Thursday, August 4, 2022

Track Walk: Nashville 2022

The 14th round of the 2022 NTT IndyCar Series season will be the second Music City Grand Prix on the streets of Nashville. Last year's race is remembered for Marcus Ericsson's victory after Ericsson was in an accident that saw his front wheels lifted off the ground and front wing broken off when the Swede ran over the back of Sébastien Bourdais. The 2.17-mile course will remain the same, but a few adjustments have been made. All restarts will take place prior to turn nine, where the initial start took place for last year's race. Turn 11, the final corner on the course, has been widen by six feet while turn nine has been tightened by 50 feet. Turn five has been resurfaced to minimize bumps in the corner.

Time: Coverage begins at 3:00 p.m. ET on Sunday August 7 with green flag scheduled for 3:15 p.m. ET.
Channel: NBC
Announcers: Leigh Diffey, Townsend Bell and James Hinchcliffe will be in the booth. Kevin Lee, Dave Burns and Dillon Welch will work pit lane.

IndyCar Weekend Schedule
First Practice: 4:15 p.m. ET (75 minutes)
Second Practice: 12:15 p.m. ET (60 minutes)
Qualifying: 4:30 p.m. ET 
Warm-Up: 10:15 a.m. ET (30 minutes)
Race: 3:15 p.m. ET (80 laps)

* - All sessions will be available live on Peacock

The Championship Picture
Suddenly, IndyCar finds itself in the final quarter of its season, and we are looking at the final days for a few championship hopefuls. A good number of drivers know they will continue to be in the fight for another few races at least. Some are on borrowed time. 

With only 216 points left on the table, this is where the IndyCar championship stands entering the first race of August. 

Will Power leads the championship for the first time since after the Belle Isle round. This is the third time Power has led the championship, but he has yet to lead it for consecutive races, something he is hoping to change this weekend. He led after the first IMS road course race in May as well. Power has 431 points, nine points clear of Marcus Ericsson in second. Ericsson has led the championship after six of 13 races, the driver with the most time as the championship leader this season. 

Thirty-two points behind Power is his Team Penske teammate Josef Newgarden, the driver with the most victories this season. Scott Dixon is 38 points behind Power in the championship with Patricio O'Ward rounding out the top five, 46 points back. Defending IndyCar championship Álex Palou is sixth in the championship, 52 points off the top spot. 

Scott McLaughlin led the championship after the first two races, but McLaughlin is 81 points off his teammate Power entering this weekend. Alexander Rossi's victory on the IMS road course moved him up to eighth in the championship, but Rossi's team failed post-race inspection for being underweight and was handed a 20-point penalty. Felix Rosenqvist moved up to eighth, 132 points off Power, after the penalty with Rossi dropping to ninth, 133 points from the championship lead. Colton Herta rounds out the top ten, 146 points back. 

Rinus VeeKay is three points outside the top ten in the championship on 282 points. Graham Rahal has 274 points, 12 ahead of Simon Pagenaud with Romain Grosjean three points off his fellow Frenchman. Christian Lundgaard's maiden podium finish in IndyCar brings him into the top fifteen in the championship on 248 points, 12 points clear of Conor Daly. David Malukas is the 17th and final driver mathematically alive for the championship. Malukas is 210 points behind Power. 

Six drivers were mathematically eliminated from championship contention after the recent IMS road course race: Hélio Castroneves, Takuma Sato, Jimmie Johnson, Callum Ilott, Jack Harvey and Devlin DeFrancesco. 

After the second Iowa race, Kyle Kirkwood, Dalton Kellett, Tony Kanaan, Santino Ferrucci, Tatiana Calderón, Ed Carpenter and J.R. Hildebrand were eliminated. 

Everyone was still mathematically alive entering the Iowa weekend. Juan Pablo Montoya, Simona de Silvestro, Marco Andretti, Sage Karam and Stefan Wilson were the first drivers on the championship table eliminated from the Astor Cup fight.

Any of the top five in the championship could leave Nashville as the championship leader. Five different drivers have led the championship this season, all three Team Penske drivers and two of the four Chip Ganassi Racing drivers. 

The key number is 162. Any driver not within 162 points of the championship lead after Nashville will be mathematically eliminated. Currently, Pagenaud, Grosjean, Lundgaard, Daly and Malukas are all more than 162 points behind Power. 

