NASHVILLE, Tennessee. While he understands why the problematic relaunch zone of the Music City Grand Prix will be changed for the second year, it’s understandable why Markus Eriksson would like the circuit to remain the same for IndyCar drivers.
A Chip Ganassi Racing driver was caught in one of the many traffic jams at the first event on the streets of downtown Nashville. but circle 5 shunt it also helped Ericsson win the race.
After serving a stop-and-go penalty, Eriksson switched to a brilliant conversational strategy that saw him pass pole seated Colton Herta and take the lead in the final 25 laps.
INDYCAR IN NASHVILLE: Schedule, details to watch this weekend on NBC.
NEW FOR NASHVILLE YEAR 2: Details of course changes and their reasons
“Personally, I like the way it was last year, simply because of how it ended,” Eriksson said. “But it makes racing a little better. More flow. This may be a good thing because there have been a few places along the track where it gets pretty tight and maybe a little too twisty.
“I think the challenge the circuit presented last year was really cool. When we talked to the riders, everyone enjoyed the track last year, just for some reason there were a lot of accidents. The restart zone was one of the problems.”
Eriksson collided with Sebastien Bourdais, who braked on the way to the green on the first restart due to an almost blind last corner after a short straight on the 11-turn circuit.
Markus Eriksson takes to the air!
Eriksson sits behind Bourdais and a warning comes out later. TV: NBCSN
— INDICAR on NBC (@IndyCaronNBC) August 8, 2021
IndyCar has cured a wave of crashes by moving the restart zone from the start-finish line to the long straight Korean War Veterans Memorial Bridge leading to Turn 9 (where the race started last year). The top of Turn 11 has been widened by 4 feet to provide better visibility into the 3.1-mile track’s tightest turn (which is located in front of Nissan Titans Stadium).
IndyCar also narrowed Turn 9 by 25 feet (from 85 to 60 feet wide), which should provide more braking space in the slower corner and smooth out transitions to and from the bridge, as well as more roughness on the track. turn 5.
The changes have reduced the length of the street circuit by 0.07 miles (and shortened the 80-lap race by 5.6 miles) and will hopefully also reduce accidents and long delays and stops. Last year’s race was marred by two red flags and 33 laps under amber out of nine cautionary flags – five more than any other road or street circuit in 2021.
“I think the restart area was an important one that needed to be changed, so it’s a very simple change,” said Arrow McLaren SP driver Felix Rosenquist, who finished eighth as one of 12 of 27 riders who avoided participating in any yellow races. Nashville debut. “I ran this circuit in a simulator with other modifications, and to be honest, nothing special. I thought Turn 9 seemed a bit more difficult.
“It really doesn’t make much of a difference. It’s just a slower corner that will probably encourage more overtaking because last year he was quite fast so you needed a lot of confidence to send him there to overtake someone. So it’s potentially better to race and yes, hopefully we avoid a red flag deal this year.”
Herta, who completed 39 of 80 laps last year with the dominant number 26 Dallara-Honda before crashing in Turn 9 with five laps to go chasing Eriksson, said being ahead could be a big disadvantage with the new restart zone.
“It will be difficult if you are the leader to make a good jump,” Herta said. “It’s a very long straight coming out of a very slow corner. I think it’s better this way because we don’t need extra-long safety cars and just a mess like Turn 11 was last year at restarts.
“I think it’s a good decision. It’s going to be tough for the leader, but it’s a really long straight (and) now with tighter turn 9, probably a pretty good braking zone. But it will be interesting. This will surely contribute to some playthrough and maybe the guys will test it inside turn 8 before restart and whatnot. It will definitely be interesting.”
At the start and restart, the NTT IndyCar Series tries to gain an advantage by leading the field towards the green flag. At the first start, the pole sitter is in radio contact with race director Kyle Novak to get the exact acceleration point, and on restarts, the leader is given the right to decide where to press the gas in a certain zone.
In Nashville, the leader is expected to move at full speed near the top of the 1,650-foot bridge (which is suspended 80 feet above the Cumberland River) after most of the 26-car field left the previous Turn 8.
Ericsson believes that the long, straight road will also give an advantage to trailing vehicles.
“I definitely think so because it’s such a long straight line too,” he said. “When you do this restart, there will be a lot of drafting and slipstreaming, and turn 9 is a pretty open entry. So it’s a good place to overtake. It’s not ideal for a leader. Elsewhere it was easier to jump, start moving and defend the position.
I can’t. Believe. It. We just won @MusicCityGP 🏆. What an amazing teamwork from Team #8 and everyone at @CGRTeams . So grateful. I still don’t understand how it happened. But so incredibly happy 🤩 #ME8 #INDICAR pic.twitter.com/1A4IydJrh7
— Marcus Ericsson (@Ericsson_Marcus) August 9, 2021
“Actually, last year when you were in the lead it was pretty easy because you couldn’t be attacked where the restart zone is. Whereas now it will definitely be difficult for the leader to defend himself. You need to get really good at this restart if you’re going to defend your turn 9 lead on the restart.”
Even if the race goes smoother in its second year, there could still be more track changes to come depending on how Nashville’s constantly exploding skyline full of high-rise cranes continues to evolve.
“I think there are other changes we can make to the course in the future as there are some developments in downtown,” said Nashville native Joseph Newgarden. “I know the promoters are really interested in this: how can we continue to develop this track?
“But I think we will have a much better surface this year. It’s always hard. You’re out on the track for the first time, you don’t really have a good test run until you’ve done a race weekend. You leave the race weekend and say, “OK, now we know how to do it better?” I think they are ready for this year. (The restart zone will be) much better.”