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IndyCar focus shifts to Detroit, and remainder of 2017

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With the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil now in everyone’s rearview mirror, the Verizon IndyCar Series shifts its focus to the remainder of the season. And while every race is vital in the championship picture, the next several races, starting with this weekend’s Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix doubleheader, mark a pivotal point in the calendar for a driver looking to make a championship push.

Consider last year. Simon Pagenaud left the Indianapolis 500 leading the championship with 292 points to his name. Teammate Will Power was mired down in 11th at the time, sitting on 178 points, 114 away from the championship lead.

Power’s finishes over the next seven races went as follows: 20, 1, 1, 2, 1,2, 1. After a weird first race in Detroit, Power then went on a surreal run of four wins and two second-place finishes in the next six races. At the end of the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway, the seventh race in that stretch, Power had vaulted all the way up to second in the standings with 477 points. Teammate Pagenaud was still in the championship lead, but with 497 points, he only led Power by 20. In summary, Power made up 94 points over those seven races to put himself within reach of the championship lead.

Heading into this year’s Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix Presented by Lear, it’s another Team Penske driver atop the standings. Helio Castroneves currently sits on 245 points, 11 ahead of a three-way tie for second between Simon Pagenaud, Takuma Sato, and Scott Dixon. Any one of those four could emerge from Race 1 as the championship leader.

Helio Castroneves currently leads the Verizon IndyCar Series championship. Photo: IndyCar

Behind them sit Alexander Rossi (190 points), Tony Kanaan (188 points), Will Power and Josef Newgarden (186 points apiece), Ed Jones (185 points) and James Hinchcliffe and Max Chilton (170 points apiece). Even Ryan Hunter-Reay, 11th with 152 points, is within the 94 points Power made up last year.

Quite simply, this championship is still up for the taking, and Detroit’s unique challenge of two races in one weekend can easily flip the tables, as Scott Dixon detailed.

“You put so much time and effort into Indianapolis, but you have to also keep your attention on the bigger picture in terms of the championship, and that continues right away in Detroit this weekend,” he explained. “Two races in two days and two qualifiers in two days can really affect the championship race, and we’re hoping we can take advantage of the points on the table this weekend.”

And of course, as a street circuit, Detroit is infamous for its bumpy surface, perhaps the bumpiest of any street circuit the series visits. Indy 500 champion Takuma Sato highlighted the bumps in talking about the challenges of the event.

“Detroit will be completely different from the Indy 500,” he asserted. “It’s going back to a street course – very bumpy track, a lot of braking and tight corners. Usually Detroit is a very exciting track and quite challenging. I personally have a good memory (finishing second in Race 2 in 2015) as well as the team has a strong record, so I’m looking forward to going back to the street course.”

Sato will be looking to avoid the now seemingly traditional post-Indianapolis 500 winner slump in the Detroit doubleheader.

Since the race was introduced as a doubleheader in 2013, here’s been the ‘500 winner’s results in Detroit:

  • 2013: Tony Kanaan: Race 1, Started 19th, Finished 13th; Race 2, Started 19th, Finished 12th
  • 2014: Ryan Hunter-Reay: Race 1, 21st/16th (Accident); Race 2, 21st/19th (Electrical)
  • 2015: Juan Pablo Montoya: Race 1, 3rd/10th; Race 2, 1st/10th
  • 2016: Alexander Rossi, Race 1, 17th/10th; Race 2, 18th/12th

Practice for the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix begins on Friday June 2 at 10:20 a.m. ET.

Follow Kyle Lavigne.

IndyCar entry lists for Harvest GP at Indianapolis Motor Speedway

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There are 25 drivers on the NTT IndyCar Series entry lists at Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course with a few new yet familiar faces for the Oct. 2-3 race weekend.

Four-time champion Sebastien Bourdais will make his season debut in the No. 14 Dallara-Chevrolet (shifting Dalton Kellett to the No. 41) with AJ Foyt Racing, which he is joining full time next season. James Hinchcliffe, who had run three races with Andretti Autosport, will return in place of Zach Veach in the No. 26 Dallara-Honda. Helio Castroneves will drive Arrow McLaren SP’s No. 7 Dallara-Chevy for Oliver Askew, who is out with concussion-like symptoms.

Sage Karam, who has two IndyCar starts this year at IMS (the road course on July 4 and the Indy 500 on Aug. 23), also will return to the series in Dreyer & Reinbold’s No. 24 Dallara-Chevrolet.

HARVEST GP ENTRY LISTS: Friday l Saturday

Friday and Saturday of the Harvest GP presented by GMR will mark the second and third races this season on Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s 14-turn, 2.439-mile road course. While the July 4 race on the circuit was 80 laps, Friday’s distance is 85 laps, and Saturday will be a 75-lap event.

Championship leader Scott Dixon led 26 of 80 laps to win the July 4 race at the IMS road course. With three races remaining in the series, the five-time series champion enters with a 72-point lead on Josef Newgarden.

Click here to see who’s on the IndyCar entry lists in Race 1 and in Race 2 for the Harvest GP presented by GMR at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.


START TIMES AND TV INFO FOR INDYCAR AT INDIANAPOLIS MOTOR SPEEDWAY ROAD COURSE (all times ET):

Thursday

IndyCar NTT Series practice: 2:25-3:40 p.m., NBC Sports Gold

IndyCar qualifying, Race 1: 6:20 p.m. (two groups/12 minutes apiece), NBC Sports Gold

Friday

—IndyCar Harvest Grand Prix, Race 1: 3:30 p.m. (green flag, 5 p.m.), USA Network, NBC Sports Gold

Saturday

—IndyCar qualifying: 10:20 a.m. (two groups/12 minutes apiece), NBC Sports Gold

—IndyCar Harvest Grand Prix, Race 2: 2:30 p.m (green flag, 2:31 p.m.)., NBC, NBC Sports Gold