Grand Prix Big Machine Music City

Many NTT INDYCAR SERIES fans have noted that this is the closest top-six battle to the end of the season in the history of the series’ current 20-plus-year points structure. .

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

Yes, the driver of No. 3 DEX Imaging Team Penske driver is the seventh driver in the standings as the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix lines up in Nashville as 14th of 17 races for the season. McLaughlin is 81 points off the series lead, but will soon receive a bonus point for winning the NTT P1 award on Saturday and there’s a good chance he’ll lead a lap given his No. 1 starting position. . This too is worth a point.

SEE: Starting range / Tire choice

“I’ve said it all along, I kind of feel like an underdog in this area,” McLaughlin said of the title chase. “There’s no reason why we can’t race. These are four titles that I really appreciate.

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-turn, 2.1-mile street circuit. He thinks he has a tough challenge from No. 2 starter Romain Grosjean, who is 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 climb over some heavyweights in the series, four of which have combined to win 10 season championships. Among those are Team Penske teammates Will Power, series leader and 2014 champion, and two-time title winner Josef Newgarden, as well as six-time series champion Scott Dixon of Chip Ganassi Racing. Dixon’s teammate Alex Palou, also in the running, is defending his championship.

But McLaughlin will have a head start on these drivers today. Palou will start fourth in the #10 Honda NTT DATA Chip Ganassi with O’Ward fifth in the #5 Chevrolet Arrow McLaren SP and Newgarden sixth in the #2 PPG Team Penske Chevrolet. Power will start eighth in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, Dixon 14th in the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda and Marcus Ericsson, who is nine points off the lead in second place, starts 18th in the No. 8 Huski Chocolate Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.

Ericsson won the inaugural Nashville race last year from the same 18th starting position. He and his team used a clever strategy in the pits to overcome a penalty for hitting the back of Sebastien Bourdais during the restart on lap 5.

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

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 races at Portland International. Raceways. (Sunday, September 4) and WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca (Sunday, September 11).

“We raced fourth (at World Wide Technology Raceway), in Portland I outqualified my teammates,” McLaughlin said of the results he posted last year during his rookie campaign in the NTT INDYCAR. SERIES. “I feel like our cars are faster there this year; no reason why we can’t be quick there again.

“Laguna, I love this track. I just made a mess of qualifying (last year), as I did (at many tracks). Really excited for this last race. Anything can happen; is INDYCAR.

Today’s action begins with the green flag targeted for 3:30 p.m. ET. In addition to NBC and its streaming service, Peacock Premium, the INDYCAR radio network will have the call on and the INDYCAR mobile app powered by NTT DATA.

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

Be careful at startup, reboots

The starting line for the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix is ​​not at the traditional location.

Instead, the race will start at the Korean War Veterans Memorial Bridge on the way back from downtown Nashville and toward Turn 9. This allows riders to start on a longer straight as opposed to the short straights and multiple turns that make up the complex around the finish line.

The difference from a year ago: Turn 9 has been narrowed to accommodate a new set of spectator suites, so watch out for traffic jams there. This is where Colton Herta lost his chance to win last year’s race. He overcooked the corner with six laps to go while chasing Ericsson.

Last year, dozens of drivers passed Turn 9. The bumps on the bridge make driving difficult, and although the transitions from the concrete bridge to the asphalt streets have been smoothed out, the driver still has reason to be on alert.

Also new this year is that all restarts will also take place here.

Heat, humidity factors

Time will once again be something to watch and feel.

Temperatures are expected to return to the low 90s, 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 cool suits, some won’t – the added weight and reliability of the suit are factors teams consider when outfitting the rider with the torso-covering device.

But 80 consecutive laps will be more than any driver has experienced this weekend, and on the deadly temporary street circuit the toll on the bodies will be real. Drivers who maintain supreme focus will be the ones who excel. INDYCAR mandated the use of an Aeroscreen upper duct to channel air into the cockpit for this race.

About these tires

The heat and humidity will also create a smooth racing track, creating a struggle to find grip on a bumpy course that already makes it difficult to keep the race car under control.

NTT INDYCAR SERIES teams have two compounds to work with, known as primaries and alternates. Replacements usually have red sidewalls, but new for this run are green sidewalls to showcase Firestone’s commitment to sustainability initiatives.

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

Additionally, Firestone Racing 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 has 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 at 1 minute, 15.6050 seconds in PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 9 Honda. Dixon’s quick time came on one of his last laps of the 30-minute session.

SEE: Warm-up results

Colton Herta recovered from the disappointment of crashing in qualifying on Saturday by finishing second at 1:15.6760 in the #26 Gainbridge Honda. NTT P1 Award winner McLaughlin was third at 1:16.0134 in the Chevrolet DEX Imaging #3.

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 to a stop on the track in the #18 Honda HMD, signaling a loss of power to his crew.

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