Marcus Ericsson Driven To Win MCGP With IndyCar Championship On The Line

Marcus Ericsson. Photo: Courtesy of the Music City Grand Prix

Marcus Ericsson is having the best year of his career, winning the Indianapolis 500 and sitting in second place in the standings as he fights for his first IndyCar championship.

He won the 2021 Big Machine Music City Grand Prix in epic fashion after going nose-first into another car on lap five, making his car go airborne. His car survived and would go on to make seven pitstops before winning the inaugural street race.

With the MCGP being the fourth to last race and Ericsson being just nine points behind Will Power in the IndyCar standings, the Sweden native will be looking for another huge win in Nashville this weekend.

“Looking back at it, it was one of the craziest races that I’ve been part of. To go from being airborne and crashing on lap five, thinking that the race is over, to being in victory lane less than two hours later was pretty surreal,” Ericsson recalled in a press conference on Thursday (Aug. 4). “I’m planning to do the victory lane part again, maybe not the airborne and crashing on lap five part. A bit less drama would be good,” he adds jokingly.

Nashville had never hosted a street course race prior to last year, so there wasn’t a precedent for how to race it. For every driver, it was a massive learning curve in the practice sessions and qualifying. Ericsson started at 18th but was able to fight his way to the top and went on to lead 37 laps.

The Grand Prix was a massive success and this year should be no different as many of the drivers want to win this race for how unique it is.

“It’s great to be back,” Ericsson noted. “I thought last year’s event was a great addition to the calendar and the way that the whole city was bustling–all the fans that came and all of us [drivers] really enjoyed it.”

With only one race experienced, Ericsson says the MCGP is one of the toughest tracks of the year. For how tight the course is coming off the bridge on turn 4 and for how fast these cars are going over the Korean War Veterans Memorial Bridge, the race can be very unpredictable.

“I think this is one of the toughest [tracks] of the year,” he explains. “Mostly due to the combination of the street course being super bumpy and the heat and humidity here at this time of the year. I think with all that combined it’s a really tough one. It’s definitely a very physical challenge for the drivers. You need to be in shape, you need to be hydrated and prepared for Sunday.”

There were nine cautions and two red flags at last year’s grand prix, forcing the drivers to race longer into the afternoon and early evening.

With rain predicted throughout the weekend, strategy is a big factor. You want to win, but being able to keep the car on the track and pick up the most points possible is also important, especially at an unpredictable track like Nashville.

“You have to weigh the risk versus reward calculation when you’re racing for a championship,” Ericsson said. “You can’t think too much into the points and not take any risks because then you’re going to put yourself in a difficult situation.

“I still feel the way to go is to try and maximize every weekend. If we have a chance to win, we need to win. If we have a chance to finish p5, we need to be p5 and so on.”

Stakes are higher with how late the MCGP is this year compared to in 2021, especially for how tight the standings are. Only 52 points separate first and sixth place. Ericsson looks to be crowned champion, but a poor performance can turn his chances on its head.

“[Everyone in the top five or six are] all really good drivers and teams,” he admits. “I know my teammates a bit more and they’re extremely good. I don’t have someone singled out. I think they’re all going to be tough to beat but I know we can do it.”

The first IndyCar practice is set for Friday, Aug. 5 at 3:15 p.m. and the second practice is set for Saturday at 11:15 a.m.

Qualifying will take place between 3:30 p.m. and 4:45 p.m. before Sunday’s Big Machine Music City Grand Prix, which will start at 2 p.m. CT.

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.

Big Machine Music City GP Adds Cheat Codes, DJ HISH, More To Concert Lineups

Cheat Codes. Photo: Courtesy of the Music City Grand Prix

Los Angeles trio Cheat Codes and Nashville’s DJ Hish have been added to the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix concert lineups, which also include Tim McGraw, Carly Pearce and more.

The lineup on the Nissan Stadium campus will satisfy the diverse appetite of music fans with even more off-track entertainment. Admission to each evening’s marquee concert is included in the same-day race ticket in any price range.

