Rahal, Sato and Ferrucci Return to Action for the Inaugural INDYCAR Music City Grand Prix of Nashville

Rahal Letterman Lanigan RacingMusic City Grand Prix – Streets of Nashville
Pre-Race Notes
Round 10 of 16 in the 2021 NTT INDYCAR SERIES

DATE:     August 6-8, 2021

PRACTICE BROADCAST:     Live on Peacock Premium on Friday from 4:10 – 5:25 p.m. ET and on Saturday from 1:00 – 1:45 p.m. and Sunday from 1:00 – 1:30 p.m. ET.  Also live on the INDYCAR Radio Network (IRN) and www.indycar.com (timing & scoring + live analysis).

QUALIFYING BROADCAST:     Live on Peacock Premium, the IRN and www.indycar.com (timing & scoring + live analysis) from 4:30 – 5:45 p.m. ET Saturday.

RACE BROADCAST:     Live on NBCSN Sunday, August 8 from 5:30 – 8:00 p.m. ET. And also on Peacock Premium, IRN, Sirius 211 and XM 205

TRACK LAYOUT:     2.15-mile road course
RACE LENGTH:     80 laps / 205.62 miles

2020 WINNER(S):     Inaugural event
2020 POLESITTER(S):     Inaugural event

RAHAL’S BEST STREET COURSE START / FINISH:     1st – St. Pete 2009 & Detroit (Race 1) 2017 / 1st – St. Pete 2008, Detroit 2017 (Race 1 & 2)
RAHAL’S HIGHEST SERIES START / FINISH:     3 Poles – St. Pete (street) 2009, Kansas (oval) 2009, Detroit (street) 2017 / 6 Wins – St. Pete 2008, Fontana (oval; 500 miles) 2015, Mid-Ohio (road) 2015, Texas (oval) 2016; Detroit Race 1 2017, Detroit Race 2 2017

SATO’S BEST STREET COURSE START / FINISH:     Edmonton 2011, Houston 2013 (Race 1), St. Pete 2014, Detroit 2014 (Race 2), Detroit 2017 (Race 2) / Long Beach 2013
SATO’S HIGHEST SERIES START / FINISH:     10 Poles – Iowa (oval) 2011, Edmonton (street) 2011, Houston Race 1 (street) 2013, St. Pete (street) 2014, Detroit Dual 2 (street) 2014, Detroit Dual 2 2017, Pocono (oval) 2017, Barber (road) 2019, Texas (oval) 2019, Gateway (oval) 2020 – Race 2 / 6 Wins – Long Beach (2013), Indianapolis 500 (2017), Portland (road) 2018, Barber 2019, Gateway (oval) 2019, Indianapolis 500 (2020)

FERRUCCI’S BEST STREET COURSE START / FINISH:     12th at Detroit (Race 2) 2021 / 6th at Detroit (Race 1) 2021 – both with RLL
FERRUCCI’S HIGHEST SERIES START / FINISH:     2nd at Mid-Ohio (Race 2) 2020 / 4th place, four times (most recently the 2020 Indy 500)


The 2021 Big Machine Music City Grand Prix will mark the first race for the series on the streets of downtown Nashville.  The series previous conducted eight races on the 1.33-mile Nashville Super Speedway oval from 2001-2008.The team’s highest start there was pole in 2004 by Buddy Rice and highest finish was fourth with Danica Patrick. The team will enter the No. 15 United Rentals entry for Graham Rahal, the No. 30 Shield Cleansers entry for Takuma Sato and the No. 45 Hy-Vee entry for Santino Ferrucci in the Music City Grand Prix.

“I’m excited, I’ve never spent a ton of time in Nashville,” said Rahal. “Every time I go has been for work, so typically I may get to go and see a hotel room and that’s about it so I’m excited to get the opportunity to go and race this weekend there and see what’s it’s all about and see the energy and excitement. I’ve got a lot of friends who play sports down there, couple of guys play for the Predators and I know the expectations of the city is to always have a great party and they support their teams well; it’s always been awesome to see. I think the course is going to be excellent. It’s going to be a bit bumpy on this first year, but the guys – Scott (Borchetta, owner of Big Machine), Jay (Frye) and the entire team at INDYCAR, Tony Cotman, I think that they’ve done an excellent job and put a lot of work in to get us to where we’re at. A new street course means a lot of simulator time, trying to figure out exactly what we have. Mainly the reason for that is to get the track layout, know where we’re going and what we’re doing. But still, we are going to show up on the weekend and it’s going to be a lot for us to learn so having a good basic car, a good basic (setup) package underneath us will be critical to our performance.”
            “For us, the new racing venue is coming up this weekend in downtown Nashville, a street course called Music City Grand Prix,” said Sato. “It’s quite exciting, I think everyone will enjoy the new event, but for us it’s lots of preparation happening. There are so many unknowns for the new course, although we do simulators and the team does lots of studying for the track layout and all the bumps – which suggests we will probably have the highest ride height of the season because it looks quite bumpy, and also, we are going very fast down the straight.  In fact, we go over the bridge as many people know and the new track layout seems very exciting. We are going probably 190 mph before hitting the brakes and actually cornering while its bumpy and we have to stabilize the car to prepare for the very fast 90-degree corner for each end of the straight so it’s going to be challenging, and that will be the key factor to have a very competitive weekend.”
           “Having been in only four of the last 10 races, and now coming down to the final part of the season, I am super excited to be racing in Nashville,” added Ferrucci. “I do think we have a really great shot here to keep the car within leadership circle points and keep moving forward. I think another solid top 10 or top five would be fantastic for the team; overall they’ve been very competitive at street courses and that’s what I felt especially coming off of Detroit. We need to work on our qualifying and our car out of the box or off the hauler, and from there I think we will have more good weekends to finish out the year strong.”

