Don’t ever give up. It is more than a cliché and Marcus Ericsson proved that today in Nashville, Tennessee. Five laps into the inaugural Big Machine Music City Grand Prix, Ericsson was staring at the sky while he was still strapped into his No. 8 Honda machine. The Ganassi driver ran into the back of Sebastien Bourdais coming to get the green flag on a restart, but the field got stacked up and Ericsson went airborne.
Following extensive repairs to his car after the incident, Ericsson bounced back in miraculous fashion to earn his second victory of the season on Sunday. When you consider that he started in 18th, served a stop-and-go penalty, and held off a hard-charging Colton Herta and six-time series champion Scott Dixon, the improbable victory is one that he will not soon forget. Ericsson led 37 laps on Sunday and beat his teammate to the finish line by 1.5596 seconds to take the checkered flag.
Big Machine Music City Grand Prix Box Score
The end result was a microcosm of the entire race. It was wild from the start, and nobody had any idea how any of it was going to play out. There were two red flags, two cars that were disqualified, a pace car that ran out of gas, an unknown liquid spilling onto the track, 9 cautions for 33 laps, and of course a race winner that was once airborne during the race. When the dust settled, it was Ganassi getting a 1-2 finish with Ericsson and Dixon. The runner-up result for Dixon moved him up into 2nd place in the championship standings with five races remaining.
For Dixon, it was his first podium finish since his race win at Texas on May 1. James Hinchcliffe earned his first podium since the 2019 race at Iowa. Finishing just behind him was his teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay, who finally had some good luck. The two drivers will likely be out at Andretti after this season, so these results today were a breath of fresh air. Rounding out the top five on Sunday was Graham Rahal, who quietly had a solid race day after struggling earlier in the weekend.
Another driver that desperately needed a good result was Ed Jones. The Dale Coyne Racing driver got that today with a solid 6th place finish. Championship points leader Alex Palou came home in 7th place, capping a fantastic day for Ganassi. It was also a banner day for Honda, who took the top seven spots on Sunday. Felix Rosenqvist was the top-finishing Chevrolet, just ahead of former teammates Helio Castroneves and Josef Newgarden who rounded out the top ten.
There were some great storylines for the drivers listed above, but none of them had anything for Colton Herta. It was evident from the start that it was Herta’s race to lose, as he dominated every practice session and qualifying. He had the fastest lap of the race and would have run away with this one had it not been for all of the caution flags. He was hunting down Ericsson in the closing laps, when he entered Turn 9 a little too hot.
The devastation was written all over his face and you could see it in his body language. He had the race in hand and lost it all in the blink of an eye. “Tunnel vision, man,” Herta said. “I feel terrible. We had the car all weekend to win, and man, I just threw it away, so I feel really bad. I’m okay, though. I know that I didn’t get my hands off the wheel, but they’re okay, so I don’t really have anything to say. This place is brutal. I think we saw that. I just feel terrible for the team and for Gainbridge and Honda. It was terrible on my part.”
Herta was hardly the only driver to have contact during the race. Only 18 of the 27 cars finished the race, with Jimmie Johnson (working on car under red-flag) and Cody Ware (unable to maintain minimum speed) both being disqualified. Team Penske also had their fair share of issues on Sunday. Will Power triggered two separate incidents, taking out two of his teammates in the process.
Power managed to still finish 14th but ruined the races of Simon Pagenaud and Scott McLaughlin with some questionable decisions on the track. Newgarden also had to deal with a bent suspension after contact with Rahal. With Pagenaud’s day ending early, it leaves Dixon as the only driver to have completed every lap this season.
It was a strange Sunday in Nashville, but the crowd showed up and the event provided plenty of storylines to digest over the course of the next few days. The series returns home as they prepare to hit the IMS road course once again next weekend. Palou holds a 42-point lead in the standings over Dixon, with Pato O’Ward slipping into third. Ericsson’s win today vaulted him back into the top five in the standings.
The next race on the schedule is the Big Machine Spiked Coolers Grand Prix on the road course at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on August 14. NBC Sports Network will provide coverage for the event, which begins at 4:30 PM ET on Saturday. This is a double-header event with NASCAR. The Xfinity series race runs after the IndyCar race concludes and the Cup series will race on Sunday.
Photos courtesy of IndyCar