Ericsson survives airborne shunt to win calamitous Music City GP

IndyCar

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For better or worse, the inaugural Music City Grand Prix in Nashville, Tennessee will be remembered vividly by everyone who witnessed it. Marcus Ericsson held on to take his second career IndyCar series win, after coming back from an airbourne crash just four laps into the race and a subsequent stop-and-go penalty.

The incident between Ericsson and Sébastien Bourdais sent Ericsson’s car three metres into the air, and knocked a livid Bourdais out of the race. Ericsson’s car only suffered a broken nose section. But after serving his penalty, he returned to the race without losing a lap. By lap 37, Ericsson – who started 17th – had found his way to the lead of the race, ahead of polesitter Colton Herta. This was after a lengthy red flag on lap 20 due to multiple cars piling up at turn eleven. Ericsson made his final “routine pit stop” on lap 46 during a long full-course caution, then assumed the lead again when Herta made his last stop on lap 49, after yet another yellow flag.

In total, there were nine full-course cautions which consumed 33 out of the scheduled 80 laps, and two red flags that pushed the chequered flag of the race perilously close to sunset. The second red flag came out with five laps to go, when Herta, running second behind Ericsson, went into the tricky turn nine too quickly and smashed the concrete barrier. Herta was able to climb from his car under his own power, but he was concerned about potential injury to his hand – and understandably, distraught after crashing out at the end of a weekend which he’d comprehensively dominated up until this point.

A track blockage caused the first of two red flags
Clinching one of the most improbable victories in modern IndyCar history, Ericsson held off six-time national champion and teammate Scott Dixon in a two lap sprint to the finish to take his second IndyCar win in the last five races, making it a Chip Ganassi Racing one-two finish. Dixon the final 48 laps on a single set of primary compound tyres, after he pitted for fuel only on his last stop.

James Hinchcliffe finished in third, for his first podium finish since the 2019 round at Iowa Speedway, and his best finish of the season. Andretti Autosport teammate Ryan-Hunter Reay finished in fourth, with Graham Rahal completing the top five. Ed Jones moved up twenty places to finish a season-best sixth place, ahead of championship leader Álex Palou in seventh. Felix Rosenqvist, the returning Hélio Castroneves, and local hero Josef Newgarden completed the top ten.

Palou will enter next weekend’s race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course with a 42 point lead over Dixon, who overtook Patricio O’Ward for second in the standings. O’Ward finished 13th after an incident with Alexander Rossi, and a subsequent drive-through penalty for avoidable contact. O’Ward now trails Palou by 48 points, while Newgarden and Ericsson move to within 80 points of the top of the table.

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Race result

PositionCarDriverTeamEngine
18Marcus EricssonGanassiHonda
29Scott DixonGanassiHonda
329James HinchcliffeAndretti SteinbrennerHonda
428Ryan Hunter-ReayAndrettiHonda
515Graham RahalRLLHonda
618Ed JonesCoyne/VasserHonda
710Alex PalouGanassiHonda
87Felix RosenqvistMcLaren SPChevrolet
96Helio CastronevesMeyer ShankHonda
102Josef NewgardenPenskeChevrolet
1145Santino FerrucciRLLHonda
1220Conor DalyCarpenterChevrolet
135Patricio O’WardMcLaren SPChevrolet
1412Will PowerPenskeChevrolet
1560Jack HarveyMeyer ShankHonda
1651Romain GrosjeanCoyne/RWRHonda
1727Alexander RossiAndrettiHonda
1859Max ChiltonCarlinChevrolet
1926Colton HertaAndrettiHonda
2052Cody WareCoyne/RWRHonda
2122Simon PagenaudPenskeChevrolet
223Scott McLaughlinPenskeChevrolet
234Dalton KellettFoytChevrolet
2421Rinus VeeKayCarpenterChevrolet
2530Takuma SatoRLLHonda
2648Jimmie JohnsonGanassiHonda
2714Sebastien BourdaisFoytChevrolet

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Author information

RJ O'Connell
Motorsport has been a lifelong interest for RJ, both virtual and ‘in the carbon’, since childhood. RJ picked up motorsports writing as a hobby...

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  • 36 comments on “Ericsson survives airborne shunt to win calamitous Music City GP”

    1. Gutted for Herta, he was so good all weekend, made great overtakes when he needed to and then lost it all at the end with a lock up.

      1. My sentiments exactly. He was on fire, with some excellent moves. Only made one mistake all weekend, shame that it was so costly.

        1. @eurobrun

          I’m gutted for Herta as well, he was driving really well but I think he pressed a little too hard when he didn’t need to and drove all the grip off his tires causing the shunt. That narrow and bumpy track left no room for the slightest amount of under steer or slide that one would start experiencing when tires are getting tired.
          Personally, I think it was a terrible Indy race and it was luck of the draw race on who would win with all the yellow flags and two red flags. Sunday race now has the infamous distinction of being the slowest race ever in the history of Indy racing at 72.607 mph. It broke a 100 year record (1911) at 74mph! 33 laps of yellow flags out of a 80 lap race, that’s almost half of the race that was under yellow. Two red flags not due to weather. There were zero on-track passes for the lead! How can that be a good race?

