Mark your calendars because in just under three weeks the Indianapolis 500 defenseman presented by Gainbridge winner Helio Castroneves is back in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES at the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix on the streets of Nashville, Tennessee.
This will be the first time for Castroneves back in Meyer Shank Racing’s # 06 Honda AutoNation / SiriusXM since capturing his historic fourth Indianapolis 500 victory in a thrilling way, pushing points leader Alex Palou back in a heartwarming duel at the end of the race.
Since then, Castroneves has competed in all six races in the Camping World Superstar Racing Experience series on short tracks across the United States. He scored a better third place at Eldora Speedway.
Castroneves has said he expects to be challenged when he returns to the cockpit of an NTT INDYCAR SERIES car on Sunday, August 8 (5:30 p.m. ET, live on NBCSN). First, he will have to recalibrate his brain while driving stock cars. Second, he said, you have to focus on developing your bonds and getting to know this racing team. After all, they only did one race together.
If he can do that, Castroneves expects him and the team to be able to resume their winning paths from May and shoot all cylinders before the home stretch of the season.
Nashville will be the second of Castroneves’ six races with Meyer Shank Racing, as he is expected to face the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Portland, WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca and Long Beach road course to end the season.
“For me, I’m finally back in an Indy car,” Castroneves said. “I’m super excited. I need to get back in the wagon, as they say. I’m happy to be doing SRX, because at least it keeps my mental focus in the race. However, it’s a different car. don’t take that for granted. This is what I have, and this is what I have. We are going to prepare as well as possible for this race.
Castroneves was recently in Nashville to promote the upcoming race, one of the only motorsport events that crosses a large body of water during the Korean Veterans Memorial Bridge race. Between stops at Vanderbilt University Medical Center to thank frontline workers, the County Music Hall of Fame and the Martha O’Bryan Center, the Brazilian has stopped to find out what will soon be a racetrack.
Where did he go? The bridge, of course.
Castroneves was amazed at the amount of vertical drop on the bridge, which the NTT INDYCAR SERIES athletes will cross twice on each lap. While the street courses are generally rough and bumpy, they rarely have a lot of vertical drop. Castroneves expects teams to throw a curve ball.
He also suspects that the pit lane will be a tough spot as well, as it consists of two different straights around the outside of Nissan Stadium. All in all, Castroneves expects this to be one of the more unique racetracks on the show’s schedule.
“I definitely went to the bridge,” he said. “It will probably be the iconic venue for all the street racing we will ever have. It was really cool to see that. I didn’t expect it to have such a high elevation and a low elevation. It is very unique. There is a lot of character to this place, and that is what it is. Street racing always has its signature places, and Nashville has a lot of them. “
Castroneves, 46, is no stranger to the city of Nashville. He competed at the Nashville Superspeedway in the INDYCAR SERIES from 2002-2008. He never won on the concrete oval, but it was a consistent track for him. He’s never finished outside the top 10, and he’s finished third on three occasions. He also won a pole in 2008 and led 54 laps that year.
But this 1.333 mile oval is very different from the 11-turn, 2.17-mile street course. Castroneves also noted how much the city has changed since his last visit to this place known for its vibrant nightlife and music clubs.
“It’s been a decade since we’ve been back, and I can see how much that has changed,” he said. “Downtown Nashville has changed so much. It looks amazing. It’s a big city. It’s incredible. I’m surprised, not shocked, just surprised how the community is behind the race and how the city center has grown so big.
While the new race is exciting for the fans, it is difficult for the drivers and the teams as they have no experience on this track and don’t know what to expect. In a way, every driver is equal, but on the other hand, veteran drivers with decades of racing experience like Castroneves could shine.
“I think at least in terms of the track we’re all on the same ground,” he said. “I don’t know the limit of the car yet, but that’s why it’s important for us to practice beforehand, which I will do. But we remove a barrier, and when you remove them, you get better results. “