At 27 cars, the Music City Grand Prix has all the appeal of a throwback IndyCar race where pit lane, the paddock, and the grid were packed with an incredible number of entries.
It’s been nearly a decade since the NTT IndyCar Series had 27 or more cars to deal with outside the Indianapolis 500’s traditional field of 33, and if many of the plans in motion by its teams come to fruition, Nashville’s big turnout just might be a preview of what’s coming next season.
With 24 full-time entries in place for 2021, it’s in the expansion plans and the return of at least one team where the optimism is rooted for the 110-year-old racing series. Meyer Shank Racing will add a second full-time car for Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves in 2022, and to get the party started, MSR and Castroneves will be on the grid at Nashville as the Brazilian uses the final stages of the championship to prepare for the future.
The No. 06 MSR Honda takes us to 25 cars next year, assuming there’s no downsizing in the current field, and Monday’s announcement of Ricardo Juncos mashing the throttle with new co-owner Brad Hollinger to contest the last three races of the year ahead of a full-time campaign as Juncos Hollinger Racing takes the anticipated entry list to 26.
Santino Ferrucci is back this weekend in the third Rahal Letterman Lanigan entry, which could serve as one of his last outings for the team this year as RLL starts an evaluation process to see whom the best candidate for the No. 45 Honda might be if it’s converted from part- to full-time participation. And Arrow McLaren SP is putting in the work to prepare for growth from its two-car operation for Pato O’Ward and Felix Rosenqvist as the team seeks to become a three-car outfit at every round in 2022.
If AMSP or RLL are successful, the series would have 27 cars, and if both can deliver, 28 entries — a seemingly unfathomable number for full-time IndyCar efforts — is achievable.
Ed Carpenter Racing is also working hard to expand, with a long-held desire to have two full-time drivers in their own ECR entries and to add a third for the team owner/driver to pilot and possibly share with a road and street course specialist.
Prepare for 26, hope for 28, and enjoy the 27 this weekend in Tennessee. It just might become the norm.