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, Tennessee, in one of the most improbable results in recent memory.
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. His previous best in 2021 was 14th in June at Belle Isle-2. 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 today, rounded out the top five in the No. 15 United Rentals Honda. Like Hinchcliffe, Ed Jones produced his best drive of the season, finishing sixth after starting 26th in the 27-car field in the No. 18 SealMaster Honda. Jones’ previous best result in 2021 was ninth in June at Belle Isle-1.
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 in the No. 9 PNC Bank Grow Up Great Honda 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, whose previous win came in June at Belle Isle-1, is fifth in the points, 79 behind Palou. He is just four points behind fourth-place Josef Newgarden, who finished 10th today 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.
Ericsson made his final pit stop on Lap 46 and was forced to save fuel and nurse the initially grippier but less durable Firestone alternate “red” tires over the closing laps. Herta made his final stop on Lap 53 for the more durable Firestone primary “black” tires, so he had no fuel concerns to the finish.
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.
“Colton was so fast, as we saw all weekend, so to keep him behind with a lot of fuel save was one of the best performances of my career,” Ericsson said. “I’m sorry he ended up in the fence there. He should be on this podium with us.”
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 includes two trips across the Cumberland River each lap.
Ericsson was in the pits seven times during the race, three more than fellow podium finishers Dixon and Hinchcliffe, due to damage from his early incident with Bourdais and to serve the stop-and-go penalty he was assessed for avoidable contact in that collision. Ericsson drove up the back of Bourdais’ car, launching his front end into the air, on a restart on Lap 5.
“I want to apologize to Seb there at the start,” Ericsson said. “It was an accident. I thought it was green, and I went, and I couldn’t see that he stopped, so I’m really sorry for that.”
But Ericsson’s Chip Ganassi Racing team – led by strategist Mike O’Gara – made all the right calls on pit stops, and he first took the lead on Lap 33 and then again for good on Lap 56 when Romain Grosjean pitted in the No. 51 Nurtec ODT Honda. Ericsson led 37 laps for the day, two fewer than Herta.
Herta also caught a timely break during his first pit stop on Lap 33, during a caution period triggered by tire barrier contact in Turn 1 by the No. 21 Sonax/Autogeek Chevrolet of Rinus VeeKay. It appeared Herta would return to about the middle of the field for the ensuing restart, as a handful of cars had made pit stops during the numerous cautions earlier in the race.
But the Chevrolet Corvette Pace Car had to slow approaching the VeeKay accident area, as there was only one lane open on track since the AMR INDYCAR Safety Team was still clearing VeeKay’s car from the track. That allowed Herta to re-enter the track in fourth place behind leader Ericsson, Hunter-Reay and Hinchcliffe.
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. Practice and qualifying are scheduled for Friday, Aug. 13 on the 14-turn, 2.439-mile road course.
NASHVILLE, Tennessee (INM) – Results of Sunday’s Big Machine Music City Grand Prix NTT INDYCAR SERIES event on the 2.1-mile Streets of Nashville, with order of finish, starting position in parentheses, driver, engine, laps completed and reason out (if any):
1. (18) Marcus Ericsson, Honda, 80, Running
2. (2) Scott Dixon, Honda, 80, Running
3. (10) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 80, Running
4. (14) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 80, Running
5. (13) Graham Rahal, Honda, 80, Running
6. (26) Ed Jones, Honda, 80, Running
7. (9) Alex Palou, Honda, 80, Running
8. (4) Felix Rosenqvist, Chevrolet, 80, Running
9. (15) Helio Castroneves, Honda, 80, Running
10. (12) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 80, Running
11. (17) Santino Ferrucci, Honda, 80, Running
12. (20) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 80, Running
13. (8) Pato O’Ward, Chevrolet, 80, Running
14. (11) Will Power, Chevrolet, 80, Running
15. (6) Jack Harvey, Honda, 80, Running
16. (5) Romain Grosjean, Honda, 80, Running
17. (3) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 80, Running
18. (21) Max Chilton, Chevrolet, 80, Running
19. (1) Colton Herta, Honda, 74, Contact
20. (27) Cody Ware, Honda, 70, Handling
21. (7) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 68, Contact
22. (23) Scott McLaughlin, Chevrolet, 67, Running
23. (19) Dalton Kellett, Chevrolet, 37, Contact
24. (22) Rinus VeeKay, Chevrolet, 24, Contact
25. (24) Takuma Sato, Honda, 19, Contact
26. (25) Jimmie Johnson, Honda, 18, Contact
27. (16) Sebastien Bourdais, Chevrolet, 5, Contact
Winner’s average speed: 72.607 mph
Time of Race: 2:18:49.8305
Margin of victory: 1.5596 mph
Cautions: 9 for 33 laps
Lead changes: 4 among 3 drivers
Herta, Colton 1 – 32
Ericsson, Marcus 33 – 44
Herta, Colton 45 – 51
Grosjean, Romain 52 – 55
Ericsson, Marcus 56 – 80
NTT INDYCAR SERIES point standings:
NASHVILLE, Tennessee (INM) – Mouths were agape and heads were being scratched on pit lane after Colton Herta won the NTT P1 Award on Saturday for the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix on the streets of Nashville, Tennessee.
