IndyCar drivers relishing "violent" bumpy Nashville track

Will Power, Colton Herta, Pato O’Ward and Alex Palou have all praised the new 2.17-mile street course in Nashville, despite bumps, and despite in O’Ward’s case suffering an early shunt.

IndyCar drivers relishing "violent" bumpy Nashville track

O’Ward clipped the inside wall at Turn 3 on his eighth lap of the opening session, bouncing him into the outside wall, thereby breaking the front suspension on both sides of his car. Despite this, the Mexican 21-year-old who sits second in the championship was enthusiastic about the course that Tony Cotman’s NZR Consulting firm has devised.

“I love this place, what a cool track!” he told NBC’s Peacock service. “I got caught out by that inside wall and it sent me off there. The damage doesn't seem to be too bad. We'll be ready to go tomorrow, we'll see what we've got for qualifying."

Asked what he thought of the track, he replied: "That it's violent! Going into Turn 4 [the transition off the Korean War Veterans Memorial Bridge] the bumps are very violent. You're going through there and the wheel is, like, getting knocked out of your hands.

“It's very unique, it's unlike any other place that we go to for sure."

Read Also:

Team Penske-Chevrolet’s Will Power, who finished the day eighth fastest, agreed that particular bump was the “worst”, adding, “If they could grind that down a little bit, it would be really nice.

“But the track is cool, man. I really enjoyed it. Really typical street course – the bumps and cambers of the road you’ve got to deal with. “Yeah, it was fun apart from the coming off the bridge heading into the city. That's a bit sketchy with the bumps. That one big bump. That's it: the rest are pretty good. [The Turn 4 bump] does upset the car. I almost lost it there following someone. But we came in, we raised the ride height, and it got better for us.

After a tight barely two-car-wide sinewy section, the cars return over the bridge at around 180mph before braking for Turn 9. Asked if that was a potential passing zone, given that the course is seven-cars wide at that point – which will serve as Turn 1 for the opening lap in Sunday’s race – Power replied: “It's a fast corner. You actually flow a lot of speed through that corner. Like you don't brake as long and as hard as you would like if you wanted to pass someone.

“Yeah, I think it will be a passing zone, but it's faster than typical street course corner.”

Andretti Autosport-Honda’s Colton Herta, who topped opening practice, also said he enjoyed the challenge of the track, observing: “I feel like when you go to these street circuits that are bumpy and technical like this one is, it's about having the least worst car, if that makes sense. It's never going to handle nice, so you just kind of try to get it into an operating window where it's better than everybody else's…

“I thought the bridge was going to be bumpy, but I didn't expect coming off the bridge to be quite that bumpy. It could make it a little tricky if you're braking for Turn 9. Especially at T4 it makes it tricky. I didn't expect it to be quite like that.

“But it's not a negative thing. I think it adds character to the track. It's actually pretty interesting to follow people through there and see if people are staying out wide or cutting in, trying to avoid the bumps, just finding different lines.”

Points leader Alex Palou (sixth fastest) remarked: “It was more fun than I thought to drive it. Like when I saw the track map, I thought it was going to be a bit boring to drive it with the slow speed stuff, just straights and 90 degrees corners. But they are all different.

“I think it's quite fun. Very bumpy, but also challenging. Yeah, it was fun.”

Both Herta and Power said they had problems getting the brake balance right, finding they were locking up front tires under braking while tire/brake temperature was low on out laps, and then locking rears under hard braking as their cars came up to temperature. But tire degradation-wise, the drivers didn’t feel they yet had an accurate read.

“I didn't even get a good feel of what tire deg is going to be like because of how [fast] the track evolution was,” said Herta, who dominated this year’s race at the street/airport St. Petersburg course. “I took my tires out a stint and they were hanging in there. But heat will kind of amplify all those problems we have with tire temp.

“That will probably be the biggest thing if we do struggle for tire deg[radation] –holding onto tires. That's going to be one thing that the heat is not going to help.”

“We don't know,” concurred Palou. “I think we kept the same time even with really bad tires because the track was getting better and we got more confidence. Yeah, we'll see how the tire deg is.

“I think we're going to have a good race. I think the tire deg is going to be good enough so we have different strategies going on. I think we’ve had some weekends where tire deg was quite high and that helps racing for us. We can undercut and overcut [on pit strategy].

