The downtown streets of Nashville, TN have been prepared to host IndyCar for the inaugural Music City Grand Prix, and the drivers are keeping an eye on the many unknowns of the new 2.17-mile course.
The most photogenic feature will be the trip across the Korean Veterans Memorial Bridge, which spans the Cumberland River and is over 1,100 feet long.
But the biggest factor in the race may be the circuit’s unique pit road. Stretching from turn 10 all the way to turn 2, and containing a 90 degree bend in the middle, it will certainly give the drivers an added challenge.
A few drivers, including Simon Pagenaud and Romain Grosjean, will have pit boxes in the middle of the curve, making for particularly difficult pit stops during the race.
The pit lane also exits directly into the preferred racing line in turn 2, adding another element to the tricky layout.
“I think it’ll be easier than Toronto pit lane,” related Ryan Hunter-Reay ahead of the weekend. “We had to alter and switch the pit lane to the other side of the racetrack and it became super tight and very hard to negotiate.
“But yeah, this one is unique, no doubt about it. It could present its challenges.
“I didn’t take a trip down pit lane in the simulator, not even sure that was an option. I already started thinking about it and some scenarios that could play out under yellow and things like that.
“[The racing line is] to the left at the exit of a right-hander, which means the cars are going to be exiting to the left, as well.
“Yeah, that could definitely be an issue. We’ll see. Looking forward to seeing the track tomorrow when we get there and walk on it.”
Even though simulator runs may not have given drivers a chance to become familiar with the nuances of pit lane, they have helped with getting to know the racing line.
Both Honda and Chevy have state-of-the-art simulators that many drivers have visited in recent weeks to try to get a leg up on their competition.
However, being a temporary course means that changes and improvements to the surface have been made very recently, and there are still many unknown details that won’t be discovered until the cars are actually on track.
“Simulators are only as good as the model that you base it on, and that’s only relative to what you actually get in real life,” continued Hunter-Reay.
“The catch is nobody has actually been in a race car around this racetrack, so the simulation models are all just an educated guess.
“They’re city streets, and we’re converting them into a racetrack, so we’re always ready to adapt. We’re always ready to kind of get to solutions overnight.
“Yeah, it’s definitely a bit of a head scratcher in some areas because you’ve got these long straights, you’ve got to put the power down, but there are some kind of flowing sections that we need a good balance in the race car.
“At the moment it’s anybody’s guess. We’re kind of going with our typical bumpy street circuit setup and then we’re going to have to adapt from there.”
Hunter-Reay will be one of 27 drivers looking to take home the trophy for the inaugural Music City Grand Prix, which takes place this Sunday at 5:30 PM Eastern Time.
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