IndyCar Preview: Chevrolet Dual in Detroit

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With the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500 come and gone, the focus now shifts to the summer championship stretch for the Verizon IndyCar Series.

In essence, the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit represents a second straight double-points event – with two races on the offer, that means 100 points are up for grabs race wins, not counting bonus points for poles, leading a lap, and leading the most laps.

With six events and seven races in the next nine weeks, the months of June and July also represent one of the busier stretches of the calendar, adding another dimension to the summer months.

Talking points ahead of this weekend’s Chevrolet Dual in Detroit are below.

Championship Swing Can Start Now

Every race is critical in the championship chase, there is no doubt about that. But, the Detroit double-header can be especially critical.

Take last year as an example. Graham Rahal entered the weekend 15th in the championship, 101 points behind then championship leader Helio Castroneves. Rahal went on to score a pole in Race 1, lead the most laps in each race, and win both races in a near-perfect weekend.

Rahal’s point tally that weekend came in at 107 of a possible 108. The impact on his championship standing? He left the weekend in sixth, 52 points out of the lead. In other words, he cut the deficit very nearly in half.

And the year before that, Will Power used the Detroit weekend as a springboard to make a championship push of his own. After finishing 20th in Race 1, he scored a win in Race 2, and followed it up with finishes of first, second, first, second, and first.

In that seven race stretch, Power went from 114 points back of the championship leader – teammate Simon Pagenaud – to 20, shaving 94 points off that gap.

The current standings are very close at the top. Power’s Indy 500 victory vaulted him into the championship lead on 243 points. Alexander Rossi is two points back in second, with Josef Newgarden third, ten points out of the lead.

The rest of the top ten looks like this: Scott Dixon (218), Ryan Hunter-Reay (186), Graham Rahal (183), Robert Wickens (178), Sebastien Bourdais, (168), Simon Pagenaud (155), and James Hinchcliffe (144).

Coincidentally, Hinchcliffe is even fewer points out of the lead than Rahal was last year entering Detroit (99 to Rahal’s 101). And, as last year showed, this weekend presents an enormous opportunity to make headway, or make up for lost ground, as Hinch will be motivated to do after he failed to qualify for the Indy 500.

It all adds up to a weekend that can enormously impact the 2018 season.

Chevrolet Looks to Reclaim its Territory

Graham Rahal led a Honda domination at Detroit in 2017. Photo: IndyCar

Rahal’s sweep last year was also a sweep for Honda. In fact, Honda enjoyed a particularly successful weekend, even going 1-2-3 in Race 1 with Scott Dixon and James Hinchcliffe rounding out the podium.

Add in that it came at an event sponsored by rival manufacturer Chevrolet, and it was a weekend that surely left a few wry smiles on the faces of the Honda folks.

As such, Chevrolet and their teams will look to reclaim their “turf” of sorts. With four wins in 2018, including a stretch of three in a row between Power and Josef Newgarden – not the least of which being Power’s Indy 500 triumph – and they are riding a wave of momentum heading into the weekend.

Chevy won the Honda Grand Prix of Alabama in April (with Newgarden), and expect Chevy to have more revenge on their minds after losing out to Honda in this event last year.

Power Looks to Keep Things Going in Detroit

Will Power celebrates his Indy 500 win. Photo: IndyCar

Typically, Indy 500 winners have not fared well at the Detroit double-header. Results of the 2013-2016 “500” winners are below.

  • 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

Montoya collected a third and a 10th in 2015, while Rossi ended up 10th in Race 1 in 2016, but the other results reveal a slew of struggles, mechanical woes, and on-track incidents that have inflicted the Indy 500 winner.

However, Takuma Sato solidly bucked that trend last year, finishing eighth and fourth across both races.

This year’s Indy 500 winner Will Power will look to build off that and be only the second 500 winner to make a Detroit podium since the event returned in 2012 – Franchitti finished second that year, with Montoya’s aforementioned third the only other podium.

Power has two wins at Detroit, so indications are that he’ll be strong there. And he is ready to get back rolling after basking in the glow of Indy 500 glory.

“This has been an amazing week so far,” Power said of his time since winning at Indy. “When you want something so much and it finally comes true, that your hard work has paid off, it is a great feeling. Now we have to focus on Detroit with the No. 12 Verizon team because I don’t want to experience a hangover from the win when we are leading the points. And this is such an important weekend for Roger (Penske) and Chevrolet. It’s great to come here as the Indy 500 Champion, but we want to win here too because this race means a lot to a lot of people. It’s such a tough circuit that you have to be in the game from the drop of the green flag or you can have a bad day pretty quick.

