Photo: Luis Torres/Motorsports Tribune

Up to Speed: Previewing the Inaugural Music City Grand Prix

By Luis Torres, Staff Writer

NASHVILLE – At long last, the most anticipated inaugural race in quite some time is here. The Streets of Nashville is the latest street course added on the NTT IndyCar Series calendar, hoping it can join the likes of Long Beach and St. Petersburg as far as longevity is concerned.

This won’t be the first time the series heads to the Music City as they’ve last visited the area back in 2008 when they used to run at Nashville Superspeedway. It so happened to be a venue where Scott Dixon won the last three races at the track and was the only active driver to have won at the oval.

Clear as day, there won’t be any oval madness this weekend as it’s all about navigating around the narrow and bumpy 2.17-mile street course. As seen from Romain Grosjean’s video driving the circuit on a simulator, there are unknowns entering this weekend.

Out of the last nine street courses, home state hero Josef Newgarden is the only one to have won twice in that span.

Despite having no experience on this particular street circuit, Jimmie Johnson likened the track to others that reside on the IndyCar schedule. During Friday’s media bullpen, Johnson noted that he has heard it has similar characteristics to the championship race in Long Beach. But the general consensus say the similarities more closely resemble Belle Isle.

“Big, fast straightaways and little hairpins, but I haven’t been there yet. [Detroit] was quick in a couple of spots and then very tight in others, and rough, so from my experience in IndyCar, it would be similar to [Detroit],” Johnson explained.

“Seeing a real car on track this morning, it feels even tighter than I thought, and I’m sure we all had a similar impression. [Turns] 5,6,7, you’re like damn, one barely fits…The first half is very enticing. You’re probably going to enter four-wide and there’s really one lane out. I think it’s going to be pretty exciting.”

No matter how the rest of the weekend unfolds, 27 cars will forever be a part of history.

Among those include the return of four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves.

Nashville marks Castroneves’ first IndyCar race since his history 500 triumph, looking to build Meyer Shank Racing going forward. More so that he’ll be back full-time in 2022.

For now, the mindset for Castroneves is delivering strong results and prepare for next season.

“I’m not just going to be here playing around. But it’s important for practitioner details. Again, we’re building a team,” said Castroneves. “We have the same guys from Indianapolis, which is already a big deal. We’re going to continue working on it. Every lap that we put out there, it’s a learning process and it’s been a feeling most for next year.”

At the end of the day, the streets of Nashville will be a vibe filled with unpredictable moments. Whether it’s pit road or on the track, the 11th round of the championship trail is can’t miss television.

By the Numbers

What: Music City Grand Prix, NTT IndyCar Series Race No. 11 of 16

Where: Streets of Nashville – Nashville, Tennessee (Opened: 2021)

When: Sunday, August 8, 2021

TV/Radio: NBCSN / INDYCAR Radio Network (SiriusXM Channel 211) 5:30 p.m. ET

Track Size: 2.17-street course

Race Length: 80 laps, 173.6 miles

From the Driver’s Seat

Ryan Hunter-Reay – No. 28 Andretti Autosport Honda

“Brakes will be key. Obviously I think we’re braking and a little bit of turning at one of the end of the straights, bumpy, things like that.

“We’ve run some kind of rudimentary simulation. I’ve been in the simulator through Nashville. I can tell you it’s definitely bumpy. But we’re used to that with Detroit, Toronto, and things like that. Toronto has a really long back straight and we get away with the braking situation there.”

Scott Dixon – No. 9 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda

“The section [Turn] 9 through 11, or whatever, is kind of similar to Long Beach corners, but I will say [Turns] 4 through 8 is pretty unique. [Turn] 7 and 8 is kind of similar to [Turn] 8 and 9 at St. Pete, so there are little bits here and there.”

Weekend Schedule (All Times Eastern)

Saturday, August 7

  • NTT IndyCar Series Practice No. 2 (1:00 p.m. to 1:45 p.m. – Peacock)
  • NTT IndyCar Series Qualifying (4:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. – Peacock (Live))

Sunday, August 8

  • NTT IndyCar Series Warmup (1:00 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. – Peacock)
  • Music City Grand Prix (5:30 p.m. – 80 laps/173.6 miles – NBCSN)

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From the Pacific Northwest, Luis is a University of Idaho graduate with a Bachelor's degree in Broadcasting and Digital Media and a three-time National Motorsports Press Association award winner in photography. Ever since watching the 2003 Daytona 500, being involved in auto racing is all he's ever dreamed of doing. Over the years, Luis has focused on writing, video and photography with ambitions of having his work recognized.