Note: The editorial staff at INDYCAR.com is taking a look back at the 10 biggest moments of 2021 in INDYCAR in this year-end series, with one installment appearing on the site per day in countdown fashion from Dec. 22-31.
The most anticipated new INDYCAR venue in at least a decade became the most-watched series race on an NBC cable channel. The combination drew 1.212 million viewers, the most for a series race on cable since 1998.
Indeed, the inaugural Big Machine Music City Grand Prix on Aug. 8 on the streets of Nashville, Tennessee, was thrilling, with the roar of the Chevrolet and Honda engines reverberating through the electric downtown and an estimated 60,000 people experiencing the event’s thrilling vibe and the 80-lap race.
At the center of attention was the 1,650-foot Korean War Veterans Memorial Bridge over the Cumberland River, which NTT INDYCAR SERIES twice crossed during the 2.17-mile circuit. The picturesque setting was one of the most photographed aspects of the event that used the Tennessee Titans’ football stadium as a base.
“It’s probably the coolest shot of the year when you look at the cars going over the bridge with Nashville in the background,” said Josef Newgarden, who was raised in the Nashville suburb of Hendersonville and who lives 10 minutes from the street circuit. “We have one of the prettiest skylines out there.”
The action was similarly eye-catching.
With the cars approaching 200 mph as they descended from the bridge, the start’s first turn was one of the best-designed corners in street course racing. A sweeping left-hander invited drivers to take different lines, and many did. But it also invited trouble, which many drivers fell for.
Colton Herta dominated the action Friday and Saturday, winning the NTT P1 Award in convincing fashion. The Andretti Autosport w/Curb-Agajanian driver led a race-high 39 laps in the race, too, but got caught behind Chip Ganassi Racing’s Marcus Ericsson late in the race. Herta’s opportunity to win was lost when he banged his car off the wall at the corner following the second pass over the bridge with five laps to go.
Ericsson’s race day was even more eventful. He started 18th but found himself in a mess on the first restart, at Lap 5. There, he ran into the back of Sebastien Bourdais’ AJ Foyt Racing entry, lifting the front end of his car in the air. Ericsson’s Ganassi machine was nearly vertical before the front end fell hard to the surface. Remarkably, the car suffered only cosmetic damage, and the cycle of ensuing pit stops eventually put Ericsson in the lead ahead of Herta.
Ericsson went on to lead 37 laps and score the victory, his second of the season and of his INDYCAR career. It certainly was a signature moment in an event to celebrate.