit lane.

Peacock Premium Live Streaming: All NTT INDYCAR SERIES practice sessions and qualifying will stream live on Peacock Premium, NBC’s direct-to-consumer livestreaming product.

INDYCAR Radio Network broadcasts: Mark Jaynes is the chief announcer alongside analysts Davey Hamilton and Rob Blackman. Jake Query and Nick Yeoman are the turn announcers with Ryan Myrehn and Michael Young in the pit lane. The Big Machine Music City Grand Prix will air live on network affiliates, SiriusXM 205, Sirius 119, indycar.com and the INDYCAR Mobile app powered by NTT DATA. All NTT INDYCAR SERIES practices and qualifying are available on SiriusXM 205, indycar.com and the INDYCAR Mobile app.

At-track schedule (all times local):

Friday, Aug. 6

3:10-4:25 p.m.: NTT INDYCAR SERIES practice 1, Peacock Premium (live)

Saturday, Aug. 7

Noon-12:45 p.m.: NTT INDYCAR SERIES practice 2, Peacock Premium (live)

3:30–4:45 p.m.: Qualifying for the NTT P1 Award (Three rounds of knockout qualifying), Peacock Premium (live)

Sunday, Aug. 8

Noon-12:30 p.m.: NTT INDYCAR SERIES final practice, Peacock Premium (live)

4:30 p.m.: NBCSN on air

4:38 p.m.: “Drivers, start your engines”

4:45 p.m.: Big Machine Music City Grand Prix (80 laps/173.6  miles), NBCSN (Live)

Race notes:

  • There have been eight different winners in 10 NTT INDYCAR SERIES races this season. Alex Palou (Barber Motorsports Park, Road America), Colton Herta (Streets of St. Petersburg), Scott Dixon (Texas Motor Speedway-1), Pato O’Ward (Texas Motor Speedway-2, Raceway at Belle Isle Park-2), Rinus VeeKay (Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course-1), Helio Castroneves (Indianapolis 500), Marcus Ericsson (Raceway at Belle Isle Park-1) and Josef Newgarden (Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course) have all won in 2021. The modern record (1946-present) for most different winners in a season is 11 in 2000, 2001 and 2014.
  • There have been eight different winners in the last 10 NTT INDYCAR SERIES races (Alex PalouColton HertaScott DixonPato O’WardRinus VeeKay, Helio Castroneves, Marcus Ericsson and Josef Newgarden) The only repeat winners in that stretch are O’Ward (Texas-2, 2021 and Belle Isle-2, 2021) and Palou (Barber 2021 and Road America 2021)
  • The NTT INDYCAR SERIES will compete on the streets of Nashville for the first time using a new street circuit that incorporates some of the city’s most iconic sites. Among the landmarks incorporated into the 2.17-mile, 11-turn track is the Korean Veterans Memorial Bridge and the home of the NFL’s Tennessee Titans. The race’s start of the race will take place over the bridge’s eastbound lanes between Turns 8 and 9.
  • Middle Tennessee hosted INDYCAR SERIES racing from 2001-2008 at Nashville Superspeedway in Lebanon, Tennessee. Scott Dixon, who won three consecutive races at the 1.33-mile oval from 2006-2008, is one of five drivers entered who raced in the most recent Nashville event along with Helio CastronevesRyan Hunter-ReayWill Power and Graham Rahal.
  • The last driver to win an inaugural event was Will Power, who won the Grand Prix of Baltimore in 2011. The last driver to win the NTT INDYCAR SERIES championship after winning an inaugural event at a track was Dario Franchitti in 2007. Franchitti is grand marshal for this weekend’s Big Machine Music City Grand Prix.
  • The 27 cars entered in the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix is the most in a non-Indianapolis 500 NTT INDYCAR SERIES race since Long Beach in 2013 when 27 cars started that race.

