Nothing is set in stone yet, but both IndyCar and Music City Grand Prix officials said Friday they feel confident in the prospects of bringing the series to the city in 2021.
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As expected, IndyCar officials, including series owner Roger Penske and Penske Entertainment Corp. president and CEO Mark Miles, met in Nashville on Thursday with officials with the prospective Music City Grand Prix, in hopes of returning IndyCar to the state. Though nothing is finalized, both sides acknowledged Friday in separate statements that talks were « extremely productive, » bringing them « one step closer » to an official announcement.
« We continue making significant progress in bringing an IndyCar race to the streets of Nashville, » the series said in a release. « While there is more work to do, we are aligned with Music City Grand Prix officials in working toward a finalized event agreement.”
IndyCar officials, including Roger Penske and Mark Miles, met with officials with the Music City Grand Prix Thursday in hopes of bringing an American open-wheel race to the city as soon as 2021. (Photo: Provided by IndyCar)
The statement came just minutes after officials with the Music City Grand Prix announced similar sentiments: « We are pleased to confirm that plans to bring an annual (IndyCar) urban street race to Nashville progressed this week.
« We collectively agreed to work toward finalizing an agreement to bring an urban racing festival to Nashville with a presence at Nissan Stadium. While we are all excited by the Music City Grand Prix plans, to be clear this process is not finalized. »
MCGP officials said that their meetings with IndyCar brass took place Thursday at Nissan Stadium, along with « key staff from the Tennessee Titans and other key stakeholders. »
Earlier this week, Butch Spyridon, CEO of the Nashville Convention and Visitors Corp., told The Tennessean that the fourth iteration of hopes to return IndyCar to Nashville were already « farther along than we have ever been with this. »
This group (Music City Grand Prix) has done the best job and gotten it further down the field, but still has a ways to go, » he said. « I’m hopeful, but it ain’t over til it’s over. »
The debut target for the race, which at the moment is set to be a 1.5-mile road race through downtown Nashville, would be August of next year.
This is a mock-up of what Indy cars might look like racing on the streets of Nashville. Officials with IndyCar and the Music City Grand Prix met Thursday, pushing talks about a 2021 race closer to completion. (Photo: Provided by IndyCar)
« This is the next step to see if Nashville is for real, » said Spyridon earlier this week of the impending meeting. « I know (the IndyCar group) wants to look at the track. I know they want to talk to possible investors. They want to make sure it’s a solid deal. Roger Penske is nobody’s fool. He’s going to make sure his investments are being well looked after. »
Recently, Nashville has played host to the NFL Draft, the NHL All-Star Game and NASCAR’s Awards Show. Additionally, the city is the home of the headquarters of Bridgestone Americas, the parent company of IndyCar’s tire manufacturer, Firestone. Most recently, IndyCar ran a 1.33-mile short-track race at presently-defunct Nashville Superspeedway, which is 30 miles southeast of Nashville, from 2001-08.
The potential addition of a new track to the schedule would seem to mean IndyCar may lose one of its current tracks, after Penske told IndyStar this summer, « We want to stay at 16-17 races. We don’t need 19-20. We want promoters that are healthy and that care, and we’ve got a good mix of ovals and road courses. »
Additionally, Penske has hinted at the prospect of scheduling more doubleheaders to ease travel and other expenses for teams and the series itself. Along with a hope to race at IMS three times – including the Indy 500, the GMR Grand Prix and an additional road course race possibly paired with NASCAR – it may mean IndyCar’s 2021 calendar might look significantly different than the one slated for 2020 before the coronavirus pandemic sent it into disarray.
Last week, Green Savoree Racing Promotions announced they’d reached a three-year extension with IndyCar for the Grand Prix of Portland. It was one of several tracks dropped from the calendar, including Barber, Circuit of the Americas, Long Beach, Richmond, Toronto, Laguna Seca and Belle Isle.
Last week, Miles said the series hopes to have a finalized 2021 schedule by the end of the present season, set to be Oct. 25 at St. Pete, or a little before.
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