IndyCar is Finally Coming to Music City

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From 2001 until 2008, IndyCar raced at Nashville Superspeedway. It was always good to get to attend a two-day IndyCar event and spend every night in my own bed. Less than a year after IndyCar staged their last race in Nashville, I started this website. Shortly after that, I was able to obtain media credentials to the Indianapolis 500 and other races.

Since then, Susan and I have gotten in the habit of attending about half of the IndyCar races in any given season – except for 2020, of course. As much fun as we’ve had over the years, establishing new friendships along the way – I’ve always dreamed of the day when the IndyCar traveling circus would come to our town and I could cover a race as a member of the media, while staying each night in our own bed.

Next August, that dream will become reality.

The Music City Grand Prix was officially confirmed on Wednesday for Aug 6-8, 2021.

Josef Newgarden joined Mark Miles and several Grand Prix officials to announce the event. Most die-hards knew that the event was going to be announced on Wednesday. What we did not know was the date and the actual layout.

Reports started swirling Tuesday night that it was going to be scheduled in late August. That made no sense to me because it had already been reported that the paddock would be located at Nissan Stadium, home of the Tennessee Titans. Most likely, the NFL will go to only two or three preseason games next year, as opposed to four. That meant early August would be freed up, but late August had a 50-50 shot each year of going up against the NFL preseason. That just didn’t seem like it would work. As it turned out, those reports were false and the early August date stood. What that means for Mid-Ohio in 2021, I’m not sure – but it will most likely either be moved up to late July or mid-August. I guess we’ll find out when the full schedule is released later this fall.

W also didn’t know the layout. The last time the Music City Grand Prix made a pitch to IndyCar the proposed layout circled around the stadium, utilizing the stadium parking lots and side roads. It was going to be a clumsy layout of a few short and narrow straightaways combined with a lot of ninety-degree turns. There was not a lot of imagination to it and it appeared it would produce a snoozer. Fortunately, that proposal never got off the ground.

The track layout that was proposed Wednesday was certainly unique, to say the least. Like Mid-Ohio, the starting line and the finish line, will be in two different spots. But that’s far from the most unique thing about this track.

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There will be two long straightaways on each lap of the 2.17 mile, eleven turn circuit. The straightaways connect two series of slow corners. One friend of mine called it “…two Mickey Mouse sections connected by two ridiculous straightaways”. I’m paraphrasing, but I know he used the term “Mickey Mouse” more than once.

It’s those straightaways that caught my eye. They will be crossing the Cumberland River twice – going both ways on the Korean Veterans Memorial Bridge. Supposedly, this will be the first time a major racing series will cross a large body of water. I believe it. I can’t ever remember seeing any race cars cross a bridge over a lake or river. The Cumberland River is not small. It certainly isn’t as big as the Mississippi River or the Ohio River, but it’s much larger than the White River that runs through Indianapolis. It’s big enough to handle large barges going opposite directions with no problem. Not only is the bridge long, but it sits very high over the water to accommodate taller vessels.

I’ll admit, when I first heard that the track would be crossing the river, I had flashbacks of the famously bad movie Driven – where Jimmy Bly and Beau Brandenburg jump out of their cars and dive into the lake to save Memo Moreno, whose car was launched upside down into a nearby lake. The fact that it happened in that particular movie tells me that it could never happen in real life. I will always maintain that Driven is not only the worst racing movie ever made, it is simply the worst movie ever made. If you haven’t seen it and need a good laugh (it’s not a comedy), watch Driven…but I digress.

In all honesty, I do have slight concerns about cars locking wheels on the straightaway section on the bridge. I still have visions of how violently Jeff Krosnoff went sailing when he and Stefan Johansson locked wheels at Toronto in 1996. Krosnoff did not survive the accident. But I have faith that IndyCar will take the necessary precautions to make sure that a car flying off into the water is not a concern.

I see this as an event similar to Long Beach. The racing may or may not be spectacular, but those that go to the three-day event will participate in one heck of a party. In fact, on Wednesday the CEO of the Music City Grand Prix said that if half the people leave the event and never see a race car, but they had a great time – then they’ve done their job.

Just yesterday at work, I had people that I know have absolutely no interest in racing come up to me and say they wanted to go just because they’ve never seen cars like that in person. If they go, racing will be just one of many activities going on at the venue. There will be multiple concerts, gourmet food offerings and entertainment options right on site that most cities cannot offer.

The race course is within walking distance of Lower Broadway, the heart of all the famous bars and restaurants. There are many hotels within walking distance of the track, but your best options will be on the west side of the river. Take it from a local, east Nashville can get a little sketchy at night. The main entertainment district in downtown Nashville, just west of the river is considered a lot safer and will be your best bet.