An Afternoon at the Track

I had some free time yesterday afternoon and I drove to Nisissan Stadium to see how much of the track I could see. It was an adventure. The streets of downtown Nashville are very narrow, but the stadium was easy to find. It is a very nice looking stadium.

Not only could I se the track, part of it is still open t traffic, including the bridge. The bridge will be fast. There is a rise in it and a downhill. The turnaround ds at each end could make for some action. As for a car going off the bridge and into the water, I don’t see that even remotely happening. This isn’t Driven.

Here are a few photos I took from my car. I wanted to stop to get some better shots but the cars behind me didn’t realize or care that I was doing important research.

From the bridge

Approaching the bridge

I turned right to enter the track and access the bridge here

Othan than the bridge the track looks very tight. Most passing will be on the bridge or just coming off of it. I’m looking forward to the event and the race.

Ferrucci Returns to RLL for Music City Grand Prix

Photo from RLL Twitter accountSantino Ferrucci returns to the number 45 car at Nashville. Despite only appearing in handful of races, the 45 is in contention for the Leaders’ Circle, which awards the top 22 entrants at the end of the year. Ferrucci has finished in the top ten in each of his four Indycar races this season.

From Rahal Letterman Racing:

BROWNSBURG, Ind. (July 19, 2021) – Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (RLL) announced today that Santino Ferrucci will return to the team to compete in the No. 45 Hy-Vee entry at the inaugural Music City Grand Prix of Nashville, August 6-8. Hy-Vee, Inc. – an employee-owned supermarket chain that operates more than 280 retail stores across eight Midwestern states – is the primary sponsor of Graham Rahal’s entry for two races this season as well as a full season associate and was the primary sponsor of Ferrucci’s car at the Indy 500, doubleheader races in Detroit and the Mid-Ohio event.

At the Indy 500, Ferrucci piloted the No. 45 Hy-Vee Honda to his third straight top-seven finish with a sixth-place result, finished sixth in Race 1 and tenth in Race 2 in Detroit and ninth at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

“I’m super excited to be back driving for RLL and Hy-Vee,” said Santino Ferrucci. “It’s going to be an incredible race as it’s our first time racing in the streets of Nashville. The track has an incredible layout that has us racing over a bridge. I have been to the track before on a scooter so I at least know a little about the layout. I’m excited to get the chance to continue with consistent top-10 finishes for the team but I definitely think we can challenge for a win if the weekend goes smoothly.”

“Our partnership with the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing team has continued to bring excitement to our employees and customers,” said Randy Edeker, Chairman, CEO and President of Hy-Vee. “We look forward to teaming up with Santino Ferrucci again to drive the No. 45 Hy-Vee entry in Nashville.”

Hy-Vee first joined the team as the primary sponsor of Graham Rahal’s entry for Race 2 at the Iowa Speedway in 2020 where he finished third. The company was also the primary sponsor of the team’s entry for Spencer Pigot at the Indy 500 and an associate sponsor of Rahal’s entry for the legendary race. In 2021, they have been a primary sponsor at five races: the Indy 500, Detroit Grand Prix doubleheader and Mid-Ohio races with Ferrucci and at Road America with Rahal.

After two full INDYCAR SERIES seasons in 2019-2020 and a partial one in 2018, Ferrucci joined RLL for the Indy 500 and the Detroit Grand Prix races. To date, his best Indy car start is second place at Mid-Ohio (Race 2) in 2020 and he has finished in fourth place four times. In 2021, Ferrucci competes part-time in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, driving for Sam Hunt Racing.

The 2021 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season continues with the Music City Grand Prix of Nashville which will be broadcast live on NBCSN on August 8 at 4:30 p.m. EDT. All future on-track action can be seen on NBC, NBCSN or NBC’s Peacock Premium streaming service. For more information about the series or team, visit http://www.indycar.com and http://www.rahal.com.

