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IndyCar announces 'a heck of a party' in return to Nashville for 2021 Music City Grand Prix

The Indianapolis Star — Nathan Brown The Indianapolis Star

Sept. 16--

It’s been a three-year process – the fourth and most recent iteration of Nashville sports and tourism brass trying to put together the proper proposal in order to return IndyCar to Nashville.

And as we’ve seen continuously over the last 10 months, the presence of Roger Penske in the drivers’ seat manages to push things across the finish line what was previously thought to be impossible.

On Wednesday, IndyCar, along with promoters for the Music City Grand Prix, announced that the series will head to the city for a three-day event Aug. 6-8 starting in 2021, culminating with a race around the 2.17-mile temporary street course with 11 turns that will run across the Cumberland River on the Korean Veterans Memorial Bridge – one of the only events in motorsports to cross over a major body of water.

The course, to be unveiled at a later date, will incorporate the Tennessee Titans’ Nissan Stadium as the paddock, and it will also be visible from the glass outer-walled suites inside the stadium that VIPS will be able to watch the race from, according to Penske Entertainment Corp. president and CEO Mark Miles.

“This is all the result of patience and persistence, and ultimately a terrific team of people leading the effort in Nashville who understand what makes an event successful there and what IndyCar’s needs were,” Miles told IndyStar in an exclusive interview Wednesday. “It’s right track, right date, right partnership with the Titans and the city and their Convention and Visitors Corporation and the right investors to create an entity down there that’s responsible to promote it.”

More on the leadup of IndyCar returning to Nashville:

IndyCar made ‘significant progress’ in Thursday meetings on Music City Grand Prix IndyCar officials coming to Nashville to check on possible Grand Prix race

The Music City Grand Prix marks the return of IndyCar racing to the Greater Nashville area for the first time since the series ran at Nashville Superspeedway, located 30 miles southeast of the city, from 2001-08.

The street course, the first of its kind added to the IndyCar schedule since 2013, won’t run directly through Nashville’s hyper-active bar, restaurant and music scene, but instead, Miles said, will run in close proximity to it to allow those venues to stay open during the race weekend, which should only further elevate the event’s potential as not just a race weekend but an entertainment destination.

The event’s release says that lead-up events to the race will include “live music performances from top artists, best-in-class chef-curated food experiences and entertainment that centers on speed in a way only Music City can serve up.” Along with likely 2021 race hosts St. Pete, Long Beach, Detroit and Toronto, the Nashville event could make for as many as six street circuit events for IndyCar in 2021.

In a way, Miles likened the relationship between city and event to Indianapolis, which consistently plays host to some of the biggest events in sports, business and entertainment, but in a way where such an event is pitched as the largest in town that day or weekend. There’s no battling for headlines in a way that you’d have to in New York City, Boston, Miami, Chicago or others, and unlike the Long Beach Grand Prix and the event at Circuit of the Americas near Austin, the race will truly be at the heart of the action for a city with a population near 1 million that has been billed recently as one of the top tourist destinations in the country.

In 2019, it was also named the Best Sports City in the U.S by the Sports Business Journal.

“Like Indy, (Nashville) is big enough to really matter where you can pull your resources together, but it’s small enough to get a consensus and create awareness and excitement and bring people together to pull off something outstanding,” Miles said. “They showed us they could do that hosting the (2019) NFL Draft that they really reinvented and made an outstanding, fun public entertainment success.

“You just have a sense that the civic leaders are great at working together and know how to throw a heck of a party, and that’s key.”

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Miles added that the partnership with the Titans was near-pertinent to making this iteration of returning IndyCar racing to Nashville and applauded their efforts in getting Wednesday’s announcement to the finish line.

“I don’t think we could have done this being right downtown, smack-dab in the middle of the entertainment district, but it’s just a couple blocks’ walk from there, and the city is built to have people go from all the bars and nightlife to where the track will be,” Miles said. “You have the benefit of proximity without the logistical disruptions, and that is key.”

Along with those Nissan Stadium club seating options, the event promoters will offer two ticketing initiatives. The first, called Club RPM, will give ticket-goers access to a “concierge-style service for entertainment reservations, valet parking and entry into the Club RPM lounge at the Bridge Building.” Fans can also sign up to be a Music City Grand Prix Founder to get reserved seating and priority purchasing for parking, hotels and more. More information on scheduling for the event, artists and other aspects to the weekend will be announced at a later date and can be found at www.musiccitygp.com .

In terms of the IndyCar series, the Music City Grand Prix becomes the first new event announced for the 2021 calendar, which Penske has previously stated he hopes to keep at 16-17 races in the future.

“I think it will look a lot like, in terms of number of events, what we had planned for 2020,” Miles told IndyStar Wednesday.

And with Penske’s other announced pursuits, like hosting a new doubleheader at Iowa, where the series had to serve as promoter this year and which has been rumored to be a purchase target of Penske’s, as well as a making a third event at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway an annual doubleheader weekend with NASCAR an annual event, some events planned for 2020 will likely fall off. Miles said he expects the full 2021 calendar to be announced in early October before the season finale in St. Pete on Oct. 25.

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Miles also added he intends for this event to be a long-term addition to the calendar. When asked about the date, which falls on the Closing Ceremony for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, both broadcast on NBC’s networks, Miles said the date had been “carefully thought through with NBC. We didn’t just pick a date that’s good for one year, but one so that we can have date equity for an event over time.

The early-August date also fit perfectly with Nissan Stadium, so to prevent any clash with the Titans’ obligations with preseason NFL football in the future.

Email IndyStar motor sports reporter Nathan Brown at nlbrown@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter: @By_NathanBrown.

This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: IndyCar announces 'a heck of a party' in return to Nashville for 2021 Music City Grand Prix

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