In Defense of the Hometown Race

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If you watched Formula One’s Grand Prix of Saudi Arabia at Jeddah this past weekend, you saw a race that was far from perfect. In fact, the officiating was somewhat of a nightmare. This is not about Formula One or Sunday’s race that saw Max Verstappen penalized, while Lewis Hamilton went on to victory. Confusing, chaotic and controversial are just a few of the words used to describe Sunday’s race.

So why am I leading off with the race at Jeddah if this is not about F1?

After the race, Marshall Pruett put out a tweet that rubbed me the wrong way, and he used Sunday’s Formula One race as a measuring stick. He compared the fiasco in Saudi Arabia to this year’s Music City Grand Prix and called it the biggest s**t show since the IndyCar race in New Hampshire, which was responsible for Will Power’s infamous double-bird salute.

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I’ve always enjoyed Marshall Pruett’s writing on Racer.com. Since Robin Miller’s passing, he is one of the few I regularly seek out for news in the IndyCar world, after my subscription to Trackside Online. I don’t necessarily agree with everything he has to say, however his news reporting is very accurate. But his tweet struck a nerve with me.

I usually do my best to not engage on social media. It is a pointless exercise. Nothing you say will ever change anyone’s mind, no matter what the subject – politics, IndyCar racing, pineapple on pizza, the pros and cons of candy corn or whether or not Die Hard is a Christmas movie. For the record, I like pineapple on pizza, I love candy corn and Die Hard is not a Christmas movie. It is an action movie that happens to take place during Christmas.

This time, however, I had to respond. I don’t know if it was my hometown pride or just the fact that I felt he was being unreasonable.

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The trouble with the Nashville race was the track design and some overzealous drivers. Some turns were just too tight, especially for those drivers that felt the race had to be won on the first lap. Having the re-starts begin on the straight in front of the stadium and the pits also presented problems. Supposedly, they are strongly considering having all re-starts start at the same point the race started – coming off the bridge. Will that also be the finish line, or will that still be in view of those expensive suites behind the pits?

It really ticked me off when Pruett said “…Nashville deserves its place atop the pantheon of garbage”. The Music City Grand Prix was a first-time event. I think most of us looked at the layout and had questions about how well it would race. I think given a couple of years to tweak the course the local officials will create a very raceable venue.

Jeddah and New Hampshire were officiating fiascos. Except for failing to penalize eventual race winner, Marcus Ericsson for launching himself over the back of the car of Sébastien Bourdais (and destroying it, in the process); I don’t recall any major officiating gaffes. OK…Will Power tried to single-handedly take out his other three teammates. The problem was lots of crashes and multiple red flags that had the end of the race bumping up against darkness.

Track design flaws are excusable for an inaugural event. While it was not a great race from a viewer’s standpoint, it was a fantastic event to attend. The racing will come, but if attendees have a bad time at the first event – they won’t come back.

IndyCar officials were to blame for throwing the green flag in the rain at New Hampshire. You didn’t need a crystal ball to know that cars were going to go sliding as soon as they took the green on slick tires. That was a s**t show. Nashville was not.

Maybe if Pruett had been onsite for the weekend, he may have felt differently. Instead, he was home in California watching it on TV – apparently with a very critical eye. I’m not sure what he expected. Had he not seen the layout before? Considering it was a first-year event, didn’t he realize that this was probably going to invite a few crashes?

My suspicious nature wonders if this goes deeper than it appears. Sunday was not the first time that Marshall Pruett has used the term "s**t show" to describe the Music City Grand Prix. He used the term immediately after the race, almost gleefully. It’s as if he wanted to see the event fail.

Not everyone can like all the circuits on the schedule. Many here take it personally when I make critical remarks about Belle Isle – when I have never set foot on the grounds there. But I waited about twenty years before publicly denouncing it. Pruett was taking shots at the Music City Grand Prix before Ericsson stepped off of the victory podium.