About Hy-Vee, Inc.
Hy-Vee, Inc. is an employee-owned corporation operating more than 280 retail stores across eight Midwestern states with sales of $11 billion annually. The supermarket chain is synonymous with quality, variety, convenience, healthy lifestyles, culinary expertise and superior customer service. Hy-Vee ranks in the Top 10 Most Trusted Brands and has been named one of America’s Top 5 favorite grocery stores. The company’s more than 85,000 employees provide “A Helpful Smile in Every Aisle” to customers every day. For additional information, visit www.hy-vee.com.

Photo by Joe Skibinski, Indycar

About Santino Ferrucci
Ferrucci began his karting career at age five and was a multi-time champion by age 11 and was featured in an article in GQ magazine on being a karting prodigy. He also competed in six Formula 2000 races, never finishing worse than fourth in any race. In 2013 he competed in the Skip Barber Racing Series, winning his debut race at Homestead and collecting five wins, two poles and three fastest laps. His career took him to England in 2014 where he competed in British Formula 3, winning two races – both at Brands Hatch, which made him the youngest winner in British Formula 3 history at 16 years, 2 months and 30 days. In 2015, he finished third in the Toyota Racing Series New Zealand with a win and five podium finishes and also competed in the FIA Formula 3 European Championship. In 2016, he competed in the GP3 Series as a rookie with DAMS with a best finish of third place at Spa-Francorchamps and joined Haas F1 as a test driver for a July test at Silverstone and became the first American driver to test an American F1 car since 1977. He also made his sports car debut that year, winning his first race in the Lamborghini Blancpain Super Trofeo North America event at Circuit of The Americas. In 2017, he continued his role as a development driver with Haas F1, testing at Hungaroring in August. He also made six GP3 starts with DAMS before moving to FIA Formula 2 with Trident. In 2018, he competed in FIA Formula 2 with Team Trident, scoring a best finish of sixth at Baku and served as a Haas F1 development driver for a third consecutive season. He also made his debut in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES for Dale Coyne Racing in 2018 with a best finish of 11th at the season-finale at Sonoma and competed in a total of four events (Detroit doubleheader, Portland). In 2019, he competed in the full INDYCAR SERIES season and finished 13th in series standings for Dale Coyne Racing with a best finish of fourth at Texas, Pocono and World Wide Technology Raceway. He was named Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year after an impressive performance en route to a seventh-place finish. Ferrucci returned for his second full season in the series in 2020 with Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan with a best finish of fourth place in the Indy 500 and 13th place, season-ending rank. Always open to new challenges, Ferrucci currently competes part-time in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, driving for Sam Hunt Racing.

About Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, based in Hilliard, Ohio and Brownsburg, Ind., is co-owned by three-time
IndyCar Champion and 1986 Indianapolis 500 winner Bobby Rahal, former CBS Late Show host David Letterman and Mi-Jack co-owner Mike Lanigan. In 2021, the team begins its 30th year of competition and will attempt to add to its 29 Indy car wins – including the 2004 Indy 500 from pole with Buddy Rice and the 2020 Indy 500 with Takuma Sato — their 33 poles, 107 podium finishes and 1992 series championship.  The team also competed in the American Le Mans Series from 2009-2013 as BMW Team RLL where they won both the Manufacturer and Team Championships in the GT category in 2010 and swept all three GT titles in 2011 – Manufacturer, Team and Driver. In 2012, the team finished second in the Team Championship and third in the Manufacturer Championship and in 2013, the team finished second in the Driver, Team and Manufacturer Championship. Since 2014, BMW Team RLL has competed in the GTLM class of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship with a two-car program and has brought their total to 22 wins – including the 2019 and 2020 Rolex 24 at Daytona endurance races, 28 poles and 91 podium finishes as well as a second-place finish in the Manufacturer, Team and Driver championships in 2015 and 2017. The team was also the 2020 Michelin Endurance Champions. For 2021, the team will compete for back-to-back Michelin Endurance Championships.