Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix Preview

Juan Pablo Montoya and Will Power lead the field into Turn 1 to start Race 2 of the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit at Belle Isle Park -- Photo by: Bret Kelley

The Verizon IndyCar Series field races into Turn 1 to start the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix at Belle Isle Park — Photo by: Bret Kelley

Verizon IndyCar Series Races 7 and 8 – 
Raceway at Belle Isle Park

by Paul Gohde

There was a time when the Indy car teams would pull out of Indianapolis after the 500 and head for the Milwaukee Mile: a trip that hasn’t happened in a couple years as the race after Indy is now the Chevrolet Indy Duel in Detroit-the only doubleheader on the Verizon IndyCar Series schedule. What was once two ovals in-a-row now offers the drivers a complete change in style; a few weeks on the fastest oval in the world now provides a weekend after Indy on a road course in a park. Quite an adjustment is needed by both drivers and crews.

Duel in Detroit Facts: The first Indy car race here was a CART event on the Belle Isle Park course in 1992, but the series had competed on the downtown streets of Detroit from 1989-2001. The length of the present course has changed little over the years and seems to have settled at 2.35 miles. Each of the two weekend races run at 70 laps/164.5 miles. Last year Race 1 went to Sebastien Bourdais at 97.875 mph while Race 2 saw Will Power edge Simon Pagenaud by less than a second. Pagenaud set the qualifying mark last year at 114.206 mph. Castroneves has won here three times and also has three poles: each more than any driver. Penske Racing has won here on six occasions, the most of any team.

Past Detroit Races: Bobby Rahal captured that 1992 inaugural at just over 82 m ph as CART sanctioned the event from ’92-2001. The IRL/IndyCar has been in Detroit since 2003 with the doubleheader format taking over in 2013. No races were held from 2002-06. Drivers who have won here and gone on to win that season’s series’ crown include Emerson Fittipaldi, Rahal, Alex Zanardi and Power.

2017 So Far: Castroneves leads the point standings with 245 points (no wins) after his second-place finish at Indianapolis. Trailing are Pagenaud (-11, one win), Sato (-11, one win), Scott Dixon (-11, 0 wins), and Alexander Rossi (-55, 0 wins). Other 2017 winners have been Bourdais, James Hinchcliffe, Power and Josef Newgarden.  Honda has wins on an oval and two street courses, while Chevrolet has won on a natural road course, an oval and a roval.

The Grid: Twenty-two cars are entered with TBD replacing the injured Bourdais for Dale Coyne. James Davison took over for the Frenchman at Indy and ran well. He may be in the seat at Detroit, too. Oriol Servia gets the second Rahal entry at Belle Isle and Spencer Pigot is back at his road course work for Ed Carpenter.

Notes: The 2018 IndyCar grid could grow by a few cars in 2018 as the new Harding team that raced at the 500 with Gabby Chaves, has added Texas and Pocono to their 2017 schedule with hopes of a full-season run next year. Trevor Carlin had ideas of IndyCar competition this year, but the British team that has dominated lower open-wheel classes on both continents, having won the Indy Lights crown with Ed Jones in 2016, is sending out strong signals of moving up in 2018. He told us that he’ll know more when his Indy Lights squad runs at Road America later this month. Stay tuned. Juncos Racing came from Indy Lights to enter cars for Spencer Pigot and Sebastian Saavedra at the 500, again hoping it will lead to full-time participation in the Verizon Series next year…This week’s doubleheader at Detroit will be races 22 and 23 for the Indy cars there…Castroneves has raced here 15 times. Most of any driver…Rookie Ed jones, who finished third in the 500 will be racing at Belle Isle for the first time.

Our Take: Six races have produced six different winners in the first one-third of the season. Many drivers who are likely to win in the next 12 races have yet to win. Honda pilots who are hoping to get their first taste of victory include Scott Dixon and Graham Rahal. Chevy possibilities to win their first of the year include Castroneves who is the leading winner here and Conor Daly. Given all that, we’ll go with Honda’s Ryan Hunter-Reay and Scott Dixon.

The Final Word: Graham Rahal (No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Honda). “It’s one of those tracks that a lot can happen at the races there. You get a lot of variation between good qualifying cars and good race cars. A lot of good guys can beat up their tires there… (About the physicality of a double-header) “Everyone is tired. Saturday night is a brutal night. You’ve just done one race and you have to get in shape and hydrate to do the second…It’s kind of nice to get to the streets in Detroit after Indy and being on the oval (there) for so long.”



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Paul Gohde heard the sound of race cars early in his life.

Growing up in suburban Milwaukee, just north of Wisconsin State Fair Park in the 1950’s, Paul had no idea what “that noise” was all about that he heard several times a year. Finally, through prodding by friends of his parents, he was taken to several Thursday night modified stock car races on the old quarter-mile dirt track that was in the infield of the one-mile oval -and he was hooked.

The first Milwaukee Mile event that he attended was the 1959 Rex Mays Classic won by Johnny Thomson in the pink Racing Associates lay-down Offy built by the legendary Lujie Lesovsky. After the 100-miler Gohde got the winner’s autograph in the pits, something he couldn’t do when he saw Hank Aaron hit a home run at County Stadium, and, again, he was hooked.

Paul began attending the Indianapolis 500 in 1961, and saw A. J. Foyt’s first Indy win. He began covering races in 1965 for Racing Wheels newspaper in Vancouver, WA as a reporter/photographer and his first credentialed race was Jim Clark’s historic Indy win.Paul has also done reporting, columns and photography for Midwest Racing News since the mid-sixties, with the 1967 Hoosier 100 being his first big race to report for them.

He is a retired middle-grade teacher, an avid collector of vintage racing memorabilia, and a tour guide at Miller Park. Paul loves to explore abandoned race tracks both here and in Europe, with the Brooklands track in Weybridge England being his favorite. Married to Paula, they have three adult children and two cats.

Paul loves the diversity of all types of racing, “a factor that got me hooked in the first place.”