Ride along as Big Machine Music City Grand Prix staff gear up for the inaugural race weekend

Check out the unique track through the heart of town
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Posted at 5:54 AM, Aug 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-05 06:54:43-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — This weekend, the Korean Veterans Memorial Bridge will light up red, white and blue, and 100,000 fans will descend on the East Bank for the first Big Machine Music City Grand Prix.

Traffic Anchor Rebecca Schleicher hopped in for a lap with the president of the event, with Sky 5 above, to show you the unique track through the heart of town.

Music City Grand Prix President Chris Parker has spent a lot of time in a black Chevy Silverado 2500 HD pickup as race weekend approaches. In fact, he says he's driven the 2.17 mile track downtown hundreds of times.

"And that's just with the barricade up," he laughed, "we've been out here at night for a couple of weeks now."

Special fencing is in place around the track from Nissan Stadium, across the KVB bridge and through a series of turns in Sobro. But a lot of the build is still underway along the 45-acre festival footprint.

"It’s a combination of excitement, enthusiasm, anxiety, trepidation - it's all those things rolled into one," Parker said as race weekend draws closer.

After the bridge, drivers will pass over a newly paved intersection and through five very quick turns onto Hermitage Avenue, 1st Avenue South, Peabody Street and back.

Track map

"They’ll make this turn, and in a mere flash of a second, they'll go from turn six to turn seven and down to turn eight," Parker told Schleicher as they rounded turn five.

Meanwhile, the two catch a red light.

The pinnacle event should last around two hours Sunday evening as drivers take the 11-turn circuit for 80 laps. Unlike our crew, drivers won't have to contend with traffic, construction or speed limits.

"They’ll be going a lot faster than we are," Parker said.

Workers aren't just setting up the track. Parker compares the work to building a small city, with grandstands, suites, tents and stages.

All with a build schedule as tight as some of the turns.

"Thursday morning we'll close down the entirety of the track so that we can complete all of the fencing segments and gates," he said. That's when drivers will get to walk the track, as well.

At 10 a.m. that morning, the major road closures include high-impact Korean Vets and Shelby Avenue, plus the Shelby ramps to I-24. In Sobro, Hermitage Avenue will affect drivers who commute downtown from the east. Closures will last through the clean-up, as late as 5 a.m. Monday morning.

And cyclists will notice the Davidson Street and Pedestrian Bridge closures. This week, NDOT announced a pop-up bike lane and detour from Davidson, using South 5 Street and the Woodland Street Bridge to cross the river instead.

If you plan to enjoy to races, Parker says to use I-40 and get downtown using Broadway, Church Street or Demonbreun. Parking downtown and walking across the Pedestrian Bridge will be the best entrance, with the team banners flying.

"I think that’s going to give people that wow factor," he said.

Ride share zones will be located in similar areas as other Nissan Stadium events, on Crutcher Street and Woodland Street, and there are a couple places for bike parking as well, including 2nd Avenue South, Peabody Street, South 1st Street and South 2nd Street.

The turns to watch? He suggested turn four and turn nine. Four starts the SoBro sequence, and nine leads to Interstate Drive, a wider section where drivers may approach 200 mph.

But don't sleep on the KVB bridge.

"The down force of these cars is so dramatic, they literally stick to the road," he said, "that arc (on the bridge) makes it very unique for the drivers."