Am I declaring war on Marshall Pruett? Absolutely not. He is too good of a reporter to do that. Plus, in order to declare war on someone, they need to know who you are. Marshall Pruett and I have never had a conversation. I see him in various media centers, but he walks on by without really saying a word to anyone.

I’ll simply end this by saying what I said in response to his tweet. It is absurd and unfair to compare a first-time event like Nashville to New Hampshire. It will be improved next year. New Hampshire never got a next year. End of rant.

George Phillips

12 Responses to “In Defense of the Hometown Race”

  1. Completely agree…. ridiculous comparison. Roll on Nashville ’22!!

  2. Brandon Wright Says:

    I didn’t realize a race could only be classified a sh*t show if bad officiating was involved. I’ve watched a lot of races, the Nashville race was one of the biggest dumpster fires I’ve ever seen, right up there with NOLA. Wasn’t nearly half of it run under caution? I’m sure it was a fun event to attend, with the party atmosphere and everything, but the on-track product was, well, a sh*t show. Doesn’t mean it wasn’t entertaining, but more in the sense of everyone enjoys a train wreck than of quality racing.

  3. James T Suel Says:

    I think your right. With a few changes Nashville can be a great event.

  4. What I am hearing is hometown pride with the Nashville race and what it is like to have a Grand Prix in your home city. I thought it was very entertaining race. It could be the worst race ever, but if it is in your town and you are there to see it with your own eyes its still great no matter what happens. My home race was the Grand Prix of Denver, one that has been criticized here in fact on more than one occasion so I know how you feel George. There is nothing like having an IndyCar race in your home city period. What made Denver interesting was the altitude, just like the Mile High Nationals, altitude adds a whole different dimension of challenges to the cars. Lower downforce and horsepower always made things interesting.

  5. billytheskink Says:

    Marshall is a bit too harsh, given the sheer number of *bleep*-shows that open-wheel racing has seen over the years, but I think his statement is (understandably) colored by recency bias. It was also in response to someone bringing up the Nashville race to him on Twitter, it appears, which explains why the biggest fiasco in open wheel racing this year (perhaps this decade?), the Belgian Grand Prix, did not get called out as Nashville did.

    For what it is worth, Marcus Ericsson actually was penalized for hitting Bourdais at Nashville, in fact he received a relatively rare stop and go penalty, one of the harsher in-race penalties (just short of the even more rarely used stop and hold and disqualification penalties).
    He was able to overcome that penalty due to the numerous cautions.

  6. Paul m senseney Says:

    Wait…..DieHard has always been my favorite Christmas movie….

  7. So do track designers make a virtual model or the circuit (like i-racing, I guess) and have a real driver (or twenty drivers) do laps before they actually build one?

  8. using foul language to express a thought
    is just “common” as my mother used to say.

  9. Stanley Eisen Says:

    Marshall Pruitt is a blowhard trying way too hard to be the next Robin Miller. Pruitt thinks he’s funny (what Californian doesn’t?) but he comes across as a boring know-it-all. Not in Miller’s league. Don’t let him get to you, George, it’s clik-bait. That’s pretty much all he can muster in the off-season….

  10. Discodavid26 Says:

    As a f1 and indycar fan for 30 years … they tend to take it in turns to organise “a shit show” … be it a venue and/or series officiating … it’s rare for both to be running 10/10 at the same time…unfortunately in single seater racing you got to take rough with the smooth … but he was too harsh.… I’ve seen a lot worse then Nashville and like you said first year!

  11. Colorado Springs Northsider Says:

    MP is a narcissistic hack, if you don’t believe me listen to him pontificate on his podcast and look at him paste his bylines on Press Releases by teams (that used to be called plagiarism back in the day). After the race I remember his claim that paddock passes cost over $1000, which as I pointed out to him was disingenuous at best and was in fact a lie, and I provided proof, as typical with MP when you call him on it he disparaged me in an email. The fact this hack didn’t like Nashville should be a badge of honor

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