I caught up with a number of drivers at Thursday’s Verizon IndyCar Series media availability at a media lunch in Detroit, ahead of the Chevrolet Indy Dual in Detroit Presented by Quicken Loans.
Some news and notes to follow:
Will Power in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet was relieved, despite a penalty mid-race, to still end P8 in the Indianapolis 500. “Considering it’s double points, thank God I finished eighth,” he said.
Power reiterated his frustration with double points, adding he prefers the doubleheader format. “The good thing about them is that you’ve got another shot,” he explained. “Double points to me is way off. It spreads the championship out, now Dixon is 140 back, it’s insane. Where a doubleheader, at least you can come back the next day if you have a bad day.”
Juan Pablo Montoya continues to get more comfortable with Firestone’s red alternate tires, and reckoned he had a shot for his first pole of the season during qualifying for the Grand Prix of Indianapolis. “I felt like in the Grand Prix I had a shot at the pole to be honest,” he said. “I was fastest in my group, but we didn’t put any downforce on later and paid the price.” Montoya qualified on pole in both of his two prior Detroit appearances, on this course configuration, in 1999 and 2000.
Ed Carpenter and Mike Conway are stuck in a rut until Iowa, July 12, in terms of their pit positioning in the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet. Because a rule in the Verizon IndyCar Series rulebook states that any driver change ahead of the weekend requires the team to go to the back of pit lane, Conway will be at the back here in Detroit (2 races), then Carpenter will be at Texas, Conway at Houston (2 races) and Carpenter at Pocono. Carpenter told me it’s unfortunate given they’ve had their lineup planned, but he’s unsure whether INDYCAR will be able to do anything about it.
Although he won’t be racing at Le Mans, Conway will head to the UK on Monday before heading to Le Mans a week later where he’ll be on hand in support of the Toyota Racing team. Conway is the team’s reserve driver.
Conway, and fellow defending race winner Simon Pagenaud, both have had extended media work to do this week ahead of the Grand Prix weekend. “It’s a nice boost,” said Conway, who a year ago only found out on the Tuesday he’d be driving the unheralded No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda and then promptly stomped the field in Race 1 of the doubleheader weekend.
The focus of the Detroit Monster Energy Supercross round was on the mid-pack battle while Aaron Plessinger pulled away from the field, but when he crashed after hooking his foot in the dirt, the results once more looked like we’ve come to expect, with Chase Sexton, Cooper Webb and Eli Tomac sharing the podium for the fifth time in 10 rounds.
For Sexton, Plessinger’s late-race crash was a vindication of sorts. Several times already this season, Sexton has crashed while battling for the lead and the points that has cost him keeps him sporting the red plate. He lost points in Detroit for a different reason, however.
Sexton was allowed to keep the win, but was penalized seven points for jumping in a red cross section of the course. As a result, he dropped four points to Webb and two to Tomac. Sexton is now 17 points behind Webb in the championship hunt.
One week after snatching the red plate from Tomac for the first time in 2023, Webb stretched his advantage by two. With his second-place finish, Webb holds a three-point lead over Tomac, which essentially means both riders control their fate in the coming weeks. Webb continues to have a sweep of the top five this season with his sixth consecutive podium.
Coming off his worst finish of the season, Tomac rebounded to finish third. His eighth-place result last week was partially attributed to a stiff neck that hindered him in traffic and he still suffered some of those same effects in Detroit. Before Plessinger’s crash, he was destined to be the only rider in the three-man title scrum to finish off the podium in Detroit.
It is surprising what one position can do for one’s confidence.
Justin Barcia scored his fourth top-five of the season. He was part of the exciting four-man battle that dominated the middle stages of the race before Sexton and Webb gained a little separation. Finishing less than three seconds behind Tomac, he kept that rider honest for the entire race.
Coming off his first win of the season, Ken Roczen finished fifth. It was his seventh top-five of the season and it elevated him to fifth in the standings.
Hunter Lawrence tied his brother Jett Lawrence with 10 wins each after another dominating ride in the Detroit Supercross race and the results in the points continue to widen. With his fifth win in six rounds and a worst finish of third, Lawrence now has a 35-point advantage over Nate Thrasher with four rounds remaining. Finishes of 14th or better in the final four mains will give him his first 250 championship.
Jett will have an opportunity to retake his wins’ lead as Supercross heads west for the next two rounds in Seattle and Glendale, Arizona.
Nate Thrasher earned his third second-place finish of the season with a gap of 7.6 seconds to Lawrence. He won the overall in Arlington earlier this season, but a 15th-place finish in the opening round in Houston and 10th in Daytona hurts his championship chances.
Haiden Deegan scored his second podium and fourth top-five in six rounds of his young career. On his way to that finish, he rode aggressively against his teammate Jordon Smith in the heat race. Fans are getting a glimpse of what his on-track personality might be.
Jeremy Martin continues to be the model of consistency. He has not finished worse than sixth or better than fourth in six rounds now and that has allowed him to close to within two points of third in the 250 East championship standings.
Max Anstie entered the race weekend second in the points, but a hard crash in heavy traffic early in the main forced him to retire after two laps. Earning only one point for the round, he plummeted to fifth in the standings.
The news was worse for Smith, who was dropped out of the top nine in his heat after the altercation with Deegan and failed to advance through the LCQ. In the last chance race, he stalled his engine and had to mount a determined charge. He got only as high as seventh in that race after crashing while attempting to make a pass on fourth-place Jack Chambers.