“I think at the places we don't have big tire deg, you can never undercut just because the tire temperature makes a bigger difference. So, yeah, hopefully we have big tire deg.”

Notable at session’s end was that the top six cars were Honda-powered. Over the past 10 years of IndyCar’s current 2.2-liter turbo engine formula, the HPD-produced units have been renowned for their low-rpm torque, and the prevalence of first/second-gear corners in Nashville appears to have amplified their strength.

“I reckon the Honda is going to be very good in that really tight section,” said Power. “Yeah, a lot of first-gear pulls – obviously where Honda has been strong. Chevy is good on the top-endy stuff. It appears that way, yeah.”

Herta added: “There’s not a lot more speed to find out of these engines even though they do every year. It seems to be the same trend every year – it’s the lower end that Honda is good, in road course trim at least. Yeah, lower end Honda is better, the higher end the Chevy has a little bit more speed.”


Related video

Nashville IndyCar: Herta leads FP1, O’Ward and Daly shunt

Previous article

Nashville IndyCar: Herta leads FP1, O’Ward and Daly shunt

Next article

“The best driver will win” in Nashville IndyCar, says Rosenqvist

“The best driver will win” in Nashville IndyCar, says Rosenqvist
Load comments
IndyCar’s longest silly-season is still at fever pitch Prime

IndyCar’s longest silly-season is still at fever pitch

The 2021 IndyCar silly season is one of the silliest of all, but it’s satisfying to see so many talented drivers in play – including Callum Ilott. David Malsher-Lopez reports.

Sep 11, 2021
IndyCar young guns are great, but the elders aren’t done yet Prime

IndyCar young guns are great, but the elders aren’t done yet

The ace 20-somethings in IndyCar have risen to become title contenders, but the best of the series veterans are digging deep and responding – and will continue to do so over the next couple of years, says David Malsher-Lopez.

Aug 20, 2021
The F1 champion who became an Indy king in his second career Prime

The F1 champion who became an Indy king in his second career

Emerson Fittipaldi’s decision to go racing with his brother led to him falling out of F1, but he bloomed again on the IndyCar scene. NIGEL ROEBUCK considers a career of two halves

Formula 1
Jul 31, 2021
The lasting legacy of a fallen Indy car rookie Prime

The lasting legacy of a fallen Indy car rookie

Jeff Krosnoff was plucked out of obscurity to become a respected and highly popular professional in Japan, and then got his big break in CART Indy car for 1996. But a tragic accident at Toronto 25 years ago cut short a promising career and curtailed his regular teammate Mauro Martini's passion for racing.

Jul 14, 2021
The winners and losers in IndyCar 2021 – Mid-season review Prime

The winners and losers in IndyCar 2021 – Mid-season review

At the halfway point in the 2021 NTT IndyCar Series season, we've had seven winners in eight races, spread between five teams – none of them Team Penske. In this unusual season, even by IndyCar standards, who’s excelling and who’s dragging their heels? David Malsher-Lopez reports.

Jun 18, 2021
The joy that exposes F1’s key weakness Prime

The joy that exposes F1’s key weakness

Long-awaited wins for ex-Formula 1 drivers Marcus Ericsson and Kevin Magnussen in IndyCar and IMSA last weekend gave F1 a reminder of what it is missing. But with the new rules aimed at levelling the playing field, there’s renewed optimism that more drivers can have a rewarding result when their day of days comes

Formula 1
Jun 17, 2021
Castroneves: How I kept it under control to make Indy 500 history Prime

Castroneves: How I kept it under control to make Indy 500 history

Helio Castroneves’ overwhelming vivaciousness outside the cockpit belies a hardcore racer who knows how to plot his moves – and then recall it all for us. A day after his fourth Indy 500 win, Helio explained his tactics to David Malsher-Lopez.

Jun 2, 2021
How 'chess master' Castroneves cemented his Indy legend status Prime

How 'chess master' Castroneves cemented his Indy legend status

Helio Castroneves joined AJ Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears with the most Indianapolis 500 wins after sweeping around the outside of Alex Palou on the penultimate lap in a thrilling climax. In one race, he validated Michael Shank's and Jim Meyer's faith in him, and Helio himself discovered there's life after Penske after all.

Jun 1, 2021