Misc.

  • Santino Ferrucci makes his Verizon IndyCar Series debut this weekend with Dale Coyne Racing, in the No. 19 Paysafe Honda. Ferrucci, a 20-year-old native of Connecticut, has been a test and development driver with the Haas F1 Team since 2016.
  • Rene Binder makes his return to Juncos Racing, having last competed at the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama.
  • Several entries feature new liveries this weekend. Alexander Rossi has Ruoff Home Mortgage on his No. 27 Andretti Autosport Honda. Jordan King has Allegiant International on his Ed Carpenter Racing No. 20 Chevrolet. Takuma Sato’s No. 30 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda features Fifth Third Bank branding. Marco Andretti’s No. 98 Honda will have Autonation on it. Also, Simon Pagenaud has DXC Technology on his No. 22 Team Penske Chevrolet.

The Final Word…

From Graham Rahal, who swept the Detroit races last year:

“Last year at Detroit was a great weekend for the United Rentals team, no doubt about that. Everything went according to plan; it was perfect.  We really need to try to replicate the performance.  This year has been really solid with top-10s every single race, completing every single lap but I would like to go to Detroit and find a way to win both of the races just like last year.  It was a dream weekend. We were fastest or second in every single practice or qualifying session and then in the race; it was just a perfect weekend. We need to find a way to make magic happen again. Looking at the long-range forecast, it looks like it will be in the low 70’s so it will be a nice and a good change from what we had in Indy. From a physicality standing point for me, it’s one of my strengths compared to others so we’ve just got to try to take advantage of that. I think our street course car is our best package that we have currently so I definitely feel really good about our situation.  I really feel Detroit should suit us extremely well. Clearly, coming off of last year, everybody in our team has a lot of confidence that we can go there and have a great weekend.  We’re going to try our best.”

Here’s the IndyCar weekend schedule:

At-track schedule (all times local):

Friday, June 1
11:20 a.m.-12:05 p.m. – Verizon IndyCar Series practice 1
3:10-3:55 p.m.  – Verizon IndyCar Series practice 2
4:00-4:20 p.m.  – Verizon IndyCar Series pit stop practice

Saturday, June 2
10:55-11:25 a.m. – Race 1 qualifying for the Verizon P1 Award, IndyCar.com (live)
3:30 p.m. – Broadcast begins (ABC, live)
3:50 p.m. – Chevrolet Dual in Detroit 1 (70 laps)

Sunday, June 3
10:45-11:15 a.m. – Race 2 qualifying for the Verizon P1 Award, IndyCar.com (live)
3:30 p.m. – Broadcast begins (ABC, live)
3:50 p.m. – Chevrolet Dual in Detroit 2 (70 laps)

Here’s last year’s top 10: 

Race 1

1. Graham Rahal
2. Scott Dixon
3. James Hinchcliffe
4. Josef Newgarden
5. Alexander Rossi
6. Mikhail Aleshin
7. Helio Castroneves
8. Takuma Sato
9. Ed Jones
10. Spencer Pigot

Race 2

1. Graham Rahal
2. Josef Newgarden
3. Will Power
4. Takuma Sato
5. Simon Pagenaud
6. Scott Dixon
7. Alexander Rossi
8. Charlie Kimball
9. Helio Castroneves
10. Tony Kanaan

 

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IndyCar champion Will Power completes ‘Victory Lap’ at ceremony in Indianapolis

Will Power Victory Lap
Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment
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INDIANAPOLIS – Will Power went on his “Victory Lap” last week to celebrate his second career championship as the 2022 NTT IndyCar Series champion.

It began with several media interviews in Monterey, California, the day after he won the championship with a third-place finish in the Sept. 11 Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey.

From there, it was off to Los Angeles for more interviews and personal appearances that included a VIP Tour at the Petersen Automotive Museum, several appearances on SiriusXM and lunch at The Ivy, where the Team Penske IndyCar Series driver was treated to Wagyu Beef.

“It was one of the best steaks I’ve ever had in my life,” Power told NBCSports.com.

From L.A. back to Power’s North Carolina home, near Team Penske’s home base of Mooresville, there was one stop left on Sept. 17 — the Victory Lap Celebration at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum, an invitation-only banquet where Power and his No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet crew at Team Penske were honored for the 2022 NTT IndyCar Series championship.

