Preview: Detroit’s doubleheader a crucial weekend for IndyCar championship

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DETROIT – Fatigue is starting to set in, but the Verizon IndyCar Series drivers and teams can’t yet lift their feet off the accelerator.

This is the eighth of 10 consecutive weekends on-track for the championship, although the first where most of the Indianapolis-based teams are traveling since the trip to Birmingham, Ala. at the end of April.

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Yet this weekend’s Chevrolet Dual in Detroit Presented by Quicken Loans on Belle Isle Park arguably has as big a role on the championship as did last week’s Indianapolis 500, in the second-to-last street course race weekend of the year.

With this being the lone doubleheader weekend of 2015, it by default offers double points. The difference of course is that the points are the combination of two single-race points, rather than one race having twice the amount of points.

There were several movers and shakers in the points after last week – notably Charlie Kimball moving up six spots from 14th to eighth – and there figure to be more to come after this week in Detroit.

How important is it to roll out of the box well?

With only one 75-minute practice session, from 10:35 to 11:50 a.m. ET, teams will have to nail the setup out of the box to ensure they have a good working car in dry conditions.

Alas, it wouldn’t be IndyCar without some sort of curveball, and that comes with Saturday’s 60-70 percent chances of rain.

If you remember the Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana at NOLA Motorsports Park, you’ll recall the Chip Ganassi Racing pair of Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan – the latter of whom is adorned in a Taylor Swift concert tour livery this weekend – were pacesetters in the dry in practice.

However, once the rain came for qualifying, qualifying was washed out and cancelled. And the race turned into a rain-affected yet caution-drenched lottery (the cautions were coming down more than the rain was), won by James Hinchcliffe in what at least was a popular victory.

The injured but now thankfully released Hinchcliffe won’t have a chance to add a second win in what is likely going to be mixed conditions on Saturday but someone will seize the day, be it on staying clean or moving to the front on strategy, and that will kick off the weekend’s winners.

Sunday is expected to be cleaner, drier, and cooler, with ambient temperatures in the mid-to-high ’60s. Consider Thursday was in the high 80s when drivers and teams did a track walk to explore the newly resurfaced Belle Isle Park facility, which has a fair amount of new concrete, and that’s a big difference for what they’ll be facing most of the weekend.

In four past doubleheader races at Detroit there have been four different winners, in the form of surprise winners Mike Conway and Simon Pagenaud in 2013, and dominant forces from Team Penske in Will Power and Helio Castroneves last year.

As ever the Penske quartet will be strong, and we keep writing, and waiting for Pagenaud to get his first win with the team. Detroit is another realistic spot for it to happen.

But first, the remaining three drivers in the Captain’s stable must get past Juan Pablo Montoya. The lone chance I see for the rest of the field is fatigue; while the Indianapolis 500 champion rides the crest of momentum into Detroit, he’s had a busy week of media and now has to maintain his form into a track where he’ll admit he’s not the best of qualifiers.

Montoya is a damn good racer, not only one of the best in the series but one of the best all-time; that said, his qualifying is his weak spot.

And if there’s one thing the Detroit double has done to Indy 500 winners, it’s killed their momentum.

Kanaan came off his 2013 Indianapolis 500 win with finishes of 13th and 12th in Detroit; Ryan Hunter-Reay suffered through a diabolical Detroit last year with 16th and 19th, both failures to finish.

So if Montoya, who leads the points by 25 over Power coming into the weekend, banks one or two top-10s, he’ll have already exceeded his predecessors, and solidified his championship chances.

The Ganassi quartet is also strong – Scott Dixon is a past Detroit winner and either or both of Kanaan or Charlie Kimball looks poised to build upon podiums they achieved here last year. It’s Sage Karam who needs a big, trouble-free weekend and not the Ganassi equivalent of AJ Allmendinger’s 2013 “weekend on Hell Isle” in his last IndyCar street car race for Penske.

If there’s any Honda capable of upstaging the Bowtie brigade on home soil it’s undoubtedly Graham Rahal and the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing team, with Rahal saying earlier this week he feels “really good” heading into the weekend. And with good reason.

Considering the team’s comparative lack of cohesion and chemistry each of the last two years, this is still a team that has had podiums both years here – James Jakes was second in race two of 2013, and Rahal second in race one last year. Now that the team’s chemistry is actually firing on all cylinders, I’d fully expect Rahal on the podium at least once, and it wouldn’t shock me in the least to see him finally end his seven-year winless drought.

That hits nine of the 23… others to watch include Conor Daly in his Schmidt Peterson “mulligan” race, and first as Hinchcliffe’s injury replacement, Barber winner Josef Newgarden, as he looks to atone from historical struggles in doubleheaders, and KVSH Racing driver Sebastien Bourdais, who has consistently been a thorn in the Ganassi/Penske sides. Of the other Hondas, Takuma Sato was a pole winner here last year and if the Foyt team’s setup comes in, he is a possible spoiler.

We’ll see how it shakes out in the pair of races, both of which air at 3:30 p.m. ET on both of Saturday and Sunday.

