Ericsson Captures Big Machine Music City Grand Prix
Five laps into the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix, Marcus Ericsson’s car launched airborne and limped to the pits with a broken front wing.
Seventy-five laps later, he drove the No. 8 Bryant Honda into victory lane Sunday as the winner of the inaugural NTT IndyCar Series race on the streets of Nashville, in one of the most improbable results in recent memory.
IndyCar officials said that 60,000 tickets were sold for Sunday’s race while a total of 110,000 attended events over the weekend. Multiple sources reported festivities generated an economic impact of at least $20 million.
Ericsson beat Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Scott Dixon to the finish by 1.5596 seconds in a two-lap showdown after a red flag to earn his second victory this season. Ericsson’s amazing drive to the front came after he hit the rear of Sebastien Bourdais’ No. 14 ROKiT/AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet on a restart on Lap 5, dislodging the front wing of his car and incurring a stop-and-go penalty for avoidable contact.
The late red flag came when NTT P1 Award winner Colton Herta crashed heavily in Turn 9 with five laps to go while running second and chasing Ericsson for the lead.
“It’s unbelievable,” Ericsson said. “It just shows in IndyCar anything can happen. You can never give up. And if you have a good team and a good car, you can still get to victory lane.
“I can’t believe it; I just can’t believe it.”
James Hinchcliffe finished third in the No. 29 #ShiftToGreen Honda for his best result of the season for Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport. Ryan Hunter-Reay finished fourth in the No. 28 DHL Honda as Andretti Autosport put two cars in the top five for the first time this season.
While Hinchcliffe and Hunter-Reay didn’t have quite the dramatic early laps of the race as Ericsson, both were forced to stop on track when the track was blocked by a multicar incident on Lap 20 that forced the first of two red flags in the 80-lap race. Yet they also rallied to drive into the top four.
Graham Rahal, who was quickest in the race warmup, rounded out the top five in the No. 15 United Rentals Honda.
Alex Palou expanded his championship lead by finishing seventh in the No. 10 NTT DATA Honda. He leads Chip Ganassi Racing teammate and six-time and reigning series champion Dixon by 42 points, as Dixon leap-frogged Pato O’Ward into second with his best result since winning Texas-1 in early May.
O’Ward finished 13th in the No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet – his worst result since the Indianapolis road course race in early May – and fell to third in points, 48 behind Palou.
Ericsson is fifth in the points, 79 behind Palou. He is just four points behind fourth-place Josef Newgarden, who finished 10th at his hometown race in the No. 2 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet.
The race unfolded into a head-to-head duel between Ericsson and Herta over the closing 20 laps after a chaotic opening 60 laps that included seven caution periods.
But Herta never got a chance to challenge Formula One veteran Ericsson for the lead after he locked up his tires while slowing for Turn 9 after exiting the Korean War Veterans Memorial Bridge on Lap 75, hitting the tire barrier hard. Herta was quickest in every pre-race session this weekend on the 11-turn, 2.17-mile street course except for the morning warmup.
Eight caution periods in the first 60 laps jumbled strategies and kept engineers and strategists on the pit wall almost as busy as drivers on the bumpy circuit that included two trips across the Cumberland River each lap.
Ericsson took his first lead on Lap 33 and then again for good on Lap 56 Ericsson led 37 laps for the day, two fewer than Herta.
The next NTT IndyCar Series race is the Big Machine Spiked Coolers Grand Prix on Saturday, Aug. 14 on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.
Story and photos provided by NTT IndyCar Series.