Today’s question: Who will win the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix on Sunday (3 p.m. ET, NBC, INDYCAR Radio Network) on the streets of Nashville?
Curt Cavin: After weeks of struggling to predict race winners, I turned to series points leader Will Power, who responded with this very unhelpful advice. “Impossible to predict in this series,” he said. “There’s just too many fast guys, good teams, good drivers, everything. Try (to) pick a winner each week and try (to) pick a pole sitter. Impossible.” No kidding. Four INDYCAR.com writers have combined to make 39 selections over the 13 races this season, and our accuracy is at 17.9 percent. Late addition Arni Sribhen easily leads the woeful pack with three correct picks (in four tries) with Paul Kelly getting two winners right. Zach Horrall, who respectfully bowed out to take another assignment within the company, and I have hit the bull’s-eye just once each. Given the ineptitude, I’ll go back to Power, who will be my pick to win the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix. C’mon, Will, help a friend out.
Arni Sribhen: After picking three winners in the last two weeks, the pressure is really on now. Hopefully for those of you waiting to see who I pick, August will be as kind to me as July. The Streets of Nashville might just be the biggest wild-card race of the remaining four rounds of the championship for the field, and with just one previous Big Machine Music City Grand Prix, there’s just no reliable history to look back on. So, picking a winner is legitimately a blindfolded dart throw. Who do I feel good about? Look no further than the man who won the last street course race on the schedule. If you’ve forgotten, that’s Scott Dixon. Dixon’s average finish in the four previous street course races (St. Petersburg, Long Beach, Belle Isle and Toronto) is 4.75. He also finished second on his first visit to Nashville. And it’s about that time of year, when “The Iceman” does “Iceman” things and makes a run for the championship. Give me Dixon in Music City.
Paul Kelly: Since anyone who reads these prediction roundtables already knows to heed Arni’s advice and neither Curt’s nor mine, I’m going to pick a longshot this week to win on the streets of Nashville – Graham Rahal. The Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing team is on an upswing in the last month, with six top-10 finishes in July. The team’s drivers – Rahal, Christian Lundgaard and Jack Harvey – combined for just six top-10s between the start of the season in late February and the end of June. And while Rahal doesn’t have the sterling record of Dixon on street circuits this season, he’s been solid. He finished seventh at St. Petersburg and Long Beach, and fourth at Toronto. I don’t think RLL has the outright pace for Rahal to win in Music City, but he’ll be close if he qualifies well, and smart strategy and good fortune will handle the rest. Now that Alexander Rossi has broken his long dry spell, Rahal probably is atop the list for drivers who need a win. His last victories came in a sweep of a Belle Isle doubleheader in 2017 – 87 starts and more than five years ago. Graham returns to the winner’s circle this weekend.