Supercross 2023: Results and points after Houston

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Eli Tomac led all 23 laps of the Monster Energy Supercross race at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas and the results show he now has three wins in the season and is one shy of tying Ricky Carmichael’s 48 for third on the all-time list. With this win, he takes a seven point lead in the standings with 12 rounds remaining.

For Tomac at Houston, it was literally a tale of two races. Both his heat and the main started the same with Tomac grabbing the holeshot, but he was passed quickly by Chase Sexton in the heat. Tomac faded quickly after getting passed and was trailing by almost eight seconds at the checkered flag, which caused him to retreat to the hauler and reassess his lines. Without making any adjustments to the bike, Tomac entered the Main with a new attitude, and simply rode better.

Supercross Results Houston
Chase Sexton played it safe in the sand, but he was aggressive in every other turn. – Feld Motor Sports

Sexton had so great a lead in his heat that one could not even use the cliche that he left Tomac in his dust. By the time the rider with the No. 1 plate crossed the same real estate as the No. 23, the dust was well settled. Sexton had a modest start on the initial gate drop and ended Lap 1 in fourth. He worked his way past Aaron Plessinger on Lap 3 and got around Jason Anderson three laps later. Sexton was able to catch Tomac and pressure him, but he picked a safe, i.e. slow line through the sand section and could never get alongside his rival.

RESULTS: Click here for 450 Results; Click here for full 250 East Main Results

After starting the season with back-to-back seventh-place finishes, Anderson now has a pair of podiums. He won his heat and was easily one of the top three riders in the field, ultimately finishing behind the riders who finished 1-2 in the other preliminary. Anderson was subdued on the podium – happy he was there, but disappointed he has not yet found a way around the riders he is chasing in the points.

In the early stages of the race, Plessinger appeared to have a bike capable of winning. He pressured Tomac on the first two laps and was setting up the pass just as a red flag waved for an injury to Dylan Ferrandis that brought out a red flag. He lost second to Anderson on the restart and eventually slipped to fourth to score his first top-five of the season.

Click here for 450 Heat 1 | Heat 2 | Last Chance Qualifier

Cooper Webb rounded out the top five. Along with Sexton, he is now one of just two riders with a sweep of that mark in 2023, but with Tomac’s three wins, he is beginning to slip in the points. Webb sits third in the standings, 12 points behind the leader.

Ken Roczen entered the race as the third rider with a sweep of the top five and progressively better results in the first three races of 2023. Had the pattern held, he would have finished at least second, but he struggled for most of the night, finishing fifth in his heat and eighth in the Main. There may have been extenuating circumstances, however. Ferrandis’ injury was suffered when he landed on the back of Roczen’s bike and potentially damaged the No. 94 Suzuki.

Click here for 450 Main results | Rider Points | Manufacturer Points | Lap Chart


The 250 East division made their 2023 debut in Houston, but the name atop the board was familiar. Hunter Lawrence joined his brother Jett Lawrence as the early points’ leader in their respective divisions, but it didn’t come without a little anxiety.

Riding behind Supercross newbie Tom Vialle on the second lap, Lawrence was forced to take evasive action when the leader pitched his bike sideways to scrub speed over a jump. Lawrence veered left and landed off course, but he cleared the Tuff Blox and kept his bike straight. Lawrence made the pass for the lead on Lap 18 and never relinquished it.

Click here for 250 Heat 1 | Heat 2 | Last Chance Qualifier

In his first attempt on a 250, Max Anstie ascended to the podium. – Feld Motor Sports

England’s Max Anstie made the move from 450s to 250s this year after scoring a best result of 11th on the big bike at Anaheim 2 last year. It didn’t take anytime at all to find the front for Anstie, who finished second in both his heat and main.

It has been a while since Jordon Smith stood on the podium: February 23, 2019 to be exact when he finished that well in Detroit. A series of injuries kept him off the bike for much of 2020 and 2021, but he’s proving to be a factor when he’s healthy.

Click here for 250 Main results | 250 East Rider Points | Combined Rider Points | Lap Chart

There was a lot of hype surrounding the debut of Haiden Deegan in the 250 class and he proved it was merited. He finished fourth in his heat and main. He was as far down as ninth at one point in the feature before slowly picking off riders on his way to the front.

Jeremy Martin finished fifth and now has a streak of three consecutive top-fives to his credit stretching back to last year. Unfortunately, his pair of strong runs in 2022 were interrupted by injury.

Making impressive debuts in the 250 division, Vialle recovered from a fall to finish seventh, Chance Hymas finished eighth, and Talon Hawkins just missed the top 10 with an 11th.

2023 Results

Race 3: Chase Sexton, Levi Kitchen win
Race 2: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence win
Round 1: Tomac, Lawrence win

2023 SuperMotocross Power Rankings

Week 3: Ken Roczen takes the top spot
Week 2: Roczen moves up; Chase Sexton falls
Week 1: Eli Tomac tops 450s; Jett Lawrence 250s