          The track was so narrow and bumpy that it was pretty much just parade racing unless you took low percentage chances on passing. This Indy race had big similarities to the recent London Formula E race that was heavily panned.
          Indy cars are just too big and not designed for those type of tracks.

          It wasn’t quality Indy racing, it was spectacle entertainment made for viewers like the way Roller Ball was.

      2. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
        9th August 2021, 8:15

        +1

        I’ve regularly sang the praises of Indycar on this forum, but yesterdays race highlighted its negative aspects.

        The circuit was a brave attempt to create something amazing, but ultimately it fell short. The surface was just too bumpy even by Indycar standards and some sections of the track were guaranteed to make accidents. The driving standards were appalling. So many clumsy moves and so many full course yellows meant that anyone could win.

        I felt so sorry for Herta. He was head and shoulders above anyone else all weekend and the fact he didn’t win is a travesty. Indycar need do do some head scratching.

        1. @sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk I don’t think the bumps were much of a contributing factor. I think the biggest problem with the track is that when the leader took the green flag on restarts, most of the field was still in the twisty bit outside the stadium, and drivers were tempted to try passes they had no business trying. That could be fixed either by mandating no overtaking before the restart/finish line, or using the bridge for restarts, as they did at the start—which was actually clean!

          The driving standards though…in complete agreement there. Maybe one of the best things you can say about the track is that it exposed how far out of their depth some drivers at the back were.

      3. Colton is lightning fast but this is not the first time he put himself out of contention. But he’s still young and probably will learn. I’d like to see him get a shot at F1, why not already next year eg. in an AT or AR.

        Impressive drive by Marcus though, he was the only guy able to keep Herta behind, and he even did it while on a fuel save strategy. Best lap times during the race were on par with Herta too.

        Reply moderated
      4. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
        9th August 2021, 11:59

        This was the 1st Indycar race that I watched in a long time. All that I remember are the commercials! I feel brainwashed. I was recording it for 2 hours and the race was only half way done – I just couldn’t keep watching it as I had a commercial overload at one point.

        I missed the rest but did see Ericsson somehow winning. It’s why I can’t watch the Superbowl either – a few hours of commercials and a few minutes of action.

        1. I also watched it last night @freelittlebirds and the difference to F1 is striking, so happy we don’t have to put up with that! Thankfully you probably missed a moment with about 6 or 7 laps to go, and the main commentator had to talk through 3 commercials for things like washing detergent or whatever it was. I was just shouting at the screen asking them to show us the cars. The onboard cams each having a sponsor is terrible, then the Firestone thing flashes – you think it’s for something important, but it isn’t. My worry is that liberty will drive F1 down a similar path, we’re starting to see a bit of it now and again (the sprint race crypto rubbish for example). Can’t stand that culture.

          1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
            9th August 2021, 14:31

            @john-h yeah, it’s unbearable. Thank god for F1 and MotoGP. I’d rather watch Moto2 and Moto3 over Indy. I don’t think I’ll watch another Indy race for a few years after this.

            I have no problem with advertising to help pay for the sport and make it grow but this was just obnoxious. Advertise but do it the way everyone else does in sports.

            I hope they don’t go this route with F1 cause I won’t be able to watch it live.

          2. the difference to F1 is striking

            Not really, the perpetrator winning. Sounded a lot like Silverstone

        2. If you can, watch it on Sky F1, they cut to a British commentator during the US adverts.

        3. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
          9th August 2021, 15:05

          @freelittlebirds and @john-h, don’t judge Indycar on this race. It was the worst of the season by far. When Indycar goes to a proper circuit, it produces great racing (The race at Road America is something to behold). This weekend race is on the Indianapolis road circuit which will be much better. I recommend you suspend judgement at watch this one. You’ll see the difference.

          1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
            9th August 2021, 15:14

            @Sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk thanks, I might catch another race and see what’s going on there. I’ll make sure I have my DVR ready to skip through commercials if I need to :-)

          2. Yep, no judgement on Indycar here @sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk , I’ve been watching the odd race for years since the 90s. I know the Road America race is great. It’s more the obnoxious coverage which is, as @freelittlebirds mentions, is unbearable and to be honest makes me only watch the odd race when it comes on.

        4. I live in the US and I completely agree the commercials are terrible. Sadly the more popular it gets the worse it will get. Not that I’m a fan, but that’s largely what killed the popularity of NASCAR IMO. When watching IndyCar I lose track of what is happening in the race. I’ll see 5 laps then commercials for 5 minutes. When the race coverage comes back there will have been a round of pitstops, or key passes, or whatever. Now I just put it on in the background and do other stuff.

          There is no incentive for the networks to do anything differently so this is just the way sports watching is in the US.

        5. Indycar is what I think of when people say they want free to air F1. It’s going to mean commercials. I’ll pay to avoid that.