Herta's Search for Redemption
There have been plenty of redemption stories this season with drivers making up from lost results the year prior to see success. Will Power won at Belle Isle a year after a mechanical issue knocked him out of the lead under red flag conditions the year before. At Road America, Josef Newgarden this year a year after a gearbox issue with two laps to go cost him a victory. 

Colton Herta has a string of costly errors and mistakes that have seen possible race victories fall out of his hands. The most recent one was last week on the IMS road course. While leading, Herta suffered a mechanical issue after clipping the curbing in turn eight while leading. Herta limped back to the pit lane, but his race was over after completing 42 of 85 laps. 

It was at least the third time this season Herta had an error on his own accord or one from his pit stand end a chance at victory. At Long Beach in April, Herta led 28 laps from pole position, but found himself in third and close to Álex Palou and Josef Newgarden after the first pit cycle. Just prior to his final pit stop, Herta hit the wall exiting turn nine and it ended his race. At Mid-Ohio in July, Herta was running behind Scott McLaughlin, but when the car of Tatiana Calderón stopped on the edge of the circuit, Herta did not make it to pit lane when the rest of the field did before the caution came out and closing the pit lane. Herta's missed free pit stop took him out of contention for victory and further spins and contact relegated him to 15th in the finishing order. 

Herta returns to another track where a certain victory slipped away from him. He was the fastest man around the Nashville street course on IndyCar's inaugural Music City Grand Prix. However, with the number of cautions and fractured nature of the race, Herta had to pit under a caution and fall down the running order while having the best car on track. 

Despite the traffic, Herta made breathtaking passes in spots otherwise unthought of and he drove down the leader Marcus Ericsson. Unfortunately, in the closing laps, Herta slammed the barrier in turn nine while running second, within a few seconds of Ericsson, and it ended his race with six laps remaining.

Last week's race on the IMS road course was the 17th time Herta has led a double-digit number of laps. It was the fifth time he has finished outside the top fifteen in such an occasion and all five of those have occurred since the start of the 2021 season. 

In 15 career street course starts, Herta has two victories, three podium finishes, five top five finishes and seven finishes outside the top ten. He has won four pole positions on street courses, and he has started in the top five in nine of his street course appearances and in the top ten in 12 street course races. Only twice has Herta not made it out of the first round of qualifying in a street course weekend. 

Fight for Tenth
Herta does find himself in a tight championship battle, though not the one he was hoping to be a part of. He is tenth in the championship after 13 races, the third different driver to occupy tenth in the championship in the last three races.

Forty points cover eighth to 14th in the championship. 

Herta is currently tenth in the championship on a string of three consecutive finishes outside the top ten. He has four top five finishes and six top ten finishes, but he has not had consecutive top five finishes this season. The best Herta has been in the championship was fourth after the St. Petersburg and he was sixth in the championship after the Grand Prix of Indianapolis. 

He is currently 14 points behind Felix Rosenqvist in eighth. Rosenqvist has three top ten finishes in the last four races and seven top ten finishes in the last nine races after opening the season with no top ten results in the first four races. Rosenqvist was outside the top ten of the championship until the Indianapolis 500. He was 11th in the championship after Mid-Ohio and the first Iowa race. 

After his 20-point penalty, Alexander Rossi falls into this tight fight for tenth. The best Rossi has been in the championship was seventh after his podum finishes at Belle Isle and Road America, but his four-race slump prior to his victory on the IMS road course had relegated him to as low as 11th in points. He was tenth in the championship after the Iowa doubleheader.

Rinus VeeKay was ranked 12th in the championship after four consecutive races before moving up to 11th after the second IMS road course race. VeeKay is three points outside the top ten in the championship. VeeKay was in the top ten of the championship after the first five races. The lowest he has been in the championship was 14th after Road America. 

Graham Rahal is nine points behind Herta. Rahal has three top ten finishes in the last four races. Twelfth is the best he has been in the championship since he was 12th after the first IMS road course race. He was ranked in the top ten of the championship after three of the four races when he opened the season with three top ten finishes in the first four races. 

While some drivers are moving upward, Simon Pagenaud is moving downward. Pagenaud has finished outside the top twenty in three consecutive races. He had never had consecutive finishes outside the top twenty before this run. He was ranked as high as eighth in the championship after Belle Isle, but he has since fallen to 13th, his lowest championship position since he was 15th after St. Petersburg. He is currently 21 points outside the top ten. 

