Guide To The Big Machine Music City Grand Prix For New IndyCar Fans

Marcus Ericsson celebrating his 2021 Big Machine Music City Grand Prix victory with his pit crew. Photo: Courtesy of the Music City Grand Prix.

The second annual Big Machine Music City Grand Prix is right around the corner and will feature the highly anticipated IndyCar Series street course race around downtown Nashville. For those who didn’t attend or watch the race, they can still be a bit confused by what exactly IndyCar is and how it differs from other motorsports such as NASCAR and Formula One.

First off, the NTT IndyCar Series features open-wheel race cars that race on ovals, road courses, and street course like the MCGP. At first glance, fans may see similarities between the IndyCar and the Formula One car, but they are quite different in their designs and construction.

IndyCar has only been raced in America but drivers from all around the world have come to the United States to compete in it. NASCAR, also being a distinctly American motorsport, is very different from IndyCar. The average NASCAR stock car weighs about 3,200 pounds while the average IndyCar weighs about 1,600 pounds.

Top: Colton Herta’s Andretti Autosports IndyCar. Bottom: Daniel Suarez’s No. 99 Trackhouse racing Chevrolet Camaro

NASCAR races primarily on ovals, short tracks, superspeedways and a few road courses, while IndyCar does it all.

Even if you’re not familiar with IndyCar as a whole, you’ve probably heard of the Indianapolis 500 which has been coined The Greatest Spectacle In Racing and has attracted some of the greatest drivers of all time. IndyCar has been around for decades, offering some of the best motorsports has to offer in the United States and featuring legendary drivers including A.J. Foyt, Helio Castroneves, Bobby Unser, Al Unser and the iconic Mario Andretti.

The 2022 Indy 500 winner was Marcus Ericsson, who happened to be the 2021 Big Machine Music City Grand Prix winner. Ericsson’s performance at the MCGP was one to remember for the Swedish-born driver.

This season, Ericsson leads the drivers standings but only by eight points. The Big Machine Music City Grand Prix is the fourth to last race of the year, so it may be a huge factor in who will win the 2022 IndyCar Championship.

Scott Dixon. Photo: Courtesy of IndyCar

IndyCar has a diverse field of drivers of all ages, nationalities and racing backgrounds. The top drivers to keep your eyes on for the MCGP should be Ericsson, six-time IndyCar champ Scott Dixon, 2021 IndyCar champ Alex Palou, 2021 MCGP pole sitter Colton Herta, and six-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson.

In 2021, Herta was completely dominant all weekend. The then 21-year-old led each practice and won qualifying with ease. He went on to lead 39 of the 80 laps, fighting his way back into the top spot. Sadly, with five laps to go, Herta crashed into the wall coming off of Korean Veterans Memorial Bridge. Ericsson, who lead 37 laps, held on to win.

Photo: Courtesy of the Music City Grand Prix

Herta, who is in eighth place in the standings, will be looking for redemption this year. He drove brilliantly on the new track in 2021, and with the experience and another full season under his belt, the MCGP will be his for the taking.

But you cannot write off the other drivers.

Dixon finished a close second last year and is sitting in fourth place in the standings. The IndyCar legend will be making a late season run for his seventh IndyCar championship.

Johnson will be a familiar name for most racing fans as he’s widely considered one of, if not the greatest NASCAR driver ever. He began competing in IndyCar in 2021 after retiring from NASCAR but was unable to race in the MCGP due to a crash during qualification. He’s improved a lot since last season, picking up a top five finish and two top 10 finishes.

Josef Newgarden. Photo: Courtesy of IndyCar

If you’re looking for someone to root for, look no further than Nashville’s own Josef Newgarden. The Penske driver is a two-time IndyCar champion and sits in third place in the standings after winning four races. At the 2021 Big Machine Music City Grand Prix, Newgarden started 12th but was able to finish 10th. This year, being more familiar with the track, he will be one to watch as he will be looking to win his hometown races in front of his friends and family.

Like last year, practice and qualifying will be extremely important. With it being such a unique street course and it still being so new, drivers will need to use practice to feel out the track and discover any quirks and adversities. It’s sure to be full of drama and excitement, and fans will be able to watch the practices and qualifying on Friday and Saturday.

Whether you’re a diehard IndyCar fan, went to the race last year or you’re dipping your toes in for the first time, the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix will be full of fast cars, loud engines and drama through the streets of Nashville.

You can catch concerts featuring Tim McGraw, Carly Pearce, Midland and more, or just enjoy the festival-like atmosphere around the Nissan Stadium campus.

Steven Boero