Herta also earned the Bryan Clauson Pole Trophy for his second pole of the season in the No. 26 Gainbridge Honda, pacing the field by nearly six-tenths of a second with his top lap of 1 minute, 13.6835 seconds. Herta led both practices on the 11-turn, 2.17-mile street circuit before qualifying.
California native Herta set the table for his sizzling lap in the Firestone Fast Six during the first segment of qualifying, when he didn’t use a set of the Firestone alternate “red” tires to advance into the second segment with the second-quickest time in his group, just behind Scott Dixon. That allowed Herta to save an extra set of alternate tires for the Firestone Fast Six, and he used them to devastating effect.
“It was a good lap, but what we did in Q1 really helped us there, with being able to transfer on the black tires,” Herta said. “That was the biggest thing. Being fast on the blacks made it just a lot easier for the rest of the way. Great job by everybody.
“The car is fantastic, as you can see what we were able to do on the black (primary tire) laps compared to everybody. We were really in a league of our own. It felt amazing. Good car to take into the race tomorrow, too. Nice and stable.”
Herta earned his sixth career NTT INDYCAR SERIES pole and second this season. And this statistic should send chills down his rivals’ spines: Herta has converted his last three NTT P1 Awards into victories, including a win April 25 in the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
Six-time and defending series champion Dixon qualified second at 1:14.2327 in the No. 9 PNC Bank Grow Up Great Honda, joining Herta on the front row. That was a solid comeback for Dixon, who admitted he was a bit spooked early in qualifying after spinning twice in the morning practice on the challenging street circuit.
“It kind of sits in the back of your head,” Dixon said. “In the first two rounds of qualifying, I was taking it a little bit cautious and made sure we converted. I knew the PNC Bank No. 9 was super fast.
“We knew Herta was going to be fast (in the Fast Six) because he was the only guy with new tires. But he’s been quick all weekend, so he definitely deserved that. So, kudos to their group, and we’ll see how tomorrow plays out. Starting on the front row is fantastic.”
The gap of .5492 of a second between Herta and Dixon was the largest between the top two qualifiers in an NTT INDYCAR SERIES road or street course race this season, easily besting the margin of .3206 between pole winner Josef Newgarden and Herta for the second race at Belle Isle in Detroit.
Series leader Alex Palou qualified third at 1:14.6316 at Nashville in the No. 10 NTT DATA Honda, but he will start ninth due to a six-spot starting grid penalty for an unapproved engine change after testing last month. 2016 Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge winner Alexander Rossi qualified fourth at 1:14.6646 as one of two Andretti Autosport cars in the top four in a resurgent weekend for the team.
Felix Rosenqvist also continued a strong weekend by qualifying fifth at 1:15.0045 in the No. 7 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet, while rookie Romain Grosjean rounded out the top six in qualifying at 1:15.3980 in the No. 51 Nurtec ODT Honda.
The complex nature of this new circuit, which includes two crossings of the Cumberland River per lap over the Korean War Veterans Memorial Bridge, will force nearly every team into pondering various strategies and tire choices this evening. Dixon, though, already has simplified his approach to the race.
“Go fast, take chances,” Dixon said.
That also probably may be the mantra for championship contender Pato O’Ward, who is second in the series standings, 39 points behind Palou. He qualified ninth in the No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet.
The first two segments of qualifying featured plenty of drama.
