Colton Herta once again found himself in the spotlight in Nashville, but only this time his contact with the tire fender hurt more than his chances of winning the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix on Sunday.
Hertha’s incident late in the first set of Saturday’s qualifying session brings out the red flag, and there was not enough time for the session to resume. Several drivers, including fellow Andretti Autosport teammate, Alexander Rossi, were at their best and couldn’t finish it. Thus, they also did not advance.
Rossi was clearly annoyed, walking back to the conveyor with his helmet on. All Herta could do was apologize.
“That was just[being]too ambitious for what the circumstances were,” Herta said. “I think after a lot of rain (during the afternoon) some kind of grip fell off (the tires). Just trying to find the right braking point and overtaking it.
“It’s hard to put these (the replacement tyres) on and be (perfect) for one or two laps – you really have to go after it. My apologies to my team, especially to (Michael) Andretti because I may (hurt) a Russian out there well and maybe some of the other guys.
“I’m not trying to do this on purpose, which is really downright wrong. I feel bad for everyone involved.”
The red flag at the end of the session led to mixed results, with several top drivers failing to advance to round two. Simon Pagenaud (No. 60 AutoNation/SiriusXM Honda of Meyer Shank Racing), Felix Rosenqvist (No. 7 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet) and Rossi (No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS/AutoNation Honda) are the most noteworthy. On Sunday they will start the 80-lap race (3pm ET, NBC and IndyCar Radio Network) in the 13th, 15th and 17th positions respectively.
Herta will start at st. Last year his contact with the tire spur came at Turn 9 while he was chasing race leader Marcus Ericsson with six laps left. Ericsson went on to claim his second career win in his career streak.
Harvey, Kellett use caution
The red flag for Herta’s fault was the break that a few drivers in that group needed, including Jack Harvey (#45 Hy-Vee Honda of Rahal Letterman Lanigan) and Dalton Kellette (#4 K-LINE/AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet).
Harvey has reached the top 12 for the third time in the past four races. 11 will line up.
Kellett holds the highest starting position of his career NTT INDYCAR SERIES 12th. His previous best was a 14th place finish at this year’s opening Firestone Grand Prix in Saint Petersburg.
“We made the right call (using replacement tires on back-to-back runs) for that first quarter session and we were able to transfer, (and) that was one of our goals for the year and we’re really glad we were able to make it here in Nashville,” Kellett said. . “INDYCAR races 100 percent (driven by good attitude) track. Being able to start more on the grid is really a huge benefit to us.
“This is likely to be a tough race; we have to do our best tomorrow. I am looking forward to putting in a good showing.”
Harvey’s performance was part of a team-wide effort for RLL that has quietly produced better form in recent races. All three teams’ cars qualified in the top 12, with rookie Christian Lundgaard taking third place at the start despite taking a penalty on a pit road for causing the local yellow.
Lundgaard qualified in the Firestone Fast Six in two consecutive races. He started sixth and finished second in last month’s Gallagher Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, his first career finish with an NTT INDYCAR SERIES podium finish.
hot summer day
Before the rains on Saturday, the weather in Nashville was steamy: 92 degrees for midday practice with high humidity. Or, as JJ Sebastianelli described it on INDYCAR Radio Network, “air you can wear.”
The drivers definitely felt the impact, and that was with short runs on the temporary 11-lap, 2.1-mile street circuit. The real difficulty comes on Sunday over 80 laps where conditions are expected to be similar.
“that it hot Inside the car, and the worst part is honestly the half of the track – at turn 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 there is no airflow at all,” Pateau Award said. “When I got out of the car (Friday), I don’t think I got out of a race car, Even after a wreck (like this). I compared it to Iowa (Speedway). she was until far away warm.”
Driver number 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet said he wouldn’t be wearing any of the cool suits that cover the trunk either. Nor Scott McLaughlin, who will start in first place.