    2. This race played out the way I thought the 1st race at Baku would thanks to the narrow layout. Definitely not a great race and far too much yellow (and again, a red flag in the final few laps rather than end under yellow despite the race finishing 20 mins before sunset, not happy that Indycar clearly wants green flag finishes whenever possible).

      The obvious change would be to not use the finish line as the restart line. The start actually went fairly well and the lap 1 yellow was caused by Kellet’s car simply shutting down, rather than the expected crash. Unfortunately the 1st red flag was caused in part by the track narrowing around the car park section, especially onto the finish straight (it looked like 3 lanes go into 2). With the race starting on the bridge, with turn 9 being the 1st corner taken at racing speed, I do think just that change alone would really make a difference rather than do restarts in the far narrower finish straight (especially with the massively wide entry into turn 9 giving the pace car a viable short cut to get out of the way).

      I don’t think the track issues are insurmountable and Nashville being 4 hours from both St Louis and Indianapolis (along with 100K race day attendance) mean it will be back next year (& apparently 33+ sponsors, so it looks like the funding is in place). For context, the race at NOLA near New Orleans had around 10K at most on race day and while the weather didn’t help, I don’t think New Orleans really is an Indycar market.

      It looked like both corners after the bridge straights are viable overtaking spots, though I’m not sure the 2nd one where Herta crashed going from 3 lanes on the bridge, to 7 in the braking zone and back to 3 on the corner exit is a good idea.

      Could do better is my take – it has potential though this race certainly wasn’t great (and I wouldn’t be surprised if the “penalty vs race result” argument we had after Silverstone isn’t made).

      1. Seems indeed similar to silverstone in a way, a driver takes another out, is lucky to not retire after a big crash, gets a penalty, more meaningful in this case as it was a stop and go, and comes back to win, I think it makes him look better than hamilton in the circumstances but could still be a bit questionable.

        1. The issue is that with that many caution periods and a pit lane that is closed under caution, it was simply a case of whoever pitted first (without losing a lap) would win the race as they would cycle back up to the back of the field, and with that many cautions no one could ever get a gap big enough to win.

          Reply moderated
          1. @minnis That didn’t appear to always br the case though, in particular the odd occasion when there was a crash parallel to the pit lane and the SC had to slow down significantly, nearly allowing the leaders in the pitlane to overtake the SC, and allowing some of them to only lose 1 or 2 places.

      2. @skydiverian Completely agree on the restart line. The section coming to the finish line seems engineered to produce accordion-effect accidents. Aside from that, I think IndyCar has a winner, a unique addition to the calendar that seems to have a lot of local support.

        And to be fair, it did seem as if the restarts got better as the race went on, and that the drivers and spotters learned to read them better. Maybe that is all that will be needed, instead of moving the restart line.

    3. Airbourne? Is that a band name? Because it’s the music city gp? Cool! :D

      1. Yes, a band from Australia.

        Maybe they were watching Bourne Identity that was on the other channel at the same while typing up this article?

    4. Incredible how Ericsson’s car was able to continue after that. Sturdy suspensions on those Indys.

    5. He won even after a penalty?

      Marko will be fuming.

      1. @Dave Marko and Horner should both make a complaint, or Albon should re-enact the situation.

        1. lol @jerejj

          Will Bourdais come out and say it was disrespectful to celebrate the win?

    6. Marcus Ericsson winning a race (actually, two) makes you wonder about what the level of Indycar drivers field must be..

      1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
        9th August 2021, 13:40

        A drivers ability in f1 is not entirely reflective of their ability out of it. He’s been in indycar for some time now, but actually has been looking better this year, so he could well have improved somewhat and this sport suits him. I have to blame him for the crash though.

      2. One quick question: Which Grand Prix name is better? “Made in Italy and Emilia Romagna Grand Prix” or “Pirelli Gran Premio d’Italia”?
        Pirelli Gran Premio d’Italia! Haha!

      3. Yep, and looking at other “winners” it’s very telling.
        But still nice to have a championship for retired f1 drivers.

    7. nine full-course cautions

      Jeez.. Thanks for reminding me why I don’t watch Indycar anymore.

      1. You missed what was actually a great race then. Lots of action all the way and the last 30 or so laps were quite thrilling, the duel between Ericsson and Herta. And much more entertaining than the normal 2 hours F1 procession around Monaco. With minor tweaks this track can be one of the all-time great Street courses.

        But it does help to watch it recorded so you can skip a few Caution laps every now and then ;)

        Reply moderated
    8. Ericsson did a Button Canada 2011 there, didn’t really deserve but won it fair and square. Gutted for Herts, safety cars at the hands of less talented drivers was costing him victory until he ended up joining them by pushing too hard in desperation, he’s young, he’ll learn. Honestly don’t understand all the safety cars, lack of talent or ridiculous race circuit to blame? That narrow section is pretty sketchy.

      1. It was ridiculous race circuit to blame and the narrow section were pretty sketchy for Indy cars.

    9. “survives airborne shunt” is a nice allegory

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