Romain Grosjean is 24 points outside the top ten in 14th. This has been where Grosjean has been living for most of this championship. Since the Indianapolis 500, he has been ranked 14th or 15th in the championship after seven of the last eight races. His fourth-place finish at Road America lifted him up to 12th in the championship. He was ranked in the top ten of the championship after five consecutive races. 

Christian Lundgaard's runner-up finish at the IMS road course has lifted Lundgaard to 15th in the championship, the first time he has been ranked in the top fifteen since after Barber. The Dane is 37 points outside the top ten, but like his teammate Rahal, he has three top ten finishes in the last four races. 

Conor Daly has fallen to 16th in the championship, 49 points off of Herta. David Malukas is 64 points outside the top ten while Hélio Castroneves is 78 points from the top ten in the championship.

Last Street Course
Nashville will be the fifth and final street course race of the 2022 IndyCar season. There have been four different winners on the street courses this season, three of which have been Team Penske drivers.

Scott McLaughlin won the St. Petersburg season opener before Josef Newgarden won at Long Beach. Will Power had an impressive drive from 16th to first in a caution-free race to win at Belle Isle. Scott Dixon scored his 52nd career victory on the streets of Toronto. The driver who has led the most laps has won each of the four street course races. 

Dating back to last season, there have been seven different winners in the last seven street course races. Colton Herta won the 2021 Long Beach season finale. Marcus Ericsson won the inaugural Nashville race while Patricio O'Ward won the second Belle Isle race last season. 

Street courses have been rather wide-open of late. In the last eight street course races, five have been won from starting positions outside the top ten. Prior to this eight-race stretch, 17 of 195 modern IndyCar street course races had been won from outside a top ten starting position, a winning percentage of 8.717%. Since June 2021, 62.5% of street course races have been won from outside a top ten starting position. 

Fourteen of the 23 street courses won from outside a top ten starting position have occurred since the start of the 2014 season. 

The only drivers with multiple podium finishes on street courses this season are Power, Palou and Dixon. Each driver has two podium finishes on street courses. Dixon's only two podium finishes in 2022 have been the last two street course races. Power is the only driver with at least three top five results on street courses. Dixon and Palou have both finished in the top ten of all four street races this season. 

Herta has won pole position at two of the four street course races while Team Penske drivers have won the other two. McLaughlin was on pole position at St. Petersburg and Newgarden started first at Belle Isle. David Malukas has scored fastest lap in the last two street course races while Conor Daly had fastest lap in the St. Petersburg season opener and Palou had fastest lap at Long Beach.

Scott Dixon has the most street course points this season with 142 points, five more than Will Power. Álex Palou is eight points behind his Chip Ganassi Racing teammate while Josef Newgarden has scored 21 points fewer than Dixon on street courses this season. Colton Herta has scored 107 points while Scott McLaughlin has scored 103 points on street courses.

Patricio O'Ward has scored 98 points, one more than Romain Grosjean. Graham Rahal has 90 points, two more than Felix Rosenqvist and Marcus Ericsson has only scored 86 points on street courses this season. Alexander Rossi has scored 82 points in the four street course races, four more than Rinus VeeKay, eight more Simon Pagenaud and nine more than Christian Lundgaard.

Last year, Herta had the most street course points ahead of Newgarden, Ericsson, Dixon and Power. 

Road to Indy
Indy Lights will be the only Road to Indy series on track at Nashville and it is the first time Indy Lights has visited this street course. 

Linus Lundqvist leads the championship, but Lundqvist had a disappointing day at Iowa. It wasn't the finish that was the problem but the Swede's action on the racetrack. Lundqvist crossed the line first on the road, but in the closing laps he squeezed Matthew Brabham into the wall exiting turn two, damaging Brabham's car and dropping him to fourth on the road. After the race, Lundqvist was penalized three positions, dropping him to fourth in the final results. 

Lundqvist remains the championship leader with 383 points. Hunter McElrea inherited the Iowa victory after Lundqvist's penalty and McElrea has won consecutive races. It has the American-born New Zealander 77 points behind Lundqvist, second in the championship. Sting Ray Robb dropped to third in the championship, 90 points off the championship lead. Matthew Brabham is 94 points back and Brabham has podium finishes in consecutive races.

Christian Rasmussen is 111 points being Lundqvist. Benjamin Pedersen has dropped to sixth in the championship, 115 points back after four consecutive finishes outside the top five. 