The most anticipated feature of the course are the straightaways that are actually on a bridge leading into and out of downtown Nashville. Its going to make an already anticipated event, more so.
           “Have I raced over a bridge? No, I can’t remember that I have,” said Rahal. “To be honest, the bridge there is quite long, it’s going to be a lot of fun for everybody to see and to witness. To go over and then back will be pretty cool as well. I think just being in this city is such a big deal that it should be pretty awesome for everybody. I expect good racing action, the main reason for that is the bridge is very long, down and back is very long and there are some areas of the track that are very wide as well and I do think that will breed some good racing action for the fans.”
            “I have not actually raced over a bridge to my memory, but I have raced under one in Monaco so a little bit different, but I guess kind of the same effect in a way,” added Ferrucci. “The racing is going to be fantastic; I’m really looking forward to making passes over the bridge and off the bridge into some of the brake zones. Like I said before – from what I’ve heard, the track is very tight and narrow so it’s going to make things very entertaining, especially for the opening lap but we will have to wait and see.”

“It was a little weird to have as much time off as we did have, but at the same time it was kind of nice for me to recharge – spend some time with my wife, my baby girl, my dogs, and enjoy the outdoors in Tahoe and recharge a little bit,” said Rahal. “I am extremely excited to get back going; it’s been long enough.”
           “It’s been a while since the last race and we had nearly a month break during the season but I’m sure everyone is watching the Tokyo Olympic games, saluting all the athletes fantastic performances in the games at Tokyo,” said Sato. “Although Tokyo is still very challenging during difficult circumstances as there are no spectators allowed in, but it is just fantastic what is happening in Tokyo.”
           “It’s definitely nice to have a couple of weeks off,” added Santino. “I wouldn’t say I’ve had a full month; I have done some Xfinity racing between the last race in Ohio and now. I have been doing some simulator and I’ve been in the gym – I actually took a weekend off on vacation with my pups and my girlfriend so feeling really recharged and I can’t wait to be back in the seat this week.”

“Nashville as a city is just thriving,” said Rahal. “We know a lot of people who have moved there, know a lot of people who live there, have got a lot of sponsors who are moving there. So, I think it’s going to be huge for us. Obviously, locally, I can think of how important the market is for United Rentals, and HUB International – a big insurance partner of ours; HUB is massive there. And Tennessee is home for Sugarlands Distilling so we are excited. I feel like other than the Indy 500 this year this is the race everyone has said they are going to.”
            “I’ve not been to downtown Nashville myself, but I’ve heard lots of stories about so many restaurants and bars downtown,” said Sato. “And of course, we will have so many events so fans and sponsors and all the guests will have a fantastic time. We as the driver and the team are looking forward to having a new venue and a challenging street course. Very much looking forward to it and the second half of the season we want to perform as high as we can, and I think we have good preparation. I’m looking forward to the weekend, and I’ll see you in downtown Nashville!”
           “I’m super excited to be actually racing in Nashville,” added Ferrucci. “It definitely is one of the top-three races of the season to be at or to attend, with Long Beach and the Indy 500 of course. It’s a big deal for me because representing Hy-Vee, we’re in the Mid-West, Nashville is one of those very much party cities where you go to have a weekend vacation and hangout. It just has a lot of great everything, great atmosphere, great food scene, great bar culture, a lot of live music. I’m a huge fan of that. It’s definitely one of those races where other than the 500 I think it’s going to be biggest race of the season so I’m super excited to see everybody there. I have actually been to Nashville quite a few times during the 2020 season, although there was COVID I have gotten a chance to experience a little bit of the food scene there. I’m very excited to go back and experience the racetrack and all the fans. It’s definitely going to be an interesting one; I’m not sure what to expect. I’m hoping to have a really clean weekend and what I have heard is that the track is very bumpy and very tight.”

“I’m ready to get back going and finish this year off,” said Rahal. “With six races left, I do feel we performed pretty solidly everywhere.  We have a couple of streets, couple of road courses and a short oval left. I do think we’ve performed well everywhere.  The short oval will be the question since we were not good at Gateway last year and we need to figure that out and try to improve and try to be better this time around. But we are looking forward to what’s to come.”
           “I think the team does a fantastic job on street courses so far this year, as we always do, of course,” added Sato. “It will be a little bit of a challenge to have three road courses left in the season, but we also have one short oval. Six races to go in the second half of the season, quite fun practice coming – in fact Nashville must be one of the most fun and most attended events in the top three.”

“It’s very hard for the teams to prepare for a new track, especially a street circuit since there’s no testing. The best thing that we can do is go to the track beforehand, kind of scan it and get a rough idea. We’re kind of thinking it’s like Toronto in a way, so from there we take our previous street course setups and kind of morph it into what we think would be a good fit for Nashville. Having success throughout the weekend is just going to be not really putting a foot wrong, getting all of our run time in, using all of our sets of tires, and just making sure we have a very clean weekend leading up to the race.”

Heading into Round 11 at the Music City Grand Prix, Rahal has a total of 256 points and is ranked ninth overall. He trails fifth place Simon Pagenaud by 24 (280). Takuma Sato is 10th with 226.