Cheat Codes’ total stream tally eclipses six billion plays with a diverse discography, including the Platinum pop radio top five “No Promises” (feat. Demi Lovato), the Gold-certified “Feels Great” (feat. Fetty Wap & CVBZ) and Gold breakout “Sex” with Kriss Kross Amsterdam. On the international front, “Only You” (feat. Little Mix) soared to No. 1 on pop radio in the UK while the band received dozens of Platinum certifications in 20 countries.

Special guests MacKenzie Porter and Matt Stell will also join Cheat Codes for unreleased collaborations on Sunday, Aug. 7, beginning at 1 p.m. CT on the Cumberland River Stage, located on the corner of Titans Way and Victory Ave.

The Cumberland River Stage in Big Machine X will also feature daily performances from rising stars from 9:30 a.m.-6 p.m. on Friday; 9 a.m.-7:15 p.m. on Saturday; and 9 a.m.-2:15 p.m. on Sunday. Among those scheduled are CMT Next Women of Country alumnus Hannah Dasher, Spotify’s Fresh Finds artist Carter Faith, and Big Machine Label Group’s Mackenzie Carpenter and Tiera Kennedy.

Since 2011, DJ Hish has been writing songs and playing at some of the biggest events in Music City. The songwriter turned artist-producer quickly began to make a name for himself with his electro-infused spin on country music. He has toured with Brantley Gilbert, Chase Bryant and Dustin Lynch, among others, and has performed at some of country music’s most notable festivals. Hish is currently a resident DJ at prominent Nashville venues while continuing to play festivals around the globe.

Hish will open for McGraw on the ZYN Main Stage on Saturday, Aug. 6, beginning at 8:10 p.m. The ZYN Main Stage is adjacent to Cumberland Park between the Korean War Veterans Memorial Bridge and the pedestrian bridge.

Officially kicking off the festivities, the Freedom Friday Tribute Concert presented by Wesley Mortgage will feature Aaron Lewis, Deana Carter, Abby Anderson and Jackson Dean. The entertainment on Aug. 5 begins at 7 p.m. on the ZYN Main Stage.

Music City Grand Prix Hosting Motorsports Art Auction To Benefit Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital

Artwork by Justin Redmon

The Big Machine Music City Grand Prix has teamed up to create the inaugural Motorsports Art Auction to benefit the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt.

Beginning today (July 26), featured paintings from seven talented and diverse artists focused on the motorsports community can be acquired through this unique auction.

The digital online art auction will run through Sunday, Aug. 7 with all of the proceeds going directly to the Children’s Hospital. The bids will close at 10 p.m. CT that evening. Fans can view the varied motorsports art pieces online and make a bid to purchase the pieces.

There will be opportunities for fans and potential bidders to view the artwork in person leading up to the Aug. 5-7 Big Machine Music City Grand Prix around the Nissan Stadium campus as well as during the race week.

Through Aug. 3, the various artworks can be viewed in the lobby of Children’s Hospital, the Union Station Hotel, the Grand Hyatt Nashville, Pinnacle Bank – Symphony Place branch and the Margaritaville Hotel downtown. From Aug. 4-7, they will be available at the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix’s Champion’s Party at AJ’s, the East Club in Nissan Stadium, Netjets Club RPM presented by Grand Hyatt Nashville and the “Artist Alley” that will be located in the FanZone on the stadium campus.

The seven participating artists are:

