NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — As the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix races back into Nashville Friday, drivers will hit the track noticing a few changes this year.
The location of the race is a major draw, says Track Designer Tony Cotman.
"All the teams just stay downtown, and they can walk to the track. That is just too cool, there’s not many races where that happens," he said.
When mapping out a race, he looks for two major components:
"The most difficult thing in street circuits is to find the long enough straightaway, which helps passing, and enough area for the pit stops," he explained.
That's why he zeroed in on the Korean Veterans War Memorial Bridge and Nissan Stadium.
Crews have worked overnight for three weeks to build the 2.17 mile course, putting the final pieces in place in the 48 hours leading to race weekend. And the track's general footprint is the same as last year.
But pileups, especially around the final turn, led to cautions during nearly half of the inaugural race (33 of the 80 laps). At turn 11, drivers raced to get an edge during the re-starts, and at times created new crashes before the race could get back up and running.
"Last year it was 'go stop, go stop' it never really got to develop as a race as you would expect," Cotman said, "I'm hoping this year that it plays itself out and we have more excitement."
Cotman thinks moving the re-start line to the start line will make all the difference. That's on the Korean Vets Bridge, a space far wider than 2nd St in front of Nissan Stadium.
"It'll be just like the start all over again," Cotman explained. "Every time there's a crash, it'll be a new start."
After hearing from drivers, crews touched up paving on and off the bridge to help smooth out the ride. And a few barriers are moving back to help sight-lines.
"We take what they say into account," said Cotman.
However, he says the crash count is something the drivers own, not the track.
"Lets hope they use a little more common sense (this year)," he laughed.
One area getting more narrow is Turn 9, which connects the bridge straightaway to Interstate Drive. Last year it spanned the width of the street, but this year additional hospitality will be set up at the Exxon at the corner.
It won't be a surprise. Drivers have been practicing using simulations of the track. And Thursday they got to walk the track in person.
Overall, Cotman thinks there will be fewer cautions in year two. But street circuits are always less predictable.
"That’s what's cool about IndyCar racing," he says.