The NTT IndyCar Series descended upon Nashville for the inaugural Big Machine Music City Grand Prix, but chaos in turn descended upon Sunday’s race. Nine cautions and much confusion took place over the eighty-lap race as drivers battled through the tight confines of downtown Nashville, with Marcus Ericsson having an especially tumultuous experience as he went from flying through the air to winning for the second time in his career.
The first quarter was marred by numerous incidents almost immediately. Dalton Kellett‘s car stalled after just one lap due to the steering wheel disconnecting to produce the first caution, while lap 13 saw Ericsson hit Sébastien Bourdais in the rear and briefly go airbourne; despite the hang time and landing, Ericsson remained in the race while Bourdais’ day came to an end, though Ericsson received a stop-and-go penalty for avoidable contact. Josef Newgarden also made contact with Graham Rahal and suffered toe damage, beginning a stroke of misfortune for Team Penske.
Penske would be involved in the next two yellow flags beginning with Scott McLaughlin getting spun by Ed Jones on lap 16. Further compounding the organisation’s woes was a wreck on lap 20 in which Will Power collided with team-mate Simon Pagenaud and sent him into the tyre barrier, causing as many as ten drivers including Jimmie Johnson to come to a stop. A red flag was deployed to facilitate cleanup, during which Johnson was disqualified for working on his car during the delay.
Rinus VeeKay‘s crash on lap 31 resulted in another caution but also further chaos on pit road as pole winner Colton Herta, who had dominated the event up to this point, exited pit road in second due to the pace car being slowed down but restarted fourth as Ericsson had beaten him to the blend line that determines the leaders. Ericsson therefore became the leader for the restart with an Andretti Autosport quartet of Herta, Ryan Hunter-Reay, James Hinchliffe, and Alexander Rossi in tow.
As the race finally reached the halfway point, Power once again collided with a team-mate as he sent McLaughlin into the wall and Kellett was unable to avoid him. Adding to the calamity was a tyre barrier springing a leak, lengthening the delay.
Herta retook the lead for the green flag on lap 51, though it was short-lived as Patricio O’Ward and Rossi collided to warrant a caution. As Romain Grosjean led the field to the next restart, Dale Coyne Racing/Rick Ware Racing team-mate Cody Ware, making his second IndyCar start, was in the top ten when he spun and stalled on lap 55 to result in another yellow flag. Ware would be disqualified after failing to meet “competitive speed” (a violation of the rulebook’s section 126.96.36.199); incidentally, this meant the race’s two disqualifications came from NASCAR Cup Series regulars as Johnson was a seven-time champion while Ware is a rookie there.
Ericsson was once again the leader as racing resumed on lap 57, but Herta quickly surged through the field to catch Ericsson after six laps. Although Herta attempted to close the margin, he locked up the brakes in turn nine and slammed into the wall near the tyres.
After a second red flag, Ericsson faced pressure from Chip Ganassi Racing ally Scott Dixon on the restart with two laps to go. Dixon could not catch Ericsson as he drove off to his second career victory.
Dixon settled for second to secure his third podium of the year and first since his win at Texas 1 in May. Hinchliffe survived the madness for his first podium since Iowa in 2019, which provides a massive and welcome reprieve for him during a difficult season in which his previous best finish was fourteenth at Detroit. Hunter-Reay also scored his best run of 2021 in fourth after having just one top ten entering the race (tenth at Texas 2).
Thirty-three of eighty laps were run under yellow. The nine cautions were the most in an IndyCar race since Texas in 2017, while the 2013 Grand Prix of Houston was the last non-oval event with that many.
Big Machine Music City Grand Prix Official Results
|1||8||Marcus Ericsson||SWE||Chip Ganassi Racing||02:18:49.830|
|2||9||Scott Dixon||NZL||Chip Ganassi Racing||+ 1.559 sec.|
|3||29||James Hinchcliffe||CAN||Andretti Autosport||+ 2.391 sec.|
|4||28||Ryan Hunter-Reay||USA||Andretti Autosport||+ 2.801 sec.|
|5||15||Graham Rahal||USA||Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing||+ 4.083 sec.|
|6||18||Ed Jones||UAE||Dale Coyne Racing w/ Vasser-Sullivan||+ 4.771 sec.|
|7||10||Alex Palou||ESP||Chip Ganassi Racing||+ 5.533 sec.|
|8||7||Felix Rosenqvist||SWE||Arrow McLaren SP||+ 5.966 sec.|
|9||06||Hélio Castroneves||BRA||Meyer Shank Racing||+ 6.787 sec.|
|10||2||Josef Newgarden||USA||Team Penske||+ 7.528 sec.|
|11||45||Santino Ferrucci||USA||Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing||+ 8.492 sec.|
|12||20||Conor Daly||USA||Ed Carpenter Racing||+ 8.832 sec.|
|13||5||Patricio O’Ward||MEX||Arrow McLaren SP||+ 9.120 sec.|
|14||12||Will Power||AUS||Team Penske||+ 9.595 sec.|
|15||60||Jack Harvey||GBR||Meyer Shank Racing||+ 11.091 sec.|
|16||51||Romain Grosjean||FRA||Dale Coyne Racing w/ Rick Ware Racing||+ 12.276 sec.|
|17||27||Alexander Rossi||USA||Andretti Autosport||+ 16.529 sec.|
|18||59||Max Chilton||GBR||Carlin||+ 24.845 sec.|
|19||26||Colton Herta||USA||Andretti Autosport||Crash|
|20||52||Cody Ware (R)||USA||Dale Coyne Racing w/ Rick Ware Racing||Crash|
|21||22||Simon Pagenaud||FRA||Team Penske||Crash|
|22||3||Scott McLaughlin||NZL||Team Penske||+ 13 laps|
|23||4||Dalton Kellett||CAN||A.J. Foyt Enterprises||Crash|
|24||21||Rinus VeeKay||NED||Ed Carpenter Racing||Crash|
|25||30||Takuma Sato||JPN||Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing||Crash|
|26||48||Jimmie Johnson (R)||USA||Chip Ganassi Racing||Crash|
|27||14||Sébastien Bourdais||FRA||A.J. Foyt Enterprises||Crash|