  • Bill Patterson (@billpattart) is an internationally acclaimed artist living in Texas with works owned by multiple celebrities and worldwide corporations such as Microsoft, FedEx, BMW, Porsche and Ferrari to name a handful. He has spent thirty-four years as a full-time artist after leaving the architecture profession behind. Although the focus is on commissioned fine art, over a million dollars have been raised by painting live at many charity galas, such as The National Guard Youth Foundation, St Jude’s Children’s Hospital and United Way. His paintings have sold for as much as $50,000. Patterson created the artwork for last year’s inaugural Big Machine Music City Grand Prix race program, which he will be donating to the auction.
  • Simon Ward (@simonward46) is a renowned motorsports artist who has had a number of paintings commissioned by numerous motorsports teams, owners and fans across the globe. He has produced an array of Formula 1-focused paintings, as well as having his artwork hanging permanently in Sebring Regional Airport, home of the first world championship endurance race and one he has been associated with for several decades. His work has been exhibited in the U.S. and the UK, including an exhibition at the historic F1 British Grand Prix.
  • Justin Redmon (@redrevoltdesign) is a resident of Franklin, Tennessee. Starting with pencil and brush works of vintage cars, his passion for design deepened through his experiences traveling across the world while serving in the U.S. Navy. Today, his chosen medium is digital illustration. Its flexibility in color and form challenges the boundaries of design and allows him to channel emotion through art.
  • Thiago Romero (@thiago_romero_fineart) is a Brazilian contemporary artist, writer, journalist and skydiver. He is most recognized for his unique and distinctive technique of “abstract expressionism,” often utilizing waves, flags, cars, racing helmets, geometric shapes, letters and numbers in his paintings. His style is characterized by a vibrant, expressive and spontaneous approach, obtained by the rapid application of different shades of acrylic paint, water and other elements.
  • Joseph Love (@joseph.love.31) wanted to be an artist growing up but after serving in the Air Force and raising a family it took him three decades to finally dedicate himself to his passion. In 2011, the dream began and after 16 months he had his debut solo art show opening at The University Club of Nashville. The show, titled “Das Rennen,” featured his oil paintings of Formula 1 race cars and drivers from past to present, vintage Mercedes Benz cars and other classic automobiles. Since then, his artwork has been exhibited at numerous prestigious venues and galleries, including Vanderbilt, TSU and Metro Public Schools.
  • Jessica Kristianna Haas (@jessicakhaas) is the first female speed painter in America and the fastest speed painter in the entertainment industry. Since her recent win of ABC’s Gong Show, Haas currently holds the records of performing the fastest painting on national television, the first female performance painter to paint on national television and the first & fastest award-winning female speed painter to win on a national television network.
  • Chuck Braud (@chuckbraud_art_) has been drawing and sketching since he was a youngster, and his love of sports led him to sports artwork. He started with acrylics and now concentrates on oil paintings in his work. He recently left the transportation business after two decades to pursue artwork full-time.

Nashville Sports Council Offers Unique Experience Through Music City Grand Prix Volunteer Program

Though the Nashville Sports Council may not be on everyone’s radar, they are involved in almost every major sporting event in Nashville, such as the Transperfect Music City Bowl, the SEC Basketball Tournament and the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix.

But the backbone for running these events are the volunteers who help them go smoothly, which is especially true for the Music City Grand Prix (MCGP) taking place Aug. 5-7 and covering the entirety of the Nissan Stadium campus.

Last year’s inaugural event was a massive weekend-long party downtown with multiple concerts, free events and of course the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix to finish

But because it was the first year and because it was something so different from what Nashville had previously hosted, the Nashville Sports Council and the people working the event had to learn on the run. Nashville has never hosted an IndyCar street race and ,for anyone who hasn’t experienced one before, it is a completely different animal compared to other sporting events.

“It was a process for sure. It definitely was some uncharted territory but it was a challenge we were really looking forward to taking on,” said Nashville Sports Council Events Coordinator Joseph Donaldson in an interview with The Sports Credential. “It’s been unique with it being a motorsport and motorsports being such a different event compared to what we’ve had in Nashville before.”

Marcus Ericsson, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda crossing the finish line at the 2021 Big Machine Music City Grand Prix. Photo: Courtesy of the Music City Grand Prix.

Donaldson and Director or Events and Operations, Rachel Schuchert, are at the forefront of recruiting organizing and working with the countless volunteers that help make the events like the MCGP happen. Schuchert, who has been on the Nashville Sports Council for six years, and Donaldson, notching nearly four years, have worked in the volunteer recruitment process for all other events the Council has hosted.

