Big Machine Music City Grand Prix

Note: The INDYCAR Writers’ Roundtable is looking back at a fantastic, entertaining 2021 NTT INDYCAR SERIES schedule to offer discussion and opinions about a variety of topics. This 10-part series will run regularly in October.

Today’s question: What 2021 race will you rewatch the most during the offseason?

Curt Cavin: The Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge, although not because Helio Castroneves made history after a terrific duel with Alex Palou. No, I want to watch where Simon Pagenaud came from. He qualified 26th, the lowest of his 10 career IMS races, yet battled his way through the 33-car field to finish third. Castroneves said it was the closing rate of the Frenchman that he was most concerned about on the final lap. For what it’s worth, here’s an interesting statistic about Pagenaud’s Indy 500 career: He has qualified 21st or lower five times but overall has finished the race an average of 11 positions higher.

Zach Horrall: There are many NTT INDYCAR SERIES races that I’ll be watching over the offseason. The first one will be the GMR Grand Prix that kicked off the Month of May in Indianapolis. I thought this race was incredible from the drop of the green flag. My notables from that race: a four-wide frenzy into Turn 1 on Lap 1; that incredible pass by Rinus VeeKay into Turn 7 when he split Alex Palou and Jimmie Johnson; the end-of-race battle between a rising INDYCAR star and a seasoned F1 veteran; an emotional finish with Rinus’ mom and dad cheering from pit lane. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. What more could you want?

Paul Kelly: My first thought was the first race of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix doubleheader, in which Marcus Ericsson drove to his first NTT INDYCAR SERIES victory when Will Power’s crippled car sat on pit lane, unable to fire despite entering the pits for the red flag in the lead. But I think that race – and Power’s horrible luck – may lose some of its shock value in a replay. So, I must go with the inaugural Big Machine Music City Grand Prix in Nashville. The race had everything. Huge crowds, a challenging street circuit that included a bridge crossing, Colton Herta’s mind-boggling speed, Marcus Ericsson’s great drive to win after nearly launching into orbit on a Lap 5 collision with Sebastien Bourdais, Herta stuffing his car into the barriers on his late charge to the front, etc. Nashville also was memorable for me because my 93-year-old father, who is curious about racing but not a massive fan, watched every minute of the race and buzzed about it on a FaceTime call with me later that evening. That’s a memory I want to relive often.