Danial Frost sits on 258 points while Jacob Abel has 213 points, three more than Kyffin Simpson. Antonio Serravalle rounds out the top ten with 204 points. Ernie Francis, Jr. is six points outside the top ten while Christian Bogle is 12 points outside the top ten. James Roe, Jr. has 117 points.

There will be a driver change at Nashville. Roe, Jr. will move to the #11 HMD Motorsports Dallara in place of Antonio Serravalle. TJ Speed Motorsports, which fielded Roe, Jr. for the first nine races and Simpson for the first eight races, will not have any entries this weekend. 

Lundqvist has finished in the top five in all nine races, and he has the most podium finishes with six. McElrea and Robb both have finished on the podium five times. Robb has eight top five finishes. Brabham has four podium finishes this season. 

Indy Lights will race at 1:00 p.m. ET on Sunday August 7. The race is scheduled for 35 laps.

Fast Facts
This will be the sixth IndyCar race to take place on August 7 and first since Scott Dixon won at Mid-Ohio in 2011. It was Dixon's third Mid-Ohio victory and 26th victory of his career. 

That 2011 Mid-Ohio race was a 1-2 finish for Chip Ganassi Racing. Dario Franchitti was second to Dixon that day.

Last year's Nashville race featured a Chip Ganassi Racing 1-2 finish. It was the 21st 1-2 finish for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Team Penske had a 1-2 finish at Texas. This is the fourth consecutive season to feature at least one 1-2 finish for a team.

Chip Ganassi Racing's 1-2 finish last year at Nashville was the first 1-2 finish on a street course in IndyCar since the second race of the 2016 Belle Isle doubleheader when Team Penske's Will Power won ahead of Team Penske's Simon Pagenaud.

Forty-five of 47 1-2 finishes in IndyCar since reunification have been accomplished by Team Penske, Chip Ganassi Racing and Andretti Autosport.

Since reunification, Team Penske leads all teams with 25 1-2 finishes while Chip Ganassi Racing has 14 and Andretti Autosport has six. 

The other two 1-2 finishes were the second race of the 2014 Houston doubleheader with Schmidt Petersburg Motorsports and the 2015 Toronto race with CFH Racing. 

There have been only four 1-2-3 finishes since reunification. Team Penske did it at Sonoma in 2011 and at Sonoma in 2017. Chip Ganassi Racing did it at Pocono in 2013. Andretti Autosport is responsible for the most recent 1-2-3 finish at the second Mid-Ohio race in 2020. 

The only 1-2-3 finish on a street course in IndyCar since 1946 was Andretti Green Racing's famous 1-2-3-4 finish at St. Petersburg in 2005 with Dan Wheldon winning ahead of Tony Kanaan, Dario Franchitti and Bryan Herta.

Last year's Nashville race was won from 18th starting position. 

Seven races have been won from the second starting position this season. 

The average starting position for a race winner in 2022 is 4.923 with a median of second. 

There were four lead changes in last year's Nashville race. 

The average number of lead changes in 2022 is 9.384 with a median of seven.

Last year's Nashville race had nine cautions for 33 laps. 

The average number of cautions in 2022 is 3.692 with a median of four. The average number of caution laps this season is 18.846 with a median of 15 laps.

The margin of victory for last year's Nashville race was 1.56 seconds. 

Of the 11 races to finish under green flag conditions in 2022, five have had a margin of victory less than a second. The average margin of victory this season is 2.0499 seconds with a median of 1.0027 seconds.

The average margin of victory on road/street courses is 1.507 seconds with a median of 0.99135. The average margin of victory on ovals is 3.4976 seconds with a median of 4.2476 seconds.

Colton Herta makes up for last year and a few other missed opportunities and takes the victory, but Herta will not start second. Alexander Rossi's car will pass post-race inspection. Will Power will lose points to Josef Newgarden in the championship. Simon Pagenaud will finish in the top twenty, but Conor Daly will not. Simona de Silvestro ends up finishing ahead of at least one Ed Carpenter Racing driver. There will be no new developments in the Álex Palou-Chip Ganassi Racing lawsuit during the race weekend. At least 64 laps will be under green flag conditions, and there will be no red flags. No drivers will be parked during this race. Marcus Ericsson will remain on the ground. A.J. Foyt Racing will have at least one top fifteen finisher. Sleeper: Graham Rahal.