Two-time series champion Newgarden, a Nashville native and resident, appeared to be poised to advance to the Firestone Fast Six when he clouted the Turn 11 wall with his No. 2 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet with moments left in the second segment.
The wreck caused heavy damage to the right front and moderate damage to the right side and right rear of Newgarden’s car, and he lost his quickest lap due to causing a local yellow that affected another competitor and dropped out of the Fast Six, elevating Grosjean into the Fast Six. Newgarden will start 12th.
“I was just trying to make up the deficit from yesterday and today,” Newgarden said. “Pretty pumped for tomorrow. Just wish we were a little higher up. Trying to claw some performance there and just overpushed. You can’t wreck and not get penalized. That’s on me. That’s how it works.”
Drivers in the first group of the first segment were forced to hustle to put in a qualifying lap after Jimmie Johnson crashed heavily in Turn 10 in the No. 48 Carvana Honda. The other 12 drivers in the group had just three minutes, 20 seconds to put in a qualifying lap.
A 30-minute warmup at 1 p.m. (ET) Sunday (live, Peacock) will precede the race.
NASHVILLE, Tennessee (INM) – Qualifying Saturday for the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix NTT INDYCAR SERIES event:
1. (26) Colton Herta, Honda, 1:13.6835 (102.601 mph)
2. (9) Scott Dixon, Honda, 1:14.2327 (101.842)
3. (10) Alex Palou, Honda, 1:14.6316 (101.298)
4. (27) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 1:14.6646 (101.253)
5. (7) Felix Rosenqvist, Chevrolet, 1:15.0045 (100.794)
6. (51) Romain Grosjean, Honda, 1:15.3980 (100.268)
7. (60) Jack Harvey, Honda, 1:15.1309 (100.624)
8. (22) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 1:15.1354 (100.618)
9. (5) Pato O’Ward, Chevrolet, 1:15.1914 (100.543)
10. (29) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 1:15.3255 (100.364)
11. (12) Will Power, Chevrolet, 1:15.5016 (100.130)
12. (2) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 1:15.5062 (100.124)
13. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, 1:16.1097 (99.330)
14. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 1:15.4984 (100.135)
15. (06) Helio Castroneves, Honda, 1:16.3479 (99.020)
16. (14) Sebastien Bourdais, Chevrolet, 1:15.6055 (99.993)
17. (45) Santino Ferrucci, Honda, 1:16.4647 (98.869)
18. (8) Marcus Ericsson, Honda, 1:15.6379 (99.950)
19. (4) Dalton Kellett, Chevrolet, 1:17.1516 (97.989)
20. (20) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 1:15.6685 (99.909)
21. (59) Max Chilton, Chevrolet, 1:17.5553 (97.479)
22. (21) Rinus VeeKay, Chevrolet, 1:15.7029 (99.864)
23. (3) Scott McLaughlin, Chevrolet, 1:18.1899 (96.688)
24. (30) Takuma Sato, Honda, 1:15.8503 (99.670)
25. (48) Jimmie Johnson, Honda, No Time (No Speed)
26. (18) Ed Jones, Honda, 1:15.8770 (99.635)
27. (52) Cody Ware, Honda, 1:18.0928 (96.808)
Nashville, TN (INM) – The qualification groups are set for qualifying for the Big Machine Music Grand Prix.
