IZOD IndyCar Series Preview – Raceway At Belle Isle Park

The IZOD IndyCar Series returns to the road course at Belle Isle (Detroit) June 3 after a wildly successful oval event at Indianapolis where Dario Franchitti grabbed the Borg Warner trophy for Honda and Target Chip Ganassi Racing.

Chevrolet engines dominated the first four street/road course events on the 2012 schedule, with Will Power winning at Barber, Long Beach and Sao Paulo, while Helio Castroneves put the Bow Tie in victory lane at St. Petersburg; both driving for Penske Racing.

IndyCar last raced on the Belle Isle circuit in 2008 with Justin Wilson taking an emotional win for Newman/Haas/Lanigan shortly before team owner Paul Newman passed away.

Indy Car racing returns to the 2.07 mile, 14-turn asphalt/concrete facility that has received over $6 million worth of improvements since their previous race here thanks to event promoter; Penske Corp. The 90-lap race is run clockwise on an island in the Detroit River and features several high-speed straights as well as corners designed to encourage overtaking.

Power leads the series’ standings coming into Belle Isle despite a crash at Indianapolis where he finished 28th. Castroneves and James Hinchcliffe are tied for second, 36 points behind, as Chevrolet power dominates the top of the standings. Scott Dixon (4th) and Dario Franchitti (6th) are the leading drivers for Honda.

The usual 26-car entry is down one as Dragon Racing announced that they will have a single entry for the remainder of the season, with Sebastien Bourdais and Katherine Legge splitting driving duties. Dragon has a single-engine deal with Chevrolet after Indianapolis, and, with no guarantee that they will get another engine soon, Bourdais will race in the remaining street/road course events, while Legge will pilot the car at the Texas, Milwaukee, Iowa and Fontana ovals.

Chevrolet power must be considered the favorite going into the race based on their four early-season wins on street/road courses. Honda was dominant at Indianapolis, but the winner at Belle Isle will likely come from the Penske or Andretti teams.

One final thing to watch this weekend could be the action off the track as there appears to be a move by one or more team owners to oust Randy Bernard from his position of leadership at IndyCar. After a rousing event at Indianapolis that saw an exciting race and TV ratings 8% higher than for last year’s Centennial Era race, some in the paddock seem to object to higher-than- expected costs for the new Dallara chassis. Fines levied for technical infractions after qualifying at Indy, as well as a rule change that many Chevrolet teams thought favored Honda, have combined to make Bernard a target for some. Time will tell if this controversy blows over or becomes a dark cloud over a series that seemed to be moving ahead.

TV coverage will begin at 3:30 (eastern) on ABC.

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