Today’s question: Who will win the inaugural Big Machine Music City Grand Prix this Sunday, Aug. 8 on the streets of Nashville, Tennessee (5:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN)?
Curt Cavin: Obviously, this is impossible to forecast since no one has any experience with this temporary street circuit. However, Mr. Nashville is in this race, and I’m not talking about Josef Newgarden. Scott Dixon drove in six of INDYCAR’s eight races at Nashville Superspeedway, the oval track 30 miles east of the city, winning the last three (2006-08) and finishing second in another. Now, obviously this will be a completely different kind of race, but eight of Dixon’s past 24 wins have come on street circuits. No driver in the field adapts to conditions better than Dixon, and I think you’d agree he is due to get squarely back in championship contention.
Zach Horrall: I’m leaning on the driver that has one of the best track records at new NTT INDYCAR SERIES races: Will Power. Since Power entered the series in 2006, nearly every time we visit a new venue this guy is either in contention or winning. In the first race at Barber Motorsports Park in 2010, Power finished fourth and won the next two races in 2011-12. He won the second-ever race on the IMS road course in 2015 as well as the second edition of the Portland race in 2019. He won the second race of the series’ debut doubleheader weekend in Houston in 2013, as well as the NTT INDYCAR SERIES’ return to Road America in 2016 and INDYCAR’s debut race on the streets of Baltimore in 2011. Plus, he finished second when INDYCAR returned to WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in 2019. Clearly, 2014 NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion Power is a natural at new racetracks. He’s had speed throughout the season, but bad luck has kept him from Victory Lane. Not in Nashville, I suspect.
Paul Kelly: It would almost be too perfect, too storybook, if Nashville-area native Josef Newgarden won the inaugural race on the streets of his hometown. But that’s who I’m picking to win Sunday, and not just because of good home cooking. Newgarden was the hottest driver in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES leading into the Olympic break, with a victory July 4 at Mid-Ohio and three consecutive NTT P1 Awards. And it’s not beyond belief that he should be entering this race coming off three straight wins, as he led late in Detroit-2 before being blitzed by Pato O’Ward, and a mechanical malfunction robbed him of a win in the closing laps at Road America. Joe New has led 172 of the last 205 laps of NTT INDYCAR SERIES competition in the last three races, a strike rate of 84 percent. Sure, Newgarden and Team Penske probably would have preferred to keep rolling with more races in July, but I don’t think their momentum will be blunted much by a few weeks off. Newgarden makes this even more of a four-driver title fight with a win at Nashville.