By DAN GELSTON, AP Sports Writer
NASHVILLE, Tennessee (AP) – Marcus Ericsson flew over a car early, overcame the fierce runs of Colton Herta and Scott Dixon late, and survived the dangerous streets of Nashville city on Sunday to win the first Music City Grand Prix.
Ericsson let the IndyCar highlight roll long before the checkered flag when he jumped the back of Sebastien Bourdais’ Chevrolet and knocked the French out of the race. Ericsson’s flying Honda took just five laps of the race to get a new front wing and he made it the rest of the way unscathed to his second win of the season.
“I’m sorry it ended up in the fence there,” said Ericcson.
The 30-year-old Swede won when it got dark in Nashville while six-time IndyCar Dixon made a late run. But Ericsson got a break when Herta rammed his car into the tire barriers with five laps to go and ended his dominant weekend. Herta topped the first two training sessions and won pole. He caught up with Ericsson and may have had the green light on the horizon as he crushed his car. Herta buried her head in her hands in disbelief and seemed to hurt her left thumb.
Dixon was second to give Chip Ganassi Racing a 1-2 finish. James Hinchcliffe, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Graham Rahal rounded out the top 5.
The Grand Prix was the first new street race in 10 years and enough fans to fill the stands at Nissan Stadium, party near live music stages, and line fences 10 rows deep with cameras up to take a picture of the quickest newbies to make in town.
The best seat in the house would have been without it when the fans stood high up in the stadium hall to get a bird’s eye view of one of the eleven corners of the track.
The 2.17-mile course snaked through the stadium parking lot and over a 3,500-foot straight that spanned the Korean War Veterans Memorial Bridge and hovered 25 meters above the Cumberland River.
Better safe than sorry, diving teams and boats were on standby in an emergency.
The asphalt roads were devastated.
Team Penske drivers finished the race just a few laps later from Ericsson when Will Power dived into Simon Pagenaud and drove his teammate into the wall. That resulted in a massive pile-up of 10 races and the red flag was drawn for about 20 minutes.
There were nine warnings in the race.
Alex Palou is 42 points ahead of Dixon in the overall standings.
Jimmie Johnson’s rookie season at IndyCar continues to encounter bumps on the road – or, in his case, a bridge. Johnson wrecked his car in morning practice for his second wreck of the weekend and had to use a replacement car. He used a spare car that teammate Palou shared. It was collected in the Penske crash and disqualified while the # 48 crew was working on his Honda – Johnson even helped transport spare parts – under the red flag. Johnson turned 26.
“I have a lot of fun, I learn a lot, and every week I get better and better,” said Johnson.
McLaren Racing will acquire a controlling stake in the Arrow McLaren SP racing team by the end of 2021 and plans to add a third car to its IndyCar offering.
The team is providing cars this season for Pato O’Ward, who was second in the points classification before Sunday’s Music City Grand Prix, and Felix Rosenqvist. McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown said on Sunday that he would like to add another full-time car in 2023 – perhaps as early as next season “if we find the right combination”.
“We have the resources, so the economy doesn’t matter, but we want to drive three cars, win the races and fight for the championship,” he said.
IndyCar returns to Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Saturday and hits the street circuit.
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