NTT IndyCar Series: Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix Preview

Alexander Rossi racing early in the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix. © [Andy Clary/ Spacesuit Media]

Alexander Rossi racing early in the 2019 Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix. © [Andy Clary/ Spacesuit Media]

by Paul Gohde

After a year’s absence due to the Pandemic, the NTT IndyCar Series returns to the shores of the Detroit River on the heals of the stunning win by Helio Castroneves at the Indianapolis 500. The now four-time Indy winner is not in the field for Meyer Shank Racing this weekend (that will resume in Nashville later in the season), but the tight, challenging Belle Isle Park course could offer two exciting races for both veterans and the “young guns” in the field.

Detroit Race Facts: The upcoming Detroit Grand Prix doubleheader weekend will mark the 27th/28th Indy car races on Belle Isle since racing began there in 1992 under CART sanction, having moved to the Detroit River site after three years on the streets of downtown Detroit. Helio Castroneves and Scott Dixon have each won here three times while Team Penske has captured seven races overall…The weekend’s doubleheader will run on Belle Isle Park’s 2.35-mile, 14-turn street course. Each race will be for 70 laps (164.5 miles) …Graham Rahal holds the race record here at 1:33:36.376 (105.442 mph) set in 2017, while Takuma Sato holds the qualifying mark, also from 2017, at 1:13.673 (114.831 mph).

Recent Race History: No races were run at Detroit during the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. After several schedule adjustments, Belle Isle was the lone doubleheader on the 2019 IndyCar schedule. Josef Newgarden led 43 laps and edged pole-winner Alexander Rossi by 0.82 seconds in Race 1, shortened to 43 laps due to the time limit… Race 2 on Sunday saw Scott Dixon build a two-second margin to win over rookie Marcus Ericson, leading 44 of the 70-lap event.

2021 Season So Far: Current point standings: 1) Alex Palou, 248 points, one win…2) Scott Dixon, 212, one win…3) Pato O’Ward, 211, one win…4) Simon Pagenaud, 201…5) Rinus VeeKay, 191, one win…Other winners: Colton Herta, Helio Castroneves.

Race Entries: The twenty-five-usual road/street course entries have been received with one exception: Santino Ferrucci earned another weekend run with Rahal Letterman Lanigan after his top-10 finish at the Indy 500. The sometimes IndyCar, sometimes NASCAR driver, may have earned a home here, if not this year, then likely in the future.

Notes: TV: Saturday, Race One, 2 p.m. (ET), NBC network/ Sunday, Race Two. Noon (ET), NBC network…Qualifying, Race One, Saturday, 11 a.m. (ET), NBCSN/ Race Two (ET), Sunday, 9 a.m. (ET), NBCSN…In a late decision, IndyCar officials have announced a six grid-spot penalty for the No. 10 (driven by Alex Palou) Chip Ganassi Racing entry at Detroit due to an unapproved engine change prior to the start of the recent Indianapolis 500. The penalty for such a change comes at the Series’ next event which is Race 1 Saturday at Detroit…IndyCar is getting closer to adding a race to replace the cancellation of the Toronto round. Several tracks are mentioned as possibilities to add a race to their already scheduled event…IndyCar also announced an extension to its contract with the St. Petersburg race, extending the agreement through 2026.

Our Take: The trend at the beginning of the 2021IndyCar season saw the youth brigade score several wins. But recently, veterans Scott Dixon and now Helio Castroneves have come to the front, giving some hope to other veterans in the field. Belle Isle is a tight drivers’ course that several rookies might struggle with. We look for Dixon, Graham Rahal or veteran F1 “rookie” Romain Grosjean to win at least once over the weekend.

“They said It”: Graham Rahal No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Honda: “I’ve had some success at Detroit (a two-race sweep in 2017). I’m glad to be back. It’s become a staple on the IndyCar circuit…I got a chance to watch the end of the (Indianapolis) 500 from the pits and it was exciting to hear the crowd; it was obvious who they were for. To hear them chant “Helio”, the place was rocking, and everyone was on their feet. It gave me internal happiness to see that the sport is alive and well. It had a great TV rating; best since 2016, and higher than the Daytona 500 for the first time.”

Next Race: Sunday, June 20, Road America, Elkhart Lake, WI





Share Button