Having grown up in nearby Hendersonville and now a Nashville resident, Josef Newgarden has driven numerous times across the Korean War Veterans Memorial Bridge and around the Nissan Stadium campus. Come this weekend, he will have the opportunity to tour those downtown streets at blazing speeds in his No. 2 Hitachi Chevrolet for Team Penske in the inaugural Big Machine Music City Grand Prix.
Being a local resident, he has seen the progress of the build and the excitement mounting in the city for this inaugural event.
“This has been non-stop, to be honest, for the past five, six months as far as the inquiries and the interest,” Newgarden said. “It is relentless if you will. It’s the best way I can put it. Everyone is so excited about this event. I keep saying this: a good indicator for me is even people who don’t necessarily tune into motorsports – when those people are very interested and excited about the event, I think that bodes well for the overall health.
“I know we are going to have a ton of motorsports fans that are interested but to get the general population on board with it too is I think a real big win. I think that is going to be happening in Nashville. Excited for the city, excited for INDYCAR, I think it is a really good match.”
How good of a match?
“I really believe it is a match made in heaven,” Newgarden said. “I truly believe that. I’m from Nashville. This is my hometown so of course I’m more excited than your typical person that didn’t grow up here. But Nashville has an appeal that is far reaching these days. I think that is what you are starting to see with people that are excited about the event. I think a lot of out-of-towners just want to come to Nashville and if they are motorsports fans then that just makes it a great excuse to travel to Nashville, enjoy the city and then also get some motorsports action.
“I think from a longevity standpoint if the track is built correctly, if the event is run right then the staying power of this street course is really high. It’s a great promoter group, a great ownership group, everyone is very passionate, a lot of the owners are very intimate with motorsports and understand the landscape.”
The Big Machine Music City Grand Prix is the first new temporary street course on the NTT INDYCAR SERIES in a decade and the initial prospects indicate it has the potential to thrive for many years to come. Ticket sales have been brisk from the outset and the organizers needed to cap the capacity for Sunday’s race at approximately 60,000 spectators. Large crowds also are expected for both Friday and Saturday as well.
The festive atmosphere will be heightened by nightly marquee concerts on site with Brooks & Dunn and Friends (7 p.m., Friday), Jon Pardi (8:30 p.m., Saturday) and the Grand Ole Prix concert featuring a number of country music stars including the Oak Ridge Boys, Danielle Bradbery, Riley Green, Justin Moore and Callista Clark (7 p.m., Sunday).
“I think Nashville is a perfectly positioned city,” Newgarden said. “It’s a city that supports events and generally the people in Nashville don’t care what the event is as long as there is an event they are showing up. So, to show them something so unique like an INDYCAR street course race is just super cool. I think INDYCAR is really good for the city of Nashville and I really think the city of Nashville is really good for the sport of INDYCAR. I think they work really well together. So, my optimism is sky high, not only for this first year but for creating a new street course environment for the INDYCAR SERIES that can thrive for hopefully 50 years. I really think this is the place that can do it.”
Newgarden will bring his annual charity ping-pong tournament to his hometown at the Pins Mechanical Company on Thursday in his continued efforts to raise money for the SeriousFun Children’s Network. The event, which begins at 5:30 p.m., will feature the hometown host as well as more than a dozen NTT INDYCAR SERIES drivers including the four-time and reigning Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves; NASCAR Cup Series stars Joey Logano, Ryan Blaney and Daniel Suarez along with team owner Justin Marks; Tennessee Titans players; and other athletes, country music artists and celebrities.
The tournament is open to the public for a $50 admission fee to benefit SeriousFun and available on EventBrite – https://bit.ly/3iXVwZi. Media is invited to attend to conduct media interviews of the various special guests competing in the event.