Last year’s NTT IndyCar Series race on the streets of Nashville featured the start of the race on the downside of the Korean War Veterans Memorial Bridge and all restarts at the finish line next to Nissan Stadium. While that arrangement led to a picturesque start photo, it led to chaos on restarts that directly affected the outcome of the race.
Some drivers anticipated the restarts after a full course yellow, leading to theatrics like eventual winner Marcus Ericsson flying over the rear of Sebastien Bourdais’s car and to a large traffic jam that led to a mid-race red flag.
— INDYCAR on NBC (@IndyCaronNBC) August 9, 2021
REPLAY: The incident involving multiple drivers that brought out the red flag in Nashville.
— NTT INDYCAR SERIES (@IndyCar) August 8, 2021
For the second edition of the Music City Grand Prix, IndyCar moved the restart zone to the starting line on the bridge heading to Turn 9. The finish line remains the same from last year.
“It’s going to help the scenario,” Helio Castroneves said. “The chaotic things that we had last year because of the straightaway and the fast corner, you might still have some of the issues in the next corner. However, I don’t think it’s going to be the accordion effect that we had last year that people slowing down and coming fast and that was the iconic moment when Marcus Ericsson started flying over because he was just anticipating the green, that’s going to happen.
“I think it’s going to be less difficult and less chaotic of a scenario than what happened last year. That’s good news, IndyCar is learning from it and we keep it moving forward.”
The change has been well received by most drivers, but for the race leader it offers almost no chance to defend the lead as the field approaches a wide portion of track leading to a narrow
“In the drivers’ briefing, I was like, ‘If you’re leading, can you go on the exit of (Turn) 8 to get the jump on the bridge,’ and they were like, ‘No, you need to wait until the middle of the bridge until you go,’” said Ericsson. “Like, the leaders will have the others right up their gearbox going down to (Turn) 9, so it could be hard to defend your lead if you’re on a restart this year because of that, I think.”
Colton Herta crashed from second place while pursuing Ericsson in last year’s Nashville race and echoed his competitor’s sentiments.
“It’s going to be tough as the leader, I think, to get a good jump on the field, but it is a really long straight,” Herta said. “But now with the tighter Turn 9, probably a pretty good braking zone. It’ll be interesting, though. It’ll for sure promote some passing, I believe, and yeah, maybe guys will check it up the inside of Turn 8 before the restart and whatnot.”
Felix Rosenqvist finished eighth in last year’s Nashville round and was also on board with the changes to the 11-turn, 2.1-mile circuit. In the last nine IndyCar races, Rosenqvist has seven finishes in the top 10 and is currently eighth in points.
“I think the restart zone was the big one that needed to change, so that’s a great easy change,” Rosenqvist said. “I drove that track on a simulator with other changes, and honestly it’s nothing really major, just thought Turn 9 just seems a bit tighter.
“But yeah, it’s very similar. It doesn’t really change much. It’s just a slower corner maybe that will promote more overtaking because it was kind of quick last year, so you needed a lot of confidence to send it in there to pass someone. So potentially better racing, and yeah, hopefully avoiding the red flag deal this year.”
NBC’s live coverage of the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix will be on Sunday, August 7th, starting at 3:00 p.m. ET.