Big Machine Music City Grand Prix

It’s doubtful any NTT INDYCAR SERIES driver really knows what he has for today’s Big Machine Music City Grand Prix.

Due to Saturday’s wet conditions – rain dominated the morning, with sunny skies by late-afternoon NTT P1 Award qualifying -- track activity was extremely limited. With qualifying starting at 6:15 p.m. ET, the final practice was not held, and there won’t be time to hold it this morning due to the noon ET start.

SEE: Starting Lineup/Tire Choice

Which leaves … a whole lot of guessing if the 80-lap race has several long runs.

Does that favor one team or another? We’ll see. But this is a fact: Chip Ganassi Racing has won the first two series races on the 11-turn, 2.1-mile temporary street circuit, with Marcus Ericsson (No. 8 Huski Ice Spritz Honda) winning in 2021 and six-time series champion Scott Dixon (No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda) going to victory lane last year. Dixon also finished second in the inaugural event.

Colton Herta (No. 26 Gainbridge Honda of Andretti Autosport with Curb-Agajanian) has had a fast car in both races. After that, well, perhaps Saturday’s rain-delayed qualifying told us something. Scott McLaughlin (No. 3 DEX Imaging Team Penske Chevrolet) blitzed the field with a monster lap. However, that was only one lap, not several in succession.

Factor in the event’s 17 caution periods over the past two years – that’s 8.5 per race -- and it could be a crapshoot for the 27-car field.

So, buckle up for some fun on the Nashville streets. It figures to again be entertaining.

How About the Weather?

The rain seems to have moved through the area, so things are on pace for the start of the broadcast at noon ET (NBC, Peacock, INDYCAR Radio Network). But it will be getting warmer by the hour.

The temperature at the green flag is expected to approach 88 degrees, with the sun present. Things could reach a toasty 90 degrees by the time one driver is showered with liquid around 2:15 p.m. ET.

McLaughlin has a unique way of celebrating. When he won last year’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, he drank his beverage of choice from his shoe. (We don’t advise that.)

In light of the steamy conditions, INDYCAR has mandated the use of aeroscreen cooling ducts that churn additional air through the cockpit.

The Championship Fight

Alex Palou (No. 10 The American Legion Honda) still has a commanding lead in the series points race, though Josef Newgarden (No. 2 PPG Team Penske Chevrolet) trimmed it to 80 points with a sweep of last month’s Hy-Vee INDYCAR Race Weekend at Iowa Speedway.

While Newgarden has won all five of the oval races over the past year, there is only one more left on this year’s calendar – the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 presented by Axalta and Valvoline on Sunday, Aug. 27 at World Wide Technology Raceway. If he is to win his third series crown, he has to make hay on one of these street circuits or permanent road courses.

Palou has outscored Newgarden by 149 points on these non-ovals, and the Spaniard will start today’s race from the fourth position. He’s happy about that.

“I’m pretty (confident),” Palou said. “We’ve been good all year.”

Palou has not finished a race outside of the top eight this season. This is the 13th of 17 races.

Newgarden will start ninth, and last year’s sixth-place finish was his best at this circuit in his hometown.

Lundqvist Makes Three

With Linus Lundqvist making his first series start in the No. 60 AutoNation/SiriusXM Honda of Meyer Shank Racing, there are now three Swedish-born drivers in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. The others are Ericsson and Felix Rosenqvist (No. 6 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet).

There are also three drivers from New Zealand -- Dixon, McLaughlin and rookie Marcus Armstrong (No. 11 Ridgeline Lubricants Honda of Chip Ganassi Racing).

There 14 countries represented: nine drivers from the U.S., two each from Denmark and England, and one each from Mexico, Brazil, Spain, Australia, Netherlands, Switzerland, Canada and Argentina.

About the Tires

The combination of heat and humidity figures to make for a slick racetrack today, creating a struggle to find grip on a bumpy street circuit that’s already making it difficult to keep the cars under control.

NTT INDYCAR SERIES teams have two tire compounds to work with, known as the primaries and the alternates. The alternates used to have red sidewalls, but this is the one-year anniversary of the debut of the green sidewalls showcasing Firestone’s commitment to sustainability initiatives.

The tires include rubber in the sidewalls that come from guayule, a drought-resistant, heat-tolerant, wood desert shrub from the American Southwest. Natural rubber is extracted from branches, bark and the root of guayule.