IndyCar returns this weekend for the tenth round of the season at the inaugural Big Machine Music City Grand Prix, which aims to add to an already enthralling IndyCar season at the newly designed Nashville City course.
The Grand Prix will take place along a 2.17-mile temporary circuit, the first of its kind for over a decade. The circuit will take place around the Nissan Stadium campus and the Korean Veterans Memorial Bridge eventually finishing back at the stadium that is home to the Tennesse Titans NFL team.
For fans, a three-day weekend of food, entertainment, and support races await them, including the GT America, Trans AM, and Stadium Super Trucks series. But importantly, after a hefty four-week break IndyCar picks up where it left off with an unbelievably tight championship battle with plenty of contenders looking to steal a march on the second half of the season.
Championship Battle Becomes Clearer
The ninth round of the season left us with a fascinating picture of the next generation of drivers vying for championship glory.
Chip Ganassi’s Alex Palou came away with the upper hand and taking a well-earned podium and extending his lead in the championship while his closest competitor Patricio O’Ward settled for an eighth-place finish.
Both have claimed wins at both Detroit and Road America and are likely to be in contention again this weekend.
Ganassi’s Scott Dixon and Penske’s Josef Newgarden aren’t far behind, with the Kiwi only 17 points away from O’Ward with a win and a podium to his name already this season. Newgarden, who was born and raised in the suburbs of Nashville, has overcome his early-season struggles and sits 13 points off Dixon after a second and first place in the last three races.
Unless something dramatic occurs, it seems incredibly likely that the championship will ultimately be between these four drivers, presenting an incredibly intriguing contest between the established veterans of the sport, and the next-generation superstars. Dixon and Newgarden are seeking to add to their illustrious list of championships, while O’Ward and Palou both are pushing for their first in their sophomore seasons.
Nashville presents a great chance for one of these drivers to change the championship picture, depending on who can adapt to the new circuit. It will also be important to make no mistakes, qualify well, and keep track-position. Although, we may well see a significant amount of cautionary periods which will provide opportunities to move up through the field as we saw with O’Ward at Detroit, who pulled of some incredibly impressive moves to ultimately steal the win from Newgarden in the closing laps.
Helio Castroneves Returns After Signing Full-Time for 2022
Helio Castroneves returns to the IndyCar paddock as part of his six-race deal with Meyer Shank Racing, the team which saw him claim victory at this year’s Indianapolis 500. It is understood that he will run in all five of the season’s remaining road and street course races this year.
The Brazilian recently announced that he will race with the team full-time in 2022, in place of Britain’s Jack Harvey whose destination is unknown. It is unclear as to the reason’s behind the separation, but it is likely that they were coming to the end of a contract together. Rahal Letterman Lanigan is being touted as a potential destination for Harvey.
In the recent mid-season IndyCar test at Portland International Raceway, both Harvey and Castroneves were second and third respectively behind Arrow McLaren SP’s Patricio O’Ward.
As the most experienced driver on the grid alongside Scott Dixon, Castroneves will be an exciting driver to watch on this newly-designed track.
Power on Energy Save?
Will Power is one of a range of drivers seeking their first win of the 2021 season at Nashville. However, the Australian is extremely unfortunate to not have taken victory at Detroit. He has one of the longest winning streaks in the series, having taken the top spot of the podium in every season since 2006, then known as Champ Car.
Rossi and Pagenaud are also seeking their first win of the year, while the likes of Colton Herta and Rinus VeeKay are also in desperate need of a strong weekend to restart their title charges. However, Power will be a man on a mission this weekend and may have returned well-rested from the summer break with the mental reset he needed.
With Penske securing their first win of the season last time out at Mid-Ohio, and getting something of a ‘monkey off their back’. The momentum could be with them heading into the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix.