A Wild Day/Night of Racing in Nashville

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This was one of the more bizarre races I have ever attended in person. I can’t imagine what it was like watching on TV. It all started on Lap One. Despite all predictions, the field got safely through Turn Nine as the race started. But Dalton Kellett either scraped the wall or stalled. Whichever it was, it brought out the first of nine cautions. On the restart, Marcus Ericsson ran up the back of Sébastien Bourdais and the car of Ericsson went airborne at a 45° angle, with his nose pointing up in the air before crashing down.

The mishap ended the day for Bourdais, but both cars made it back around to the pits, remarkably. Ericsson was issued two penalties – one for entering closed pits, when he got a new nose, which sent him to the back of the field. He was also issued a drive-through penalty for avoidable contact. Normally, two penalties like that and a nose change will doom a driver’s day. But this was the type of unusual day that makes this driver win the race.

That is exactly what happened today in the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix. On a day and weekend dominated by pole-sitter Colton Herta, Marcus Ericsson took the lead on Lap 56 and never looked back. Herta made some gutsy moves past James Hinchcliffe and Scot Dixon to take second. It looked as if Herta was going to track down Ericsson and do away with him, take the lead and ultimately the win. Ericsson had other thoughts.

Herta put his nose right on the gearbox of Ericsson, and continued to hold the pressure on him. But as the two entered Turn Nine with five laps to go, Herta slapped the wall hard. Race Control decided to bring out the red flag, to give fans a green-flag finish, which I’ve never been a fan of.

As the sun was setting behind Nissan Stadium, Marcus Ericsson led Scott Dixon and James Hinchcliffe across the line.

Susan was kind enough to go shoot photos in Victory Lane, while I headed into the media center to write. She got some great shots, I thought. As you can tell, it was practically dark for the podium celebration.

Marcus

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Afterward, Ericsson came to the post-race press conference. He was his usual reserved self, but even the quiet Swede couldn’t help but laugh when asked about getting airborne, getting a nose change, serving two penalties and still winning the race.

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Altogether, there were nine caution periods, and two red flags – one earlier for a complete melee in Turn Eleven that blocked the track. How much of that is due to the tight circuit and how much is blamed on driver aggressiveness is now up for debate.

That is going to do it for us as it is now after 9:00 pm and we are still at the track. I still have some writing on my Random Thoughts post for tomorrow. Plus, I have to go to work tomorrow for the first time since Wednesday. It has been a fun vacation as the NTT IndyCar Series came to us, for once. Next Friday, we drive to Indianapolis and do this all over again for the Brickyard weekend.

Thanks to everyone that followed along this weekend, on this site and on social media. As usual, it’s been a blast. Please check back tomorrow as I assess the good and not-so-good of the Inaugural Big Machine Music City Grand Prix.

George Phillips

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