This year will be a but different for the MCGP as the Sports Council has dropped the volunteer fee to help encourage more people to be a part of the behind the scenes of race weekend. The fee usually covers transportation, parking, meals and a t-shirt but now people  can be part of the experience free of charge.

The recruitment initiative for something like the MCGP isn’t as easy as sending out a few emails. The process begins months beforehand and involves a lot of time, research and commitment. For the inaugural IndyCar race in 2021, the Nashville Sports Council, along with Donaldson and Schuchert, met with IndyCar representatives to discuss the volunteer interest before opening volunteer registration three months prior.

Both Donaldson and Schuchert spend a lot of time not only recruiting, but also training and working with the volunteers.

“We spend all summer recruiting and making sure we get people signed up,” Schuchert explained. “It’s a long process making sure people know that this is a volunteer opportunity, and then we are boots on the ground all weekend of the event. Joseph is in charge of deploying volunteers. We’ll check them in, we’ll give them their uniforms and then we connect them with a zone captain.”

Photo: Courtesy of the Music City Grand Prix

Zone captains are volunteers who take on more responsibility to make sure everything moves smoothly in their respective area on the campus. The Sports Council relies heavily on these workers for safety, efficiency and overall work.

One of the biggest differences between volunteering for the MCGP and volunteering for one of the other Nashville Sports Council events is that the volunteers really get an opportunity to soak in the festivities, concerts and the race. Like the Music City Bowl and Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon, these volunteers will have time to really embrace the weekend instead of standing around, occupied with running around. There is still a lot of work and responsibilities, but it’s unlike any other event the Council hosts.

“The best way the grand prix is described is that it isn’t just a race but it’s a festival weekend,” Donaldson notes. “You can go see Tim McGraw on Saturday night (Aug. 6) if you volunteered. There are so many cool opportunities. You can come before and experience it or you can stay after your shift. That’s one of the cool parts–you get to experience the entire event, where as in other volunteer roles you’re on a tight schedule and you can’t really hang out afterwards.”

This year, Donaldson, Schuchert and their team will have a full year of experience under their belt and plan on making the jam packed weekend run more efficiently for both volunteers and patrons. By knowing what to expect, they can also plan to make sure everyone involved has the best experience possible.

“Last year there were a lot unknowns and we’ve never seen a motorsports event,” Donaldson recalls. “Knowing what we do this year and how our event looks, that’s one thing I’m super excited about. I think we can enhance the volunteer experience even more.”

Anyone interested in volunteering for the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix can head to the volunteer website to sign up. All volunteers must be 16 years of age or older and register for a minimum of two shifts throughout the event week. All volunteers will receive parking, transportation, and meals during their shifts.

Volunteer positions include: Race Day Ambassadors, Access Control, Can-Do Team, and Zone Captains.

Big Machine Music City Grand Prix To Take Over Broadway With 2nd Annual FanFest

MCGP Fan Fest pit stop competition 2021. Photo: Courtesy of the Music City Grand Prix

The Big Machine Music City Grand Prix festivities will officially kick off Thursday, Aug. 4, with the return of FanFest on Broadway featuring a Pit Stop Challenge with some of the biggest names in the NTT IndyCar Series.

FanFest, which is free and open to the public, will be held on Broadway from 1st through 4th streets and include show cars, sponsor displays, a Mini Grand Prix and a Stadium SUPER Trucks exhibition, along with the heightened pit stop competition.

The Pit Stop Challenge has been expanded from last year’s best-of-three, two-car competition to a single-elimination, six-driver event with:

  • Six-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon of Chip Ganassi Racing
  • Former seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson of Chip Ganassi Racing
  • Seven-time race winner Colton Herta of Andretti Autosport with Curb-Agajanian
  • Three-time race winner Pato O’Ward of Arrow McLaren SP
  • 2021 IndyCar Rookie of the Year Scott McLaughlin of Team Penske
  • 2019 Rookie of the Year Felix Rosenqvist of Arrow McLaren SP

The Pit Stop Challenge will be held on Broadway between 1st and 2nd streets and begin at 6 p.m. The opening-draw will be announced just prior to the start of the competition and the teams will vie for $10,000 in prize money.