#27 Alexander Rossi
#10 Alex Palou
#7 Felix Rosenqvist
#5 Pato O’Ward
#3 Scott McLaughlin
#06 Helio Castroneves
#12 Will Power
#15 Graham Rahal
#2 Josef Newgarden
#45 Santino Ferrucci
#48 Jimmie Johnson
#59 Max Chilton
#4 Dalton Kellett
#26 Colton Herta
#9 Scott Dixon
#14 Sebastien Bourdais
#8 Marcus Ericsson
#21 Rinus VeeKay
#22 Simon Pagenaud
#60 Jack Harvey
#51 Romain Grosjean
#18 Ed Jones
#29 James Hinchcliffe
#28 Ryan Hunter-Reay
#20 Conor Daly
#30 Takuma Sato
#52 Cody Ware
Reminder qualifications being at 3:30 PM/Cen
Here are the results from practice session #2:
P1 #26 Colton Herta – 1:15:35
P2 #27 Alexander Rossi – 1:15:82
P3 #9 Scott Dixon – 1:15:88
P4 #10 Alex Palou – 1:15:98
P5 #14 Sebastien Bourdais – 1:16:01
P6 #7 Felix Rosenqvist – 1:16:02
P7 #8 Marcus Ericsson – 1:16:16
P8 #5 Pato O’Ward – 1:16:27
P9 #21 Rinus Veekay – 1:16:31
P10 #3 Scott McLaughlin – 1:16:48
P11 #22 Simon Pagenaud – 1:16:59
P12 #06 Helio Castroneves – 1:16:67
P13 #60 Jack Harvey – 1:16:67
P14 #12 Will Power – 1:16:70
P15 #51 Romain Grosjean – 1:16:86
P16 #15 Graham Rahal – 1:16:99
P17 #18 Ed Jones – 1:17:03
P18 #2 Josef Newgarden – 1:17:04
P19 #29 James Hinchcliffe – 1:17:10
P20 #45 Santino Ferrucci – 1:17:13
P21 #28 Ryan Hunter-Reay – 1:17:21
P22 #48 Jimmie Johnson – 1:17:21
P23 #20 Conor Daly – 1:17:34
P24 #59 Max Chliton – 1:17:89
P25 #30 Takuma Sato – 1:18:15
P26 #4 Dalton Kellett – 1:18:57
P27 #52 Cody Ware – 1:20:83
Stay tuned to Indy News for Indy Car qualifying starting at 3:30 PM/Cen
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (INM) – Colton Herta led the opening practice Friday for the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix on the streets of Nashville, taming the varied corners and considerable bumps of the challenging street circuit for this new NTT INDYCAR SERIES event.
Herta’s best lap was one minute, 16.5875 seconds in the No. 26 Gainbridge Honda around the 11-turn, 2.17-mile temporary street circuit that includes two trips over the Korean Veterans Memorial Bridge per lap.
“We’re just getting to grips with the track,” Herta said. “Obviously, we came here with a really good package. We were fast right away, and I felt very comfortable getting up to speed.
“It’s a little nerve-wracking, the first time you have to go flat over the bridge with the bumps because the last thing you want to do is for the car to bottom and you send it into the wall on a straight; you kind of look stupid with that. The simulations we did beforehand were on point for what we expected, and it made my job a lot easier.”
2016 Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge winner Alexander Rossi was fourth at 1:17.1742 in the No. 27 AutoNation/NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda, and Marcus Ericsson rounded out the top five at 1:17.2168 in the No. 8 Bryant Honda.
Honda-powered drivers took the top six spots on the time sheet during the 75-minute session. Series points leader Alex Palou was sixth at 1:17.2264 in the No. 10 NTT DATA Honda.
Track action resumes at 1 p.m. (ET) Saturday with a 45-minute practice, with NTT P1 Award qualifying following at 4:30 p.m. Both sessions will be live on Peacock Premium, NBC’s streaming service. The 80-lap race starts at 5:30 p.m. (ET) Sunday, live on NBCSN.
The 27-car field – the biggest outside of the Indianapolis 500 in the series since 2013 – took its time getting up to speed on the fascinating new circuit, which includes sweeping corners around the paddock complex, two long straights over the Cumberland River and a tight section in downtown Nashville. But two drivers still had unplanned meetings with concrete retaining walls or tire barriers.
Championship contender Pato O’Ward opened his weekend with a small setback when he crashed in the No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet 22 minutes into the session. O’Ward’s right front wheel clipped the barrier in Turn 3, which leads to the bridge, which then pitched the car into the barrier on the other side of the circuit.
O’Ward climbed from the car without injury, and the left front wheel/suspension assembly and left front wing suffered moderate damage. O’Ward is second in the series standings, 39 points behind leader Alex Palou.
“I got caught out by the inside wall in Turn 3,” O’Ward said. “I’ll be fine, man. I love this place. What a cool track. The damage doesn’t seem to be too bad. We’ll be ready to go tomorrow.”
The retaining wall also collected Conor Daly with four minutes to go. The rear wheels of Daly’s No. 20 U.S. Air Force Chevrolet locked up as he braked for Turn 9 exiting the bridge, and the right side of car slid into the tire barrier. Daly climbed without assistance from the car, which suffered moderate damage.