NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – Simon Pagenaud hit Nashville, took a peek at the wild times 24/7 and wondered how the heck he had missed Music City his entire life.
“I love food, I love to party, I love music. So I don’t understand where I was, ”said the Frenchman from the Penske team. “I’ll be back a weekend away, I promise.”
Yes, the bars were packed before brunch, but guess what? So where the pit lane sequels and makeshift stands were mostly packed with fans, all to glimpse the fastest newcomers to the Nashville scene.
Hot chicken and hot laps now go hand in hand in Nashville when IndyCar debuted on the street course Friday on the water, around the NFL stadium and up the hill 50 feet in the downtown section . The live music that is a staple of the city found its way onto a stage set up just outside the third bend – of the 2.17 mile, 11 bend track – and the food trucks and beer carts s ‘were activating near the home of the Tennessee Titans. .
When asked what he likes about the track, IndyCar Championship contender Pato O’Ward was blunt:
“It’s violent,” he said.
It’s a perfect fit in a city that is home to Predators defenseman Mark Borowiecki.
The IndyCar could get a hit on its hands if the early days were any indicator of the enthusiasm of fans and drivers for the race. IndyCar driver Rinus VeeKay was wearing a cowboy hat, a city speed limit sign was changed to 240 mph and Jason Priestley was in the house. The first test as a running course – including a 3,500-foot straight that spanned the Korean War Veterans Memorial Bridge – seemed a success.
Colton Herta had a quick lap clocking 1: 16.587 and topped the opening standings in practice, followed by six-time IndyCar champion Scott Dixon. Romain Grosjean finished third and Alexander Rossi fourth.
“It’s tricky, there’s no question about it,” Dixon said.
Will Power – who laughed, saying there was no time on the bridge to enjoy “the beautiful water, the beautiful view” – called the ride to the bridge and downtown a “sketch”.
The Honda riders took the first six places. Conor Daley’s slamming through the tire barriers ended the session.
From the stands or in the car, the bridge is already the landmark.
“I thought the bridge was going to be bumpy, but I didn’t expect the exit from the bridge to be that bumpy,” Herta said. “But that’s not a negative thing. I think it adds character to the track.
IndyCar points leader Alex Palou was fined six grid positions for an unapproved engine change following a team test at Portland International Raceway.
“This is one of those rules that I think they will change in the future,” said Palou. “We just have to get those six places that we’re going to have. I think street racing is always crazy about strategies.
TRAVEL TO THE RIGHT
Grosjean spent the IndyCar summer vacation primarily touring the Midwest in his motorhome with his wife and three children. Her kids loved cage batting and Monster Trucks. His wife loved Chicago. He found Nashville not quite fit for a family.
Like any working father, Grosjean has even found the time to squeeze in some affairs.
Grosjean made the jump this season from Formula 1 to IndyCar and finished twice in the top 10 at the wheel of Dale Coyne Racing. Like his compatriot IndyCar rookie Jimmie Johnson, seven-time NASCAR champion, Grosjean has entered this season only in road and track races. Grosjean first tested an IndyCar on the oval last week at a track just outside St. Louis, and even Johnson gave advice on riding the ovals.
Much like Johnson, Grosjean could consider an all-season race in 2022.
Grosjean has presented offers for 2022 – Andretti Autosport has been touted as a potential destination – but nothing is official. Grosjean said he “wouldn’t say no” to a full season race.
“There are a few phone calls, emails and exchanges. But nothing yet, completely done, ”he said.
Grosjean was almost killed during an F1 race in November in Bahrain when his car crashed into a barrier, separated and caught fire. The accident marked the end of his F1 career and the 35-year-old driver does not regret moving to America.
“I watch everyone race in Formula 1. I always love watching him,” he said. “Do I miss it?” Absolutely not. I think I’m having more fun here. It is a level playing field.
While Grosjean, Jack Harvey and Ryan Hunter-Reay are among the drivers who may be on the move, Pagenaud said he had only had discussions with Team Penske about his return until 2022. The 2016 IndyCar Champion and the 2019 Indianapolis 500 winner called his racing future. “very interesting.”
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