Nashville Preview

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It’s finally time for the second annual Big Machine Music City Grand Prix. For the second year in a row, the streets of downtown Nashville will come to life this morning with the sounds of race cars and live music. Looking at the weekend schedule, it looks as if there will be an ample supply of both in our hometown. Track activity starts this morning with practice for the Trans-Am Series.

Unlike last year, Indy Lights will be racing here this weekend – giving the locals more exposure to open-wheel racing. The Stadium Super Trucks return to Nashville, along with SRO GT America. Of course, the main attraction will be the NTT IndyCar Series.

It was somewhat surreal having an IndyCar race in the town where we live. We went to every single Firestone Indy 200, that was contested at Nashville Superspeedway in the 2000s, but the last IndyCar race on the Nashville oval was run in 2008 – but that was a year before I started this site. Last year was our first time to cover a race, while getting to sleep in our own bed.

Unfortunately Susan won’t be joining me at the track this weekend, now will she be sleeping in her own bed. As of this writing on Thursday night, she is still hospitalized at Vanderbilt University Hospital. She had a rough time of it earlier this week, but she is much, much better. We really like our first experience at Vanderbilt. They seem to really want to find out what is causing her continued infections, rather than just treating her symptoms. it sounds as if they are zeroing in on where the infection has been festering since April.

They said she may be released as early as Friday, but they also said most likely she would stay the weekend. Either way, she is too weak to go to the track. But I plan to be at the track all weekend. She understands she can’t go, and I have her blessing. I am actually closer to her while at the track, than I am at work or at home. Keep praying for her to have a full recovery from all this that has been pulling her down for the past four months; so that she’ll be back at race tracks next season.

There have been a few needed modifications to this track since last year’s race. I know Marshall Pruett called this race a sh** show last year, and compared it to New Hampshire in 2011 – but I didn’t think it was that bad, all things considered. The late start time (necessitated by NBC’s Olympic coverage) coupled with nine caution periods and two red-flags saw an IndyCar street race finish in the dark. If you watched the race on TV, it looked fairly light, because of the magic of TV cameras opening up the iris. But if you were at the race, you know that it was very dark when Marcus Ericsson made his way to victory lane.

The biggest bottle-neck last year was Turn Eleven, the final turn before heading to the finish line on what is called the main straightaway between Nissan Stadium and the pits. That was where many of the problems took place. That turn has been widened by six feet. Nathan Brown, of The Indianapolis Star, reported it as four feet yesterday; but it is six feet wider.

They have also made it strictly the Finish Line on that stretch of road. Last year, the race started as the field was coming back over the bridge and headed towards Turn Nine. But all restarts took place in the tight area right in front of the Titan’s stadium. That was a mistake. The finish of the race will be flagged from that are in front of the stadium, because there are a lot of high-priced seats and suites in that area. Race officials want those patrons at to get to see the winner talking the checkered-flag. But all re-starts will now take place as the field is coming across the bridge toward the stadium.

The Music City Grand Prix has also paid for the transition areas on and off of the bridge to be re-paved. They have also done some slight modifications on the section across the Cumberland River, in downtown Nashville proper.

Will these changes help? We’ll know by late Sunday afternoon, because the starting time has been moved up two hours from last year, to 2:30 pm CDT. If they don’t work, I know that the leadership of this event want this to work, and they will continue to tweak the track and everything else associated with the event.

There is still buzz locally over this event. You always wonder if Year Two of a successful event will taper off. That doesn’t seem to be the case. They have done a good job promoting the race via local TV news, and traditional radio, TV ads as well as a very aggressive social media campaign. It has worked. I know several people that bought tickets last year that are returning this year. I also know some that did not attend the inaugural event, but will be present for the second edition.

As for the race, Marcus Ericsson won last year’s race after a wild ride over the car of Sébastien Bourdais. His lead in the championship has now slipped away, and Ericsson now trails Will Power by nine points. I don’t think that will reverse this weekend, as I don’t think Ericsson will be a repeat winner. In fact, I think he will probably end up mid-pack, by the time the checkered-flag falls.

Colton Herta dominated this race a year ago, but he crashed in the late stages while chasing Ericsson. He has been inconsistent this season, and i think it will bite him again at some point this weekend.

Nashville native and resident Josef Newgarden did not do well in this race, nor did his team. Team Penske has turned things around this season, so I suspect Newgarden will fare better this weekend than a year ago. He desperately wants to win this race in his hometown, and I think he has a good shot. I also think that the other Ganassi cars will do well, Jimmie Johnson excluded. Alex Palou will do very well as he continues to perform with a ton of distractions going on.

But for some reason, I like Scott Dixon in this race. He has had a year to study on what he learned of this track, after finishing second to his teammate last year. Dixon is going to win Sunday’s race and continue his re-awakened championship run.

Practice One gets underway this afternoon at 3:15 pm local time (CDT), and will be shown live on Peacock. Practice Two will take place Saturday at 11:15 am CDT on Peacock. Qualifying gets underway on Peacock at 3:30 pm CDT on Saturday. Sunday’s Morning Warm-up begins at 9:15 am on Peacock. Race coverage on Big NBC begins at 2:00 pm CDT, while the green flag flies at 2:15 pm CDT.

As usual, I will post here throughout the race weekend. I will post this morning once I go see Susan at the hospital and get settled at the track, then again after the IndyCar practice; then pretty much throughout the weekend – just to give a fan’s perspective. You can also follow me on Twitter at @Oilpressureblog, for photos, videos and comments. Please check back later, and welcome to Nashville!

George Phillips

8 Responses to “Nashville Preview”

  1. S0CSeven Says:

    You go Vanderbilt. Take care of our girl.

  2. billytheskink Says:

    Glad to hear Susan is doing better and prayers that she continues to recover well. It is actually kind of neat that you will be closer to her at the race track than at home…

    I appreciate that several changes and tweaks were made to the track in an attempt to alleviate some of the tightness issues from last year. We are getting to the point in the season where the championship contenders cannot really afford a bad weekend… even if there is only half of the chaos of last year, multiple title contenders could wind up with results that put them well-behind where they want to be.

  3. First off, great to hear about Susan. It’s really amazing how much the care provided by one hospital can differ from that provided by another. (But will you need to reconsider your UT allegiance?)

    And a question: How did Marshall Pruett think that Nashville 2021 compared to New Hampshire 2011? The problem with NH, IMO, had nothing to do with the track and everything to do with TGBB making the decision to restart the race in the rain; whereas the problem with Nashville was almost fully the result of the track (and some poor decisions made by drivers attempting to deal with the track and its limitations).

    • That’s a good question, and I have no answer. FYI…my spam filter originally caught your comment for some reason. I just now saw it and pulled it out of “the black hole”

      • No problem, sir. I learned a couple of years ago that you have to approve any posts that include links, so I figured that something like that happened this time.

  4. I think the track needed a bit more than a tweak, but hope I’m wrong and the event goes well. Best wishes to Susan to get home.

  5. I prayed that you and Susan have a good weekend.
    I assume that Susan will try to view the IndyCar race on television.

  6. May Susan recover soon.

    Here’s wishing everybody a good and safe weekend of racing.

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