until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League


Winners and losers from IndyCar’s Nashville race

by Jack Benyon
7 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

This year’s Nashville IndyCar race didn’t live up to its ‘crashville’ nickname from the last two years, but the final event on this version of the street circuit still offered plenty of drama.

Whether it was Andretti’s new boy Kyle Kirkwood bagging a second win of the season before any of the team’s other drivers have one, Alex Palou’s latest act of brilliance (wrapped up in good fortune), or one driver’s best qualifying of the year counting for nothing when his rear wing fell off at the end of a 180mph straight, there was plenty to get stuck into.

Here are our winners and losers from a complicated weekend. Let us know in the comments if we got it right/wrong or if we missed something.


Kyle Kirkwood

Kyle Kirkwood Big Machine Music City Grand Prix By Joe Skibinski Large Image Without Watermark M89241

Despite some errors during the season, Kirkwood has emphatically proved Andretti’s management was correct to promote him after a tough rookie year with Foyt as he’s delivered both of its 2023 wins.

It would have been mad for Andretti to be on pole for five of the nine road and street courses so far and not to have won a race this season. Kirkwood’s saved face for Andretti.

If anything, Kirkwood’s win will be a morale-boosting reminder that Andretti can get things done – and a prompt for himself that, despite some difficulties, he has the ability to be a regular IndyCar winner.

Alex Palou

Alex Palou Big Machine Music City Grand Prix By Travis Hinkle Large Image Without Watermark M89371

Over the final four races, Palou only needs to finish ninth each time and he will still wrap up a second IndyCar title.

With an early pitstop that set him up for what looked like a doomed extra stop towards the end of the Nashville race, his closest rival Josef Newgarden must have been thanking the racing Gods for bestowing a great blessing upon him.

Alex Palou Big Machine Music City Grand Prix By Chris Jones Large Image Without Watermark M89128

Instead, they issued a late caution and then a red flag, which meant instead of having to pit from third and fall likely well out of the top 15, Palou stayed where he was: one spot ahead of Newgarden.

“I think Josef can win the last four races. Why not? Everybody can do it. We can do it, as well,” said Palou discussing his chances after the race.

“In this championship, in this series, unfortunately, I don’t think you can just take it easy, especially now with all the work we did.

“We don’t want to race to finish ninth. Maybe in the last race I would take that, absolutely.”

Where does IndyCar go next? The Indianapolis GP, where Palou won earlier this season.

Callum Ilott

Callum Ilott 3

After moving from Formula 2, Ilott contested his rookie IndyCar season as a solo entrant at a Juncos team new to full-time competition in the series.

In 2023, he’s had to deal with the growing pains that a team expanding to two cars goes through, and his new team-mate was a rookie, too.

Despite many bad pitstops, duff strategy calls and team personnel not being in place or up to the standard of some of the more established teams, Ilott has continued to deliver consistent results.

Unlike last year, the team can’t rely on the odd barnstorming qualifying performance and starting further back every week is tough.

But Ilott drove another sensible race to 12th and is 14th in the championship, a frankly brilliant position given the top teams Andretti, Arrow McLaren, Ganassi and Penske account for 14 cars themselves.

I’ll get the usual ‘you’re biased because you’re British’ comments for this, but anyone who makes the effort to look closely enough will realise Ilott deserves to be in one of those top team seats next year. He’s made some mistakes, but he’s doing a great job in his surroundings.

When you consider he’s three places and 20 points up the road ahead of the established Coyne team’s David Malukas, who does appear to be drawing interest for a top seat, it makes you wonder: where are Ilott’s offers?

He’s also the ninth-best driver on ovals. What more does he need to display?

Romain Grosjean

Romain Grosjean Big Machine Music City Grand Prix By Chris Owens Large Image Without Watermark M89271

The Franco-Swiss driver’s fortunes are covered off a bit more in-depth in our post-race piece.

But the headline here is that, at the first chance to prove his team boss wrong that he was throwing away points going for unachievable results, Grosjean delivered a first top-10 finish in eight races to take sixth.

It might not have been a headline win, but it was a measured drive that will do him no trouble when it comes to persuading his Andretti team to keep him on next year.

More of those performances will be vital between now and the end of the year.

Linus Lundqvist

Linus Lundqvist Big Machine Music City Grand Prix By Travis Hinkle Large Image Without Watermark M89322

Lundqvist had only done three tests coming into this weekend, but he comfortably outperformed his team-mate Helio Castroneves and any other of Simon Pagenaud’s injury stand-ins this weekend on the whole.

Sure, he made a small error and caused some damage. But it was the kind of fractional error you’d forgive of pretty much any other driver in the field.

Not many could qualify in the top 11 and spend all day almost matching runaway points leader Palou for pace before deviating from that strategy late on.

A fastest lap of the race and 15th best out-lap were further proof of his talent and even with his crash, there are teams eager to see more of Lundqvist in the context of looking at him for next season.

A fair shout to Castroneves too, who managed his best road and street course race of the year in 11th.


Felix Rosenqvist

Felix Rosenqvist Big Machine Music City Grand Prix By Travis Hinkle Large Image Without Watermark M89370

Admittedly, there may have been something wrong with Rosenqvist’s car in Nashville, but it was still an underwhelming performance that ended with a restart error putting him in the Turn 10 wall.

The Swede’s results are a bit all over the place this year, and if he wants to convince other IndyCar teams he’s worth a paid seat then a bit of consistency over the second half of the season would really help.

There have been too many points thrown away this season and he’s been outperformed across the season by new McLaren team-mate Alexander Rossi.

David Malukas

David Malukas Incident Big Machine Music City Grand Prix By Chris Jones Large Image Without Watermark M89124

Malukas didn’t put a foot wrong this weekend, quite the opposite really.

The driver heavily linked with an Andretti seat qualified fifth in his first Fast Six appearance on a road and street course this season for Dale Coyne, and was sixth in the race when his rear wing appeared to collapse entering Turn 9.

It could have been the kind of result that boosted him up the points, but instead he’s still 17th and that probably leaves a lot of people not really knowing how good Malukas has been this season – if he’s in part to blame for the poor form or if the team has to take some responsibility.

In this case it’s pure misfortune, though.

Colton Herta

Colton Herta Big Machine Music City Grand Prix By Travis Hinkle Large Image Without Watermark M89359

There’s nothing to kick Herta for here, as he was dumped into the wall in one of the most aggressive destructions of a race by three different cars we’ve seen in some time.

Kyle Kirkwood made contact before Turn 11, Will Power pushed him into the exit wall, and then Scott Dixon ran him out of room at Turn 1.

None of the drivers identified that Herta had been dumped onto the marbles off line and allowed him a bit more room. They relished in his misfortune.

Considering he’d qualified third, a similar result in the race could have continued Herta’s relatively decent run of form (Iowa, where Andretti didn’t have the best of times, aside) but instead he trails Nashville winner Kirkwood, who’s upstaged Herta and Grosjean by scoring Andretti’s only wins of 2023.

Herta is better than his results show, but that could be said for the last couple of seasons. At some point, things have to turn for the better.

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