“I failed a lot (during the race) in Australia,” said McLaughlin, driver of the #3 DEX Penske Chevrolet team shoot. “I’m going to do a natural suction and try to rely on the upper channel and fin air.”
NBC analyst James Hinchcliffe said McLaughlin’s best description would be “a normal sweat.”
McLaughlin said: “It’s really hot out there, but we’re training for it. It’s humid, so maybe that’s the hardest thing for us as drivers now, but I feel good.”
It was hot even after the rain. Takuma Sato said, “I’ve only turned six laps, but I’m sweating like I just got out of the shower.”
Newgarden: a well-received event locally
The second year of the Big Machine Musical City Grand Prix looked like the first year for the driver to know the city better.
“It sounds as popular to me as last year,” said Joseph Newgarden, a Nashville-area resident. “Honestly, I’ve heard nothing but rave reviews from the locals here.
“Anyone who attended this event (last year) says they had a great time. They noticed there were some issues with the race – there was a lot of yellow – but in terms of the event, they were like, ‘We liked it, we had a blast, we thought’ (The promoter) put on a great event, and we had a really good time.”
The NTT INDYCAR series is expected to return to the city in 2023.
“I feel very positive about where (the event) is headed,” said Newgarden, who will start sixth on the Penske Chevrolet No. 2 in the PPG. “I really don’t see any negative in that.”
Shortcut added to help track flow
An adjustment has been made to the run-off area in Turn 1, giving drivers the option to rejoin the field without assistance from the AMR INDYCAR safety team.
The shortcut now connects Turns 1 and 3, although if used in a Sunday race, the track position would be lost. Safe re-entry is the responsibility of the driver and his team, and any unsafe behavior in the area may be subject to an additional penalty.
Odds and ends
- Scott McLaughlin earned his record 61st as a Penske member, breaking the tie with Helio Castroneves for most poles by a Penske driver. McLaughlin earned his first 59 poles as a member of the organization’s Australian V8 Supercars team, with whom he won three consecutive season championships from 2018-20.
- The two drivers who lead the points standings, Will Power and Marcus Ericsson, will be deeper in the pack than they want when the green flag drops around 3:30 p.m. ET on Sunday. The Powers would start eighth on the Penske Chevrolet’s #12 Verizon team after losing its fastest lap in qualifying for a local yellow. Ericsson will cruise 18th in the No.8 Husky Chocolate Chip Janassi Racing Honda. The power is nine points ahead of Ericsson with four races remaining.
- Andretti Autosport’s Romain Grosjean (#28 DHL Honda) will start in the front row for only the second time in his NTT INDYCAR SERIES career. He won the pole in his third race, the GMR Grand Prix in 2021 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
- Lundgaard wasn’t the only rookie to excel in Saturday’s qualifiers. David Malukas (#18 HMD Honda of Dale Coyne Racing with HMD) finished seventh at the start. He’s started in the top eight in five of the past eight races.
- Lundgaard and Malukas are among the six NTT INDYCAR SERIES drivers to race on this circuit for the first time. The others are fellow debutants Kyle Kirkwood, Callum Ellot and Devlin Di Francesco and veteran Simona de Silvestro.
- Two-time INDYCAR Champion Al Unser Jr was at the track on Saturday working as a Trans Am race analyst.
- Due to a 90-minute weather delay in the afternoon, a decision was made to cancel the qualification for Sunday’s Indy Lights presented by the Cooper Tires race and set the starting lineup based on season entry points.
- Series leader Linus Lundqvist on the Indy Lights pole will begin HMD’s #26 with Dale Coyne Racing’s entry. He’s won four of the nine races this season and is a 77-point lead over Andretti Autosport’s Hunter McElrea, who has won the past two races (at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and Iowa Speedway).
- This will be the first Indy Lights race at the temporary Nashville Street Circuit. The green flag is set at 1:10 p.m. (ET), with live broadcasts on Peacock Premium and the INDYCAR Radio Network.
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