(TNS) During IndyCar’s month-long break, at least three crews are hard at work preparing extra entries to make the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix the largest field for a non-Indianapolis 500 IndyCar race since 2013.
In July, race officials unveiled a comprehensive list of what fans can expect in Nashville as they gobble up tickets for the weekend-long festival. Notably, the Grand Prix stated it expects “28 or more cars,” at the Aug. 6-8 event, beating the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio as the largest non-500 field for a race this season.
IndyStar has confirmed at least 27 cars firmly in-line to enter IndyCar’s newest race. Notably, Helio Castroneves will make his first open-wheel appearance since he won his fourth Indy 500 this year in his debut with Meyer Shank Racing in the No. 06 Honda. Nashville will be part of a late-season five-race run for Castroneves over a six-race stretch.
Rick Ware told IndyStar he plans to enter his son Cody Ware, who made his IndyCar debut in the Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware Racing No. 52 Honda at Road America last month, at Nashville in the team’s third entry. Ware is in the midst of his first full NASCAR Cup series season and with a career-best finish in a Cup race of 19th in 2020 at Talladega and a season-best of 21st in this year’s Daytona 500.
Bobby Rahal also told IndyStar that Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing plans to enter the No. 45 Honda, which has run four of the last five races, at Nashville. Part-time IndyCar and Xfinity series driver Santino Ferrucci has piloted the car for each of those four runs, coming away with four top-10s. But Rahal said last week he’s not sure if Ferrucci will appear in another race for the team in 2021 as they continue to search for who may fill their potential third full-time car in 2022.
Among other teams who may have been considering another appearance on the grid this year, IndyStar confirmed with team principals that Paretta Autosport, Dreyer and Reinbold Racing and Top Gun Racing all are not planning to run the Nashville race. It’s unclear where another entry could come from to reach that 28-car threshold.
Still, even 27 cars on a grid other than the IMS oval is a number IndyCar hasn’t seen in quite some time, dating back to the 2013 race at Long Beach. That mark of a 27-car grid was hit multiple times from 2011-13. The last time IndyCar started and finished a non-500 race with more came at the end of the 2011 season when 29 cars competed at Kentucky Speedway in a 200-lap, 300-mile race. IndyCar also ran 28 cars at Baltimore and Sonoma that season, and 30 cars ran the Texas Motor Speedway doubleheader that season as well.
Among other announcements for the Nashville street race, event promoters will have headlining musical acts Brooks and Dunn (Friday), Jon Pardi (Saturday) and Alan Jackson (Sunday), as well as a non-denominational worship service that Sunday led by 12-time Grammy award-winning gospel singer CeCe Winans. Workers will begin building the track starting Sunday, undergoing 18 consecutive 8 p.m.-5 a.m. workdays to complete the 2.17-mile layout around the Tennessee Titans’ Nissan Stadium and over the Korean War Veterans Memorial Bridge.
At the moment, all temporary hospitality suites, as well as most grandstands, have sold out. Track promoters recently added another grandstand put more reserved seats and general admission single-day tickets on sale earlier this week. GA single-day ticket prices are as follows: $35 for Friday, $65 for Saturday and $85 for Sunday.