Race Preview: Music City Grand Prix



Posted on 08/01/2023

Race Preview: Music City Grand Prix

It is all systems go for Chip Ganassi Racing, as they chase their third consecutive victory on the vibrant streets of Nashville at this weekend's Music City GP.

Not only has CGR won both street races in Nashville, but they have claimed four of the six possible spots on the Music City podium (2022 – P1: Dixon; P3: Palou; 2021 – P1: Ericsson; P2: Dixon).

Scott Dixon and the No. 9 PNC Bank team claimed victory last year at both the pit stop competition and the 80-lap street race, where Dixon picked up his 53rd career victory and moved past Mario Andretti for second on INDYCAR’s all-time wins list. 

Marcus Ericsson, piloting his No. 8 Bryant Honda in 2021’s inaugural event, went airborne on the fourth lap of the race before storming through the field and capturing the win.

Alex Palou and the No. 10 American Legion team enter the 13th race on this year’s calendar with an 80-point advantage in the championship standings. Hitting all the high notes this season, he remains the INDYCAR leader in average finishing position (3.5), average starting position (5.5) and podiums (7).

Marcus Armstrong will make his Music City debut this weekend in Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 11 Ridgeline Lubricants Honda and returns to the track fresh off a career best P7 finish in Toronto.

Be sure to mark your calendars as the team tackles the 2.1-mile, 11-turn street circuit from Friday, August 4, to Sunday, August 6, where the action will culminate on NBC at noon ET. 

Alex Palou - No. 10 American Legion Honda

“Iowa wasn’t the best of weekends, but we got a podium in the No. 10 American Legion Honda. We kept on improving every session throughout the weekend. I’m excited for Nashville. We know it is going to be tough, but Chip Ganassi Racing has managed to get wins in both years, so hopefully we can make it three in a row. We’ve had a ton of speed there and it will be about surviving to get to victory lane on Sunday. We’ll see about the weather, as it will be warm with potential showers. It is exciting to get to this stretch of the championship run.”

If you're looking to race up front and contend for a win, there is a good chance you will bump into Alex Palou and the No. 10 American Legion team. Including pit stops, Palou has run among the top-5 in 57% of the available laps throughout the 2023 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season and among the top-10 in 86% of all laps.

Palou has won four of the eight road and street course races this year, leading more than twice as many laps (188) as any other driver in those events.

He has exhibited swift pace at Nashville, competing in the Firestone Fast 6 in both previous races, starting P4 last year (finished P3) and P3 in 2021 (finished P7). The 2021 champion will be looking for his fifth victory on the season, something no CGR driver has accomplished since Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti each picked up five wins themselves in 2009.

Scott Dixon - No. 9 PNC Bank Honda 

"Nashville has become the most wanted to go to races of the year. There is a great atmosphere with downtown racing, especially with the link to this fun city and how the promoters have gotten so involved with the city. As a driver, it's a fun track, but a very tough track that is quite technical. Then, getting into the race, it's even more demanding with the heat and humidity, but also trying to keep the car off the walls. It's very bumpy with high speeds and lots of G's coming off the bridge. There's plenty of unpredictability, even with us last year and Marcus the year before. It's been a great place for Chip Ganassi Racing. Two races so far and two victories for this team. We'll try to keep that tradition going."

Dixon secured a historic victory last year in dramatic fashion. He began the race in P14, fell to P23 after being hit from behind and forced to pit and make repairs, then led a magnificent charge to lead the final 15 laps to take the win.

It could be another milestone occasion for the six-time champion in Nashville, as he is set to make his 318th consecutive start and match Tony Kanaan’s all-time INDYCAR Iron Man record. Dixon’s start streak dates back to 2004 (Michigan) – 19 years ago – when he was just 24 years and 10 days old.

He has found extraordinary success and consistency on the street circuits of late. The Iceman has finished among the top eight in 16 of his last 17 street course races (including three wins, dating back to 2016), with the exception being Long Beach this year, where he was forced to retire after contact with the No. 5.

Marcus Ericsson - No. 8 Huski Ice Spritz Honda

“I’m excited for Nashville, where I have good memories having won the race two years ago in the first-ever Music City Grand Prix. It is one of the highlights of my career so far. For us, going back to a street course is good. We know we have a very strong package on street courses, and I feel very comfortable in those races myself. It’s one of my favorite types of racing and I am excited to get back there for a strong weekend. We’re very much in a good position for the championship and we need to have another strong weekend for the No. 8 team and for Chip Ganassi Racing.”

The 2021 Music City GP winner returns in search of another successful venture as he and the No. 8 Huski Ice Spritz team continue their own championship chase.

Since joining CGR in 2020, no driver has won more street course races (3) than Ericsson (2022: St. Petersburg; 2021: Nashville; Detroit).

He has displayed his street racing prowess yet again this year, leading laps in three of those four such races (St. Petersburg; Detroit; Toronto) thus far. 

Marcus Armstrong - No. 11 Ridgeline Lubricants Honda

"Nashville is a fantastic city with quite the vibe racing in the city. It will be tough, but I think this layout will serve our team well and we've been consistently fast on street circuits. Nashville has been one of the races that has been circled on the calendar for me. It's going to be a good one and I can't wait to show what we've learned in previous street tracks and attack it head-on. It will be bumpy and difficult, just like Toronto and Detroit, which are two circuits we've done well on. So, there's no reason why we can't go out there and do a good job in Nashville."

Armstrong, in his first INDYCAR season, has certainly taken to street course racing. He has recorded an average finishing position of 8.5 on the street course races this season, the fourth-best mark in the series (Palou: 4.0; Ericsson: 6.0; Power: 7.25).

He continues to demonstrate consistency and has completed 679 of 680 available laps this season. Armstrong remains the frontrunner for Rookie of the Year with 156 total points despite only racing in road and street course races.