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Five things to watch for in Detroit Grand Prix

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The NTT IndyCar Series spent the month of May in Indianapolis preparing for and running the 103rd Indy 500. Now, without a moment’s rest, they head to Belle Isle Park in Detroit for Round 7 & 8 of the schedule.

With the 500 as the only oval race so far this year, drivers and teams have been able to concentrate on their street and road course setups. Last week, Simon Pagenaud completed his sweep of Indy – following an IndyCar Grand Prix victory with a dramatic 500 win. That made him the first driver to score two victories this season. There is still a unique winners’ streak in play, however, since a different driver has won each of the twisty track races in 2019.

Will Detroit provide two more winners, or will we start to see one of the drivers begin to establish dominance? That is one of the questions yet to be answered this week. 

  1. Indianapolis Motor Speedway was a streak killer. Pagenaud’s back-to-back wins ended the string of consecutive unique winners, while the rain-plagued Grand Prix snapped a perfect record of top-5s this season for Josef Newgarden and top-10s for Alexander Rossi. Stretching into last year, Newgarden had a top-10 streak of 12 consecutive; Rossi had 11 straight top-10s. Both drivers finished in the top-5 in the 500 to potentially restart their streaks.
  2. Since the IndyCar Series began running a double-header at Belle Isle, Graham Rahal is the only driver to sweep the event – winning the Saturday race from the pole and the Sunday race from third. Sebastien Bourdais won two consecutive by taking the victory in Race 2 of 2015 and Race 1 of 2016.
  3. Starting position is critical at Belle Isle. Eight of 15 races have been won from the front two rows, while only three have been won from further back than 10th. Carlos Munoz won the Saturday 2015 race from furthest back in 20th. And yet, the polesitter has won the race only twice (Rahal in 2017 and Scott Dixon in 2012).
  4. Likewise, starting positive has been extremely important this year: Five of six races have been won from the first two rows. Track position is critical on street courses, so that trend is likely to continue. Pagenaud’s win from eighth in the IndyCar Grand Prix is the worst track position anyone has overcome this year and that race was affected by wet conditions.
  5. Going for three. Since IndyCar has sanctioned the race, no one has scored three victories at Belle Isle yet. Four drivers have a chance to be the first. Along with Bourdais and Rahal, Dixon won in 2012 and 2018, and Will Power won in 2014 and 2016. In addition, Pagenaud has an opportunity to be the first driver to reach three wins in 2019. Helio Castroneves has two CART-sanctioned wins (2000/2001) and added an IndyCar win in 2014.

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Zach Veach splits with Andretti Autosport for rest of IndyCar season

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Zach Veach will be leaving his Andretti Autosport ride with three races remaining in the season, choosing to explore options after the decision was made he wouldn’t return for 2021.

In a Wednesday release, Andretti Autosport said a replacement driver for the No. 26 Dallara-Honda would be named in the coming days. The NTT IndyCar Series will race Oct. 2-3 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and then conclude the season Oct. 25 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.

Veach was ranked 11th in the points standings through 11 races of his third season with Andretti. Since a fourth in the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, he hadn’t finished higher than 14th.

“The decision was made that I will not be returning in 2021 with Andretti Autosport in the No. 26 Gainbridge car,” Veach said in the Andretti release. “This, along with knowing that limited testing exists for teams due to COVID, have led me to the decision to step out of the car for the remainder of the 2020 IndyCar season. I am doing this to allow the team to have time with other drivers as they prepare for 2021, and so that I can also explore my own 2021 options.

“This is the hardest decision I have ever made, but to me, racing is about family, and it is my belief that you take care of your family. Andretti Autosport is my family and I feel this is what is best to help us all reach the next step. I will forever be grateful to Michael and the team for all of their support over the years. I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for a relationship that started many years ago with Road to Indy. I will also be forever grateful to Dan Towriss for his friendship and for the opportunity he and Gainbridge have given me.

“My love for this sport and the people involved is unmeasurable, and I look forward to continuing to be amongst the racing world and fans in 2021.”

Said team owner Michael Andretti: “We first welcomed Zach to the Andretti team back in his USF2000 days and have enjoyed watching him grow and evolve as a racer, and a person. His decision to allow us to use the last few races to explore our 2021 options shows the measure of his character.

“Zach has always placed team and family first, and we’re very happy to have had him as part of ours for so many years. We wish him the best in whatever 2021 may bring and will always consider him a friend.”

Andretti fields five full-time cars for Veach, Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and Colton Herta.

It also has fielded James Hinchcliffe in three races this season.