Grand Prix Big Machine Music City

Many NTT INDYCAR SERIES watchers have noted that this is the tightest fight between the top six at this time of the season in the history of the series’ points structure that has lasted for more than 20 years. year.

But Scott McLaughlin says, why not make seven drivers in this championship hunt?

Yes, the #3 Penske DEX Imaging team driver is the seventh driver in the standings as the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix lines up in Nashville as the 14th of 17 races this season. McLaughlin is 81 points off the Championship lead, but will soon receive a bonus point for winning the NTT P1 award on Saturday and is likely to lead by a lap given his front row starting position. This too is worth a point.

SEE : Starting line-up / tire selection

« I’ve always said it, I kind of feel like an underdog in this race, » McLaughlin said of the title chase. “There’s no reason why we can’t have a race. These are four circuits that I really enjoy. »

Clearly, McLaughlin has a lot of ground to cover and make up for, and that starts with today’s 80-lap race around the temporary 11-lap, 2.1-mile street circuit. He expects a tough challenge from No. 2 driver Romain Grosjean, who has yet to win a race in this series. This is Grosjean’s best starting position since taking pole for the GMR Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May 2021.

McLaughlin must also go over some heavyweights in the series, four of whom have won 10 season championships together. Among them are Team Penske teammates, series leader and 2014 champion Will Power and two-time champion Josef Newgarden, as well as six-time champion Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon. Dixon’s teammate Alex Palou is also in contention and defending his championship.

But McLaughlin will be one step ahead of those drivers today. Palou will start fourth in the #10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Honda, O’Ward in fifth in the #5 Chevrolet Arrow McLaren SP and Newgarden in sixth in the #2 PPG Team Penske Chevrolet. Power will start eighth in the No. 12 Verizon Penske Chevrolet, Dixon in fourteenth in the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda and Marcus Ericsson, who is nine points off the lead in second, will start in eighteenth position on the Honda n°8 of Huski Chocolate Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ericsson won the inaugural Nashville race last year from the same 18th starting position. He and his team used a shrewd pit-stop strategy to overcome a penalty for hitting the back of Sebastien Bourdais on the fifth lap restart.

Rookie Christian Lundgaard is the other rider starting in the front three rows – he starts from third position – and like Grosjean, the rider of Rahal Letterman Lanigan’s #30 Honda Shield Cleansers is looking for his first series win. .

After that Nashville race (3 p.m. ET, NBC and INDYCAR Radio Network), the series heads to World Wide Technology Raceway for an oval race on Saturday, August 20, then to the West Coast for permanent road course racing at Portland International. Raceway (Sunday September 4) and WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca (Sunday September 11).

« We finished fourth (at World Wide Technology Raceway), in Portland I outclassed my teammates, » McLaughlin said of his results last year in his rookie campaign in the NTT INDYCAR. SERIES. “I feel like our cars are faster there this year; there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be again.

“Laguna, I love this circuit. I just missed qualifying (last year), as I did (at many circuits). I’m really excited for this last round. Anything can happen, that’s INDYCAR. »

Today’s action begins with the green flag scheduled for 3:30 p.m. (ET). In addition to NBC and its streaming service, Peacock Premium, the INDYCAR radio network will be featured on and the INDYCAR mobile app developed by NTT DATA.

Here’s what you need to know to prepare for today’s action:

Be careful when starting up and restarting

The Big Machine Music City Grand Prix start line is not at the traditional location.

Instead, the race will start on the Korean War Veterans Memorial Bridge, returning from downtown Nashville and heading towards Turn 9. This allows drivers to start on a long straight, as opposed to short straights and the multiple bends that make up the complex around the finish line.

The difference from last year: Turn 9 has been narrowed to accommodate a new set of spectator suites, so watch for congestion there. This is where Colton Herta lost his chance to win last year’s race. He cornered too tightly six laps from the finish as he chased Ericsson.

Last year, dozens of drivers passed Turn 9. The bumps on the bridge make the ride difficult, and although the transitions between the concrete bridge and the asphalt streets have been smoothed out, there are always reasons to alert the pilot.

Also new this year: All restarts will take place here as well.

Heat and humidity again factors

The weather will again be a factor to watch and feel.

Temperatures are expected to rise to around 90°C, which will make for another hot day in the cockpit for all 26 pilots. Yes, Saturday’s thunderstorms brought much-needed rain to the area, but the humidity quickly returned.

Some riders will wear wetsuits, some won’t – the added weight and reliability of the suit are factors that teams consider before fitting the rider with the torso cover.

But 80 straight laps is more than any driver has experienced this weekend, and on the temporary street circuit the body damage will be real. The riders who stay focused will be the ones who excel. INDYCAR has mandated the use of an Aeroscreen duct to channel air into the cockpit for this race.

About these tires

The heat and humidity will also make the race track slippery, creating a struggle to find grip on a bumpy course that already makes it difficult to maintain control of the race car.

NTT INDYCAR SERIES teams have two compounds to work with, known as primary compounds and spare compounds. Alternates typically have red sidewalls, but new to this race is the use of green sidewalls to show Firestone’s commitment to sustainability initiatives.

These tires contain rubber in the sidewalls that comes from guayule, a drought-tolerant, heat-tolerant, woody desert shrub native to the American Southwest. Natural rubber is extracted from the branches, bark and root of the guayule.

Firestone Racing also provided over 1,500 racing tires for the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix. Firestone Racing’s parent company (Bridgestone) is based in Nashville, and it donated more than 10,000 tires to help build the crash barriers in the run-off areas around the course.

Dixon leads the warm-up

Dixon, a six-time series champion, led the warm-up this morning in 1 minute, 15.6050 seconds on the #9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. Dixon set his fastest time on one of his final laps of the 30-minute session.

SEE : Warm-up results

Colton Herta overcame the disappointment of his crash in qualifying on Saturday by finishing second in 1:15.6760 on the #26 Gainbridge Honda. NTT P1 award winner McLaughlin was third in 1:16.0134 in the #3 Chevrolet DEX Imaging.

Dale Coyne Racing with HMD may have some work to do between the warm-up and the race this afternoon. The warm-up ended when rookie David Malukas pulled out on the track in the #18 Honda HMD, signaling his team was losing power.

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