I’m more than a little biased, because I love Nashville – but if there’s one thing Nashville knows how to do, that’s put on a big-time event. When they hosted the NHL Final in 2017, more than 200,000 people visited downtown Nashville and all came away with glowing reviews. The NFL was shocked at what Nashville did with the 2019 NFL draft, where 600,000 people turned out on Lower Broadway for the three-day event. I did not go, but I know several that did and they came away very impressed. More importantly, the NFL came away very impressed. This was not lost on IndyCar officials.

Supposedly when Roger Penske and IndyCar officials visited here just before the Gateway weekend, Penske saw the track, the city and listened to about ten minutes of a presentation at Nissan Stadium before he pushed away from the desk and said he had seen enough and was ready to go racing.

I cannot tell you how anxious I am for next August to get here. I am hoping that the COVID-19 situation is well behind us by then. Assuming it is, this will be a must-attend event. It will probably have a very appealing look on television. How good will the racing be? Well…that remains to be seen. But I can tell you from every other standpoint – the Music City Grand Prix will be a successful event and IndyCar’s popularity will grow in the Middle Tennessee area. I, for one, can’t wait.

George Phillips

10 Responses to “IndyCar is Finally Coming to Music City”

  1. The F1 Singapore and (former) Valencia circuits both feature two bridges over water.

  2. Hey George, opening up your house for AirBnB? Haha after they took away racing from the northeast, I already booked my hotel for Nashville. Really hoping the Covid situation diminishes so they event can go ahead.

    Can’t wait, really excited for this.

  3. Jack in Virginia Says:

    George, I have a contender for the worst movie ever made, and it is a racing movie (air racing). Check out The “Tarnished Angels”, starring Rock Hudson. It is about Pylon Air Racing, and includes as one of the racers a 1934 Fairchild 22. Since I have flown the very Fairchild that was used in the movie, I can tell you that it won’t do more than 90 mph in a dive. They actually sped up the footage to make the planes look faster than they were, which looks ridiculous as they whirl around the pylons. Horrible movie!

  4. That track layout is wild! Can’t wait to see it! Many are worried about a car going in the water but I am sure they will have it heavily fenced and secure.

  5. billytheskink Says:

    There is nothing quite like waking up in your own home and bed, driving a short distance to a race track, spending all day at said race track, and then returning to your own home and bed when the day is done. It’s a great feeling, nearly regardless of the type or quality of the racing. It’s why I’ll never utter a cross word about the old Houston parking lot race.

    The previously proposed track layout for Nashville looked like a coffee pot, but this one looks like a ladle (or tipper, if you live in a log cabin or Conestoga wagon). It is definitely very interesting thanks to the bridge straightaways.

    Also, I still contend that Dorf Goes Auto Racing is worse than Driven, and that is despite a genuinely game effort to punch up the “action” from the broadcast booth by the late Bruce Flanders, long-time PA announcer for the Long Beach Grand Prix.

  6. I remember living that dream when CART was in Denver. I got up in my own bed, rode my mountain bike downtown, as I got near the Pepsi Center could hear the sound of turbo v8’s echoing off the buildings of downtown. There is nothing that compares to having a race in your own city. Man those were good times that will probably never happen again here.

  7. Having your own home race is wonderful! There was a time I could hear the cars from the deck of my house at LB. It reminded me of living a few miles west of Ascot Park as a kid. I so missed LB this year, but plan to go next year. Nashville is a strong maybe too.

  8. Shyam Cherupalla Says:

    I wonder if they have taken into account how the bridge will be able to withstand harmonics and Vibration when 25 Racecars with high frequency and engine power blasting by over it during the race

  9. Congrats to Nashville for getting this event.

    Given the little number of street races on this year’s actual calendar, and the fact that, here in Germany, next year’s carnival celebrations have already been called off for the most part, I wish the city of Nashville the best of luck with the new event.

    Maybe booking the nearby oval on the same date in case a replacement circuit would be needed due to restrictions that would prevent a street race next year might be a good idea for the promoter or the series?

    Sorry to be a naysayer but I still have some doubts on if St. Pete will actually go ahead this year.

  10. Between friends and family here in South Bend and Indy, we’re already up to two dozen who want to go. Half of them could care less about racing, they just want a fun reason to go to Nashville. I think attendance is going to be outstanding. I’m gonna be a busy man putting this together! Haha. Really looking forward to my 1st trip ever to Music City!!!!!! Can’t wait!

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