NASHVILLE – After eight incidents and 36 laps under yellow, the second Music City Grand Prix needed a drag race between two Kiwis to decide the finish.
In the end, Scott Dixon came away with a much-needed victory – his second in five races – to slide within the six points of the championship lead in his quest to tie AJ Foyt’s record seven championships. He did so despite starting 14th, holding off Nashville polesitter Scott McLaughlin at the line. Despite a broken front wing, Alex Palou held onto 3rd-place – his first podium finish since Chip Ganassi Racing filed a lawsuit against him for breach of contract in the midst of the squabble over his future destination.
Alexander Rossi (4th), Colton Herta (5 .)th), Josef Newgarden (6 .)th), Felix Rosenqvist (7th), Christian Lundgaard (8 .)th), Jack Harvey (9 .)th) and Simon Pagenaud (10 .)th) rounded out the top-10.
Here’s all the carnage they had to outlast to make it to the finish.
How the eight cautions unfolded at Music City Grand Prix
After nine cautions and 33 laps run under yellow in the Nashville street race’s debut a year ago, the second edition saw eight – the first coming on Lap 8 when Rossi locked his tires and ran into the Turn 10 runoff. The incident ended with his engine shutting off. The issue put him a lap down, along with his Andretti Autosport teammate Herta – who on Lap 4, ran two-wide on the outside of Dalton Kellett into the Turn 4 wall, necessitating a front-wing change.
On Lap 21, Palou pitted from 3rd-place, picking up what at the time looked to be a massive haul of good luck. One lap later, Helio Castroneves spun alone coming out of the exit of Turn 3 to bring out the second caution. Virtually the entire field outside Palou then pitted under yellow, giving the defending champ the lead for the moment.
And as is often the case in racing, cautions begot more cautions. With the green flag flying on Lap 25, Graham Rahal couldn’t slow up as cars checked-up coming towards Turn 7, and he ran into the back of Pato O’Ward – who then nudged the back of points leader Will Power. With a mutilated front-wing, Rahal managed to limp back to the pits, tried to change it and go back out, but had to stop and go behind the wall for extensive repairs.
The contact was enough to damage O’Ward’s gearbox, ending his day and essentially ending his title hopes. He entered Sunday’s race 5th, 46 points back. Power took some damage, but continued. Behind them, Simona De Silvestro, Dalton Kellett and Dixon got into each other in Turn 6 as the field slowed for Rahal and O’Ward – ending the days of the No. 16 and No. 4 Chevy. Dixon needed an extended stop for repairs, but it wasn’t enough to slash all his hopes.
With that third caution of the day, Rossi and Herta were able to work their ways back onto the lead lap.
After a Lap 33 green flag, Takuma Sato and Devlin DeFrancesco sent each other into the Turn 10 wall for the race’s fourth caution, and Dixon would pit under caution there – amazingly one of his six stops on the day. The race restarted on Lap 41, and just as Palou had done the previous pit cycle, Dixon pitted on Lap 51 just before the fifth caution on Lap 52, where Rahal lost it alone into the Turn 4 wall. Rinus VeeKay, unable to avoid the No. 15 Honda, slid into the back of Rahal.
The leaders – outside of Newgarden – pitted, dropping Palou back to 6th on the Lap 56 restart. From there, Power fell back through the field outside the top-10 and now holds a narrow six-point lead over Dixon. Chevy considers the issue his gear-shifting sensor falling off during the Pato-Rahal contact early in the race.
On Lap 64, Kyle Kirkwood tried to dive inside of fellow rookie David Malukas in Turn 9 as the pair were battling inside the top-10. Neither made it through the corner, bringing out the sixth caution of the day. Newgarden pitted off the lead on Lap 66 and dropped several spots near the back of the top-10. The race went back green on Lap 68, only for Jimmie Johnson to spin by himself on Lap 72 coming back over the bridge heading into Turn 9. Replays looked as if he lost control of the car coming over a bump, and he backed it into the wall with a hard hit just before the entrance of Turn 9.
Johnson had been tracking for a top-15 finish, easily his best on a street course during his year-plus in IndyCar.
Shortly after a Lap 75 restart, Newgarden dove inside of Romain Grosjean, trying to steal 7th, and sent the Andretti Autosport car into the Turn 9 wall, bringing out the eighth yellow of the day. Moments later, race control threw the red flag to try and give the race a chance to end under green.
Where the IndyCar title chase stands
Despite finishing 11th, Power still holds a six-point lead over Dixon after coming in with a nine-point advantage over Marcus Ericsson. Despite his car losing power and being unable to take the final restart, Ericsson only dropped three points on Power and now sits third in the title chase, 12 points back. Newgarden is now 4th22 points back, and with Palou’s podium, the Spaniard is 33 points back in 5th.
McLaughlin’s runner-up finish pushed him into 6th58 back – one spot and one point ahead of O’Ward (7th59 points back).