Revamped Belle Isle kicks off big stretch for IndyCar (VIDEO)

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The Indianapolis 500 has come and gone, and now the real fight for the IZOD IndyCar Series championship can begin.

This weekend’s Chevrolet Indy Dual in Detroit (Saturday and Sunday, 3:30 p.m. ET; check local listings) not only marks the first-ever doubleheader weekend for North America’s top open-wheel series but also begins a run of five races in four weekends. It’ll be a tough stretch for everybody involved and it gets started with the island course at Belle Isle Park on the Detroit River.

The circuit has been overhauled following last year’s embarrassing track surface problems that caused the distance of the race, won by Target Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon, to be shortened by a third (60 laps instead of the scheduled 90). Over 100,000 square feet of new concrete and 50,000 square feet of new asphalt has been put down to ensure that such a scenario won’t play out again, but just as importantly, the track has gone to a 2.3-mile configuration that was used during the event’s days under CART sanction.

This has brought in a new straightaway of about one half-mile connecting Turns 2 and 3 – adding a much-needed passing zone to a course that has been maligned repeatedly over the years as unexciting.

It cannot be stressed enough just how important physical conditioning and managing mental stress is going to be this weekend for the drivers and teams in Detroit. Two 70-lap races on a bumpy, narrow street circuit is going to be hard for them, but with the series championship now front-and-center after the “500,” they’ll all have to keep their eyes on the prize.