Taking a Lap of the Music City Grand Prix

Before getting started, I have a medical update on my wife, Susan. As most of you know, Susan was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer thirteen months ago. After six months of grueling chemo, then surgery in February followed by oral chemo and radiation – her treatments were completed in early June. She had her first post-treatment scans this past Monday. Tuesday morning, we learned the results of her scan. I am ecstatic to announce that her scans on Monday were clear!

In fact, her oncologist used the M-word (miracle). While it’s a little to early to proclaim her to be cured, this is a very good sign. She has no treatments or anything cancer-related scheduled in her immediate future. Her next scans are scheduled for November 9. Thanks for indulging me as I try to keep everyone updated on her condition. This news will make this race weekend more special than it already was going to be. – GP

The track for the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix is finally built and in place. Still, there has never been an IndyCar wheel turned on it. That won’t happen until Friday afternoon at 3:10 local time, for Practice One. IndyCar drivers will be given a total of an hour and fifteen minutes on Friday, and another forty-five minutes on Saturday to learn all of the nuances of a track no one has been on before trying to qualify late Saturday afternoon.

While everyone is in the same boat, that seems like an almost impossible task. How much data can the teams and drivers gain in a total of two hours split among two days?

That’s where modern technology comes in. Prior to arriving in Nashville, drivers have already spent countless hours in simulators to learn as much of the track as they possibly can. Nothing replaces actual seat time, but the simulators have greatly accelerated the ramp-up time of learning new tracks.

Other new tracks have joined the NTT IndyCar Series in the last decade, but they have all been permanent facilities. The only new temporary street circuits to join the series over the past decade have been Baltimore (2011) and Houston (2013). I know simulators existed then, but I don’t know if the technology existed to replicate a non-existent circuit then as it does now.

Romain Grosjean credits the simulator from Honda Performance Development (HPD) for preparing him to win the pole for the GMR Grand Prix at Indianapolis last May. He had never raced on the track before, but learned enough of the track from the simulator to win the pole on the same day as his first practice. The next day, he finished second in the race. That’s how effective the simulators are for preparing drivers for new tracks.

On Monday, HPD released a video of Grosjean taking a virtual lap around the track layout of the Music City Grand Prix through the simulator. I have driven my car around the proposed 2.17 mile course, dealing with stop lights and traffic. It took a while to get around the layout during weekend traffic. It was amazing how quickly Grosjean’s car makes it through the flowing venue on a closed course, compared to normal Nashville congestion.

I can’t speak for the high speed bumps, but after driving over the circuit numerous times over the last couple of months, I can say they did an excellent job of replicating the stadium setting and the surrounding area, right down to the Exxon Station at the fast left-hander as they are coming off of the bridge on the east side of the Cumberland River.

While finding the video on You Tube, I also came across this video of Grosjean in the HPD simulator. I’m sure Chevy has one just as sophisticated, as well as Dallara’s on Main Street in Speedway. I knew they all did it, but I was impressed with the simulated motion of the cockpit of the simulator.

Technology has come a long way. You wonder how teams and drivers adapted to the flurry of new temporary street circuits that showed up in the eighties and nineties, when the technology did not exist to accurately replicate a track for a simulator. I would imagine those first practice sessions were beyond intense.

If I wasn’t excited enough already for this weekend, this video really got my blood pumping. I’ve been saying for weeks that this is going to be a great event, but I was very skeptical how great the race itself was going to be. After taking this virtual lap with Grosjean behind the wheel, I’m thinking the is circuit is going to be pretty racy after all.

George Phillips

8 Responses to “Taking a Lap of the Music City Grand Prix”

  1. dieseld68 Says:

    Great news on Susan! Looking forward to the race, can’t be there, but I think your right!

  2. Love that view of the gas station! I wonder how the owners there feel about the race closing off their station though, for several days. Bet he got some sort of a payoff for that! Wonder if it’s open for snacks?!?

  3. I LOVE hearing that about your wife!

    I’m so excited to get downtown Friday and welcome Indy Car back to Nashville. As a lifelong Indy Car fan living here it makes me so proud to be part of this.

    Best wishes to you and your wife!

  4. Congrats to Susan and to you. I’m really happy for both of you.

    Enjoy your hometown race.

  5. Great news about Susan! Hoping for another clear scan in November.

  6. Fantastic news! Very glad to hear that things are going so well. Hope to see you guys at the track this weekend (I’ll be there Saturday and Sunday)!

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