PREVIEW: Chevrolet Dual in Detroit Presented by Quicken Loans

Rahal and Kanaan last year in Detroit. Photo: IndyCar
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Following the month at Indianapolis, the Verizon IndyCar Series has arguably its toughest quick turnaround of the season, with the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit Presented by Quicken Loans doubleheader this weekend.

The thrash to get cars ready from oval to street course spec is a challenge for the crews, and the two races offer a double edged sword: you can gain or lose a heck of a lot of points this weekend.

Here’s some of the nuggets heading into the weekend:

2016 Chevrolet Dual in Detroit Presented by Quicken Loans – Talking Points

Rossi’s “regular season” return

If the Indianapolis 500 is its own behemoth of an event, then Detroit marks the return of IndyCar’s “regular season.”

And it has traditionally not been kind to the champion of the Indianapolis 500. If Alexander Rossi is to bolster his win there and move it into a championship charge, he needs to get through this weekend.

At the doubleheader weekends, these have been the results for the ‘500 champion:

  • 2013: Tony Kanaan, Race 1 Started 19th, Finished 13th; Race 2 19th/12th
  • 2014: Ryan Hunter-Reay, Race 1 21st/16th; Race 2 21st/19th
  • 2015: Juan Pablo Montoya, Race 1 3rd/10th; Race 2 1st/10th

Hunter-Reay led the points by 40 over eventual champion Will Power going into Detroit in 2014, but fell to third, 27 points behind Power after the Detroit weekend.

Montoya had a net two-point gain over eventual champion Scott Dixon at last year’s Detroit weekend (lost 10 to Dixon on Saturday but gained 12 on Sunday), but as you’ll note, he didn’t wind up securing the title. Crazy to think that even one spot higher either day at Detroit would have been enough to avoid a tiebreak and win the title.

JPM was the first Indy 500 champion to get through the Detroit double mildly unscathed.

Rossi, who vaulted from 17th (79 points, 163 behind Simon Pagenaud) to sixth (203 points, now just 89 behind) will be looking to avoid a similar letdown this weekend.

Six-pack of winners

In the three prior doubleheader weekends at Detroit, six total races, there have been six different winners from five different teams – three drivers apiece from Honda and Chevrolet.

In 2013, it was Mike Conway (Dale Coyne Racing) and Simon Pagenaud (Schmidt Hamilton Motorsports). A year later, it was Will Power and Helio Castroneves, both of Team Penske, and the latter race was Castroneves’ most recent win. Last year, with rain affecting both races, surprise winners occurred in both with Carlos Munoz (Andretti Autosport) and Sebastien Bourdais (KVSH Racing).

For a track that is usually maligned for a lack of passing, polesitters have only won three times in 19 prior Detroit races on Belle Isle dating to the track’s debut in 1992: Scott Dixon (2012), Castroneves (2001) and Robby Gordon (1995).

Penske, Ganassi bounce backs?

Team Penske and Chip Ganassi Racing Teams went through a, by their illustrious standards, underwhelming Sunday at the Indianapolis 500. Combined, the two teams placed only four of its eight cars in the top 10 from fourth to 10th. Ganassi at least got three of four in with Tony Kanaan, Charlie Kimball and Scott Dixon fourth, fifth and eighth (rookie Max Chilton was 15th), but Penske’s day was nightmarish with Will Power 10th, then Juan Pablo Montoya 11th, Simon Pagenaud 19th and Juan Pablo Montoya 33rd and last.

Penske has often found its way around Detroit but Ganassi’s not had a great time of things the last few years, since pulling off a 1-2 on the old track layout in the Detroit return in 2012 with Dixon leading Dario Franchitti.

Either would be a good bet to deliver Chevrolet a big win on its home soil, with General Motors corporate headquarters as a back-drop.

Rahal’s rise at the track

Despite the various engineering changes, this has traditionally been a good track for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing the last few years. James Jakes bagged a runner-up finish in 2013 and Graham Rahal has podiumed at least once each of the last two years, and goes for a third in a row this weekend. Rahal, in 2012, was also a rare passing demon considering how difficult it is to pass.

This should be a good track for RLL Racing to bounce back after a tough month of May in Indianapolis. His street course results at St. Petersburg and Long Beach have not matched his pace at either event this season.

Passing versus cautions

One of the early season narratives this year has been the struggles to pass on road and street courses given the higher top side downforce levels and less on the underbody. So track position – particularly from qualifying – will be critical. But naturally if yellows come out that can adjust the strategy.

Last year, rain made for two calamitous events from a caution standpoint. There were six cautions for 18 laps in race one and seven for 17 in race two.

But even in dry this has been a hot spot for yellows. Both 2014 races had four cautions – for 17 laps in race one and 13 laps in race two. In 2013, the caution breakdown was three for 14 laps in race one and six for 22 in race two.

Both oval races have had six cautions apiece this year, while the three road and street course races have combined had five. Save for the botched start at Barber and one-lap yellow, Long Beach and Barber essentially ran caution-free back-to-back.

The final word

Defending series champion Dixon on the challenges of the Detroit weekend and needing to unload quickly: “Detroit is one of the most grueling weekends of the season for a few reasons. The track is tough and really demands a lot from the drivers. It’s very physical in nature and you really have to wrangle the car to compete at the front of the grid.

“Two races and two qualifying sessions in as many days really puts the teams to the test. Usually you have some time to recover from an event and prepare yourself mentally and physically for the next round. Not in Detroit. The dual races there provide a lot of excitement and twice as much action for all our fans.”

Here’s the IndyCar weekend schedule:

At-track schedule (all times local):

Friday, June 3

10:45 a.m. – Noon – Verizon IndyCar Series practice #1
3:30 p.m. – Qualifying for the Verizon P1 Award Race #1 (three rounds of knockout qualifying), IndyCar.com (Live)

Saturday, June 4

10:05-10:35 a.m. – Verizon IndyCar Series practice #2
3:03 p.m. – Driver Introductions
3:43 p.m. – Command to Start Engines
3:50 p.m. – Chevrolet Dual in Detroit #1 (70 laps/164.5 miles), ABC (Live)

Sunday, June 5

8:45 a.m. – Systems check
10:45 – 11:15 a.m. – Qualifying for Verizon P1 Award Race #2 (Two groups/15 minutes each), IndyCar.com (Live)
2:59 p.m. – Driver Introductions
3:43 p.m. – Command to Start Engines
3:50 p.m. – Chevrolet Dual in Detroit #2 (70 laps/164.5 miles), ABC (Live)

Here’s last year’s top 10: 

Race 1

1. Carlos Munoz
2. Marco Andretti
3. Simon Pagenaud
4. Will Power
5. Scott Dixon
6. Helio Castroneves
7. Jack Hawksworth
8. Josef Newgarden
9. Luca Filippi
10. Juan Pablo Montoya

Race 2

1. Sebastien Bourdais
2. Takuma Sato
3. Graham Rahal
4. Tristan Vautier
5. Marco Andretti
6. Conor Daly
7. Jack Hawksworth
8. Ryan Hunter-Reay
9. Gabby Chaves
10. Juan Pablo Montoya

Here’s last year’s Firestone Fast Six (Race 1):

1. Will Power
2. Helio Castroneves
3. Juan Pablo Montoya
4. Takuma Sato
5. Simon Pagenaud
6. Sebastien Bourdais

Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup
IMSA
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IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 3 p.m. to USA Network.


QUALIFYING

Results

Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III