Scott Dixon

Today’s question: Who will win the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix on Sunday, Aug. 4 on the streets of Nashville? (noon ET, NBC, Peacock, INDYCAR Radio Network)

Curt Cavin: For now, all of my Nashville eggs are in Alex Palou’s basket. It starts with the fact Chip Ganassi Racing has been exceptionally strong at this temporary street circuit, with Marcus Ericsson and Scott Dixon winning the two races, and they went 1-2 in 2021. Palou is also one of only four series drivers who has finished in the top 10 each of the two years, finishing seventh and third, the latter following contact with Will Power that broke his left front wing. That helped CGR finish first and third last year, with 46 combined laps led. But bigger than all of that is the fact Palou had to watch his biggest threat to the title – Josef Newgarden – win both races last month at Iowa Speedway. I figure Palou will be especially focused this week, wanting to put this championship battle, or what’s left of it, to bed. I think he is going to make a statement in a big way.

Joey Barnes: While I do expect Alex Palou to be exceptionally strong and likely get a good result to draw closer to his second Astor Challenge Cup in three years, I’m leaning the route of Andretti Autosport. The tricky part is trying to figure out which one between Colton Herta and Kyle Kirkwood. Herta’s pace there has been extraordinary, especially in 2021, but he’s yet to close the deal. Not to mention, he’s finding that speed recently with stout performances at stops like Road America and Toronto. Last year in Music City, the combination of former teammate Alexander Rossi, who drove the same car occupied now by Kirkwood, and Herta drove from 17th and 23rd to finish fourth and fifth, respectively. Equally, Kirkwood has shown strong pace at all street circuits this year, including his maiden – and only – NTT INDYCAR SERIES victory at Long Beach. Andretti’s program on the four street circuits this season has been lethal but lacking the full results to complement its pace. I think that changes Sunday, and the battle between teammates sees Herta outduel Kirkwood to claim his first victory of the season, breaking a 24-race drought that goes back to early May 2022 and doubling Andretti’s win total in 2023.

Paul Kelly: Scott Dixon isn’t going an entire season without a victory for the first time since 2004, is he? I don’t think so, but time is running out. There are only five races left in 2023. The last time Dixon cut it this close to going 0-for-the season was 2014, when he earned his first victory of the year in the fourth-to-last race, at Mid-Ohio. I think Dixon gets the job done this Sunday at Nashville, winning this perilous, eventful race for the second consecutive year. Chaos is this race’s middle name due to the tight, bumpy circuit, and perhaps no driver in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES stays more calm and mentally flexible to take advantage of snap strategic decisions bred by cautions or calamity better than Dixon. That’s one of the key ingredients behind his 53 victories and six championships in a legendary career. If Dixon starts anywhere in the top half of the 27-car field, he still has a great shot to win the race. The fastest car hasn’t won the first two NTT INDYCAR SERIES races at Nashville, not even close. Dixon drove from 14th on the starting grid to triumph last year, and Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Marcus Ericsson started 18th and was airborne in a collision five laps into the 2021 race and still won, with Dixon finishing second. This is a race that rewards composure, strategy and the wisdom of experience more than raw speed. Dixon has all those qualities in excess, and he’s still fast, too. The Iceman breaks through with victory No. 1 of 2023 Sunday in Nashville to keep his drive for title No. 7 alive.