They didn’t even have to check into a hotel and spend another night on the road. Power and his team left on a Team Penske plane from the Statesville, N.C., airport at 4 p.m. ET Saturday to fly to Indianapolis. On arrival an hour later, a limo bus took the team to IMS.

Power led the 2022 season with five NTT P1 Awards for pole, earning the NTT P1 Award as the best qualifier of the season for the fifth time in his career. Power also made history with his 68th career pole, breaking the all-time mark held by the legendary Mario Andretti.

Power and Scott Dixon also became just two of only five drivers to complete every lap of every race in IndyCar Series history.

“What a year,” Power said as he was awarded his personal Astor Cup trophy (the second in his collection after the 2014 championship. “What a phenomenal year coming off one of my worst seasons personally. We came back with a vengeance.

“I want to thank Roger and Kathy Penske for everything they have done for me over the years. I wouldn’t be standing here and have the numbers I have without what Roger has done for me. I’m given a car every week that is capable of winning the pole, races, championships, and Indianapolis 500s. I’m so grateful for that.

“Also, to Greg Penske, you are there every week now at every event and I know we will be in good hands moving forward with the Penske Family.”

There are many on Power’s team and at home, that helped support Power throughout his career. None is bigger than Power’s wife, Liz, who told Power before the season that he would win the championship and break Andretti’s record.

“I must thank my wife. I’m so lucky to have a wife with that crystal ball that can tell me what is going to happen,” Power said. “I can’t think you enough, babe. I love you so much and you have been a big support to me my whole career. We’ve been together 17 years, and I’ve been in the series 17 years. She has been such a huge support to me. The mother of our child and she is a fantastic mother.

“She can’t tell the future. She just had faith in me.”

Liz Power’s premonition came true and that allowed Power and his No. 12 Dallara-Chevrolet team to celebrate Penske’s 17th IndyCar championship and 42nd title in the racing team’s history.

“The 12 crew this year, I’ve never had such a great group of guys,” Power said. “Trevor Lacasse (chief mechanic) is such a calm guy, but he does such a meticulous job on the preparation of the car. He is very, very good at keeping the whole crew happy. It feels as if there is no pressure on us. That’s a huge part in getting the most out of people. It was our first year together with you as a crew chief. What a great year to start our relationship.

“Dave Faustino (Power’s longtime engineer), we’ve worked together for 15 years. He’s almost like a wife to me, a partner … apart from sleeping together. We have a very good working relationship. Sorry Dave, I’m an awkward person and you are not.

“The things we have been through in our years together, it’s crazy that we continually improve and get better. We are standing on the podium after winning the championship and we are talking about the car, the race, and the tires. We weren’t talking about the championship.

“We never stop. The other boys were laughing at us, but I’m already thinking about next year.

“Ron Ruzewski (Team Penske IndyCar Managing Director and strategist) on the radio, always calm. He has actually made me a calm person. I rarely get upset on the radio anymore.”

Power also recognized the fans who helped boost attendance at many venues on the schedule this season as NBC Sports enjoyed its largest IndyCar audience yet.

“This series is growing,” Power said. “With open wheel racing now so popular because of Formula One, it’s really our time to push and put money behind it and go now and take IndyCar to another level because we have the best racing product in the world.

“I have to thank my teammates and (Team Penske president) Tim Cindric. I can’t tell you how hard we push each other. We are ultracompetitive and love each other and push each other hard, so thank you.”


Power won the championship by 16 points over hard-charging teammate Josef Newgarden, who finished second in the standings for the third year in a row.

“Overall, I’m filled with a lot of pride for our team and what we were able to do this year,” Newgarden said in his banquet address. “Any year that you step in the championship, you can easily see the challenges it presents everybody.

“It’s a very difficult challenge for the teams and drivers. To be a part of it, make it through it and for us at Team Penske, to topple it, is a very big deal. We’re all competitive.

“The tough thing about being in a championship fight, especially with teammates is we all want to be the best. That’s how it should be. We are competitive people and want to be the best. But it’s a team sport.

“Will, tremendous season, great, great job. I think the world of everybody on our team. It’s a big group. I’m so happy for all of you on the 12-car crew. There is so much we can take into next year.”

Six-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon was unable to attend the banquet because of the Goodwood Festival in England but sent congratulations to Power via a video message.

“I really want to congratulate Will Power,” Dixon said. “You drove a tremendous season this year. Even with some of the lows that you had, some of the mistakes with qualifying, you bounced back tremendously. I know how tough these championships are and to see you do it in the style that you did it in the last race of the season, massive congratulations.”

