Ericsson Wins Inaugural Big Machine Music City Grand Prix

Chip Ganassi Racing driver Marcus Ericsson started the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix race airborne. By the end, he was sky high.

Ericsson overcame an early incident to turn in a masterful performance and win the inaugural Big Machine Music City Grand Prix NTT INDYCAR SERIES race in downtown Nashville. He outlasted his teammate – six-time series champion Scott Dixon – by 1.5596 seconds for his second victory of the season. James Hinchcliffe of Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport finished third for his best effort of the season.

“It feels amazing,” said Ericsson, whose previous win this season came at Detroit. “I think it backs up what I said, that that was probably the best performance of my career to keep him behind for that long. When he pulled off behind me, I was thinking this is not going to work. We’ve seen all weekend how fast he’s been. I’m thinking, I’m not going to be able to hold him back.

“I just went into my myself and tried to focus on where can I save most fuel where he cannot attack me, where can I push to make sure I stay ahead. I was really trying to just use all my experience to try and figure out how I was going to keep this guy behind. I was really proud of doing that. I think he definitely deserved to be on the podium, so I feel bad for him crashing. But that also showed he was pushing to the limit as well to try to get that victory.”

This could have easily been the Music City Miracle sequel as Ericsson rammed into the back of Sebastien Bourdais on a restart on Lap 5, sending his Honda airborne and likely out of contention in the 80-lap race. Ericsson had heavy damage to the nose of his car and incurred a stop-and-go penalty, but his crew got him back on track and keen team strategy suddenly placed the third-year Swedish driver in contention with the dominant polesitter, Colton Herta of Andretti Autosport with Curb-Agajanian.

“Got some good airtime,” Ericsson said. “I thought my race over there. Then we had to repair the car. I got a stop-and-go (penalty). We were dead last. It was all about trying to recover. I think the car got some damage, as well, from that flight. There was definitely some damage on the car.”

“I thought I would try and recover as many positions as possible and have a solid, what, top 15 was sort of my game plan after that incident. Then, yeah, the team did a great job with the strategy. Pit stops were great. There were so many incidents. For sure there was a little luck there, as well, no doubt about that.”

Ericsson took the lead from rookie Romain Grosjean on Lap 56 and was well aware that Herta would be charging through the field after a pit stop dropped him to seventh. By Lap 63, Herta had passed Dixon for second and had his sights on Ericsson, who had extensive wear on his Firestone red alternate tires. 

Ericsson continued to fend off all of Herta’s charges and the dramatic duel ended when Herta made contact with the Turn 9 tire for the ninth and final caution on the challenging and technical 2.17-mile temporary street course. INDYCAR officials red flagged the race at this stage to ensure a finish under green, but Dixon was unable to mount any serious runs on his teammate to steal the win in the two-lap shootout.

Nashville’s Josef Newgarden of Team Penske started 12th and finished 10th in his hometown race, 7.5286 seconds behind Ericsson.

Notes:  The 27-car field was the second largest of the season, with the traditional 33-car field of the Indianapolis 500 the only one larger to date. … Jimmie Johnson, the seven-time NASCAR Cup champ in his rookie NTT INDYCAR SERIES campaign, was disqualified for unapproved work to his car by his crew during the first red flag period. He completed 18 laps and finished 26th.  … Dario Franchitti, a four-time INDYCAR SERIES champion and three-time Indy 500 winner, served as the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix Grand Marshal and delivered the command to the drivers to start engines. The Scottish-born Franchitti spent more than a decade as a resident in the Nashville suburb of Franklin. … Robert Stout won the second race of the Crosley Stadium SUPER Trucks weekend doubleheader, earning a 1.0268 margin of victory over Jacob Abel in the 11-lap race. Robby Gordon, who won Saturday’s SST race, rounded out the podium. … Bret Curtis won the second race of the GT America doubleheader while Jason Daskalos and Jeff Burton finished second and third, respectively. … Gary LeVox, lead vocals for Rascal Flatts, performed the National Anthem while 12-time Grammy Award-winner gospel singer CeCe Winans delivered the invocation prior to Sunday’s NTT INDYCAR SERIES race. 

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