Following the conclusion of the Pit Stop Challenge, Robby Gordon’s Stadium SUPER Trucks will put on an exhibition as a preview of one of the series competing in the Aug. 5-7 Big Machine Music City Grand Prix around the Nissan Stadium campus. SST stars expected to be on hand are Gordon, Greg Biffle, Gavin Harlien and Robby’s son, Max Gordon.

That area also will serve as the layout for Rocketown’s second annual Mini Grand Prix that begins at 5 p.m. Children will compete in mini Indy pedal karts in three age classes (4-5 years old, 6-7 and 8-9). Tony Kanaan, an Indy 500 winner and series champion, will be calling the action.

Nashville Superspeedway Welcomes Fans To ‘A Day At The Track’ On July 16

NASCAR weekend at the Nashville Superspeedway may be over, but fans can head back to the track on Saturday, July 16 to take their turn behind the wheel of their personal vehicles to drive around the track.

This event will celebrate Wilson Bank & Trust Track Day, a partner of the Nashville Superspeedway, and will benefit Easterseals Tennessee. Fans will have the opportunity to take their own cars around the track which features 14-degree banking in the turns, 9 degrees on the front stretch, 6 degrees on the back stretch, and that has challenged America’s best drivers since 2001.

“As Wilson Bank & Trust celebrates our 35th anniversary this year, we are honored to come together through the bank’s community partnership with the Nashville Superspeedway to raise awareness and support an organization that means so much to our communities,” says Scott Jasper, EVP, Chief Retail Officer. “Through our partnership, we are thrilled to offer this unique experience and benefit a great cause.”

Like the top NASCAR drivers, fans will can take three paced laps around Nashville Superspeedway, following the official pace car. At the end of their laps, they will receive a digital photo of their vehicle in Victory Lane where Chase Elliott celebrated his Ally 400 win this past June.

“As Middle Tennessee’s home for racing and entertainment, we always welcome the chance to open the track for a fantastic cause,” says Erik Moses, Nashville Superspeedway’s President and GM. “We look forward to seeing #NASHCAR fans take their laps on the same track that just tested NASCAR’s top talents last month.”

The event costs $60 to participate and will take place at the superspeedway from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Fans can register online at Easterseals.com.

Aaron Lewis To Headline Wesley Mortgage Freedom Friday Tribute Concert At Grand Prix

Aaron Lewis. Photo: Eric England

For the second consecutive year, the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix will host the Freedom Friday Tribute Concert presented by Wesley Mortgage on Aug. 5. This year’s show will be headlined by multi-Platinum entertainer Aaron Lewis, along with performances from Deana CarterAbby Anderson and Jackson Dean at the Nissan Stadium campus.

Lewis’ latest album Frayed At Both Ends (The Valory Music Co.) was the No. 1 selling country album upon its release earlier this year. The project featured the hit lead single, “Am I The Only One,” which debuted atop the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, marking Lewis’ highest debut as a solo country artist.

“The Big Machine Music City Grand Prix is quickly becoming an established Nashville tradition,” says Steve Medes, President of Wesley Mortgage. “We appreciate the opportunity to attach our company to such a great event. We look forward to celebrating Freedom Friday and a great weekend of racing.”

The concert is included for Friday individual and three-day ticket holders and begins at 7 p.m. CT at the ZYN Main Stage located in the Fan Zone. In addition to the musical acts, there will be several tributes to military and first responders.

In addition to the Freedom Friday Tribute Concert, superstar Tim McGraw will perform Saturday, Aug. 6, and a live Grand Ole Prix show will be held Sunday, Aug. 7, with headliners Brantley Gilbert and Carly Pearce alongside Midland and Callista Clark.

Friday single-day tickets begin as low as $39 for general admission and $49 for reserved grandstand. Both provide admission to the on-track activity, as well as the concert.