Power’s championship formula included one victory, nine podiums and 12 top-five finishes. Teammate Josef Newgarden was second in the championship with five wins but only six podiums.

Cindric saluted Power’s season in accepting the championship team owner award.

“Will, you took it to another level this year,” Cindric said. “You are the complete package. You completed every lap, had nine podiums, finished out of the top 10 just four times, broke Mario Andretti’s record, and you did it all without cussing at the officials on national TV.

“One complaint I do has is while most of us think you might be from another planet, you never told us your wife was a fortune teller.”

Cindric also honored the seasons of Penske drivers Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin, who won three times in his second full season (“You are one of only two full-time IndyCar drivers that has driven for us in the past 23 years that hasn’t won an Indy 500 or an IndyCar championship. Your time is coming.”).

Kyle Moyer was named team manager of the year (his fifth time and Penske’s sixth). Pennzoil presented Lacasse with the chief mechanic of the year for the first time, the sixth time for Team Penske. The No. 12 crew also won the Firestone Pit Performance Award for the most pit stop performance award points in 2022.

Power, Newgarden and McLaughlin delivered nine of Chevrolet’s series-leading 11 victories this season, helping Chevy win the Manufacturer Award for the seventh time since it returned to the series in 2012 and the first time since 2017. Jim Danahy, U.S. vice president, Competition Motorsports Engineering for Chevrolet, accepted the award on behalf of his team.


Christian Lundgaard was honored as the 2022 NTT IndyCar rookie of the year. Lundgaard, from Denmark, scored one podium, two top-five finishes and seven top-10s in the No. 30 Honda fielded by Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. He edged David Malukas of Dale Coyne Racing with HMD by 18 points in the standings for first-year series drivers.

Christian Lundgaard (Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment)

“It’s been a tough season and looking at how it panned out, we struggled so much at the beginning of the season and how we were able to turn it around means so much to me and the team,” Lundgaard said. “It’s the one thing that you only get one shot at. I’m happy to have it.

“Being the first Dane at the Indy 500 certainly helps. Competing here for me is quite important and also special. To win this award and to be here in future years means so much to me. I have a chance to compete for wins and championships.

“This team gave me this opportunity at this track one year ago. We came back and got redemption. We got our first podium here. This year was 40 years ago that Bobby Rahal won the same award. It’s pretty special to keep it among the team.”

Sweden’s Linus Lundqvist was honored as Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires champion after a dominant season for HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing. Lundqvist won a series-high five races in the No. 26 HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing entry and clinched the Lights championship with a race to spare, ending with a 92-point advantage over Sting Ray Robb. HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing owners Henry and Daiva Malukas accepted the team championship.

“I’m very proud of that,” Lundqvist said. “It’s cool to see. We are starting to look to the future, and this might not be doing too bad. It’s been great. As most of you can guess with Henry and Daiva Malukas (team owners), it’s been an incredible journey. So much fun that we’ve had. To be on the grid this year was so much of a struggle for us. I didn’t even know I would be doing this until January.

“To be able to pull out the season that we had, I cannot thank this team enough. We will celebrate this for a long time. I’m so happy and proud about that.”

Outgoing IndyCar Director of Medical Affairs Dr. Geoffrey Billows also was honored as he is leaving that role while battling cancer.

“When I think of Dr. Billows, I think of two words,” IndyCar president Jay Frye said. “One is selfless and the other is tough. He’s gone through a lot these last couple of years, and he didn’t want anybody to know. He’s an amazing man, and we are very grateful for what you have done.”

Dr. Geoffrey Billows with IndyCar president Jay Frye (Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment)

Billows was presented with a framed checkered flag signed by all drivers in the series as well as other IndyCar officials and dignitaries.

“I was not expecting this at all,” Billows said. “This means so much for me to be part of this family for the past 30 years. I’ve been presented with opportunities I never thought I would ever have. I can’t tell you how much I love all of you guys and care for all of you guys.

“Thank you so much. I want to also thank my wife, Tammy, who has been a pillar of strength as I continue on this journey with cancer for the past two years as well. You will still see me as a consultant because I love this too much to quit altogether.”

When the evening concluded, Team Penske boarded a bus to the airport for the short return flight to Statesville. They were home by midnight.

Power’s Victory Lap was complete.

“The best thing about this is I get to sleep in my own bed tonight,” Power said.

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500