Five things to watch for in Detroit Grand Prix

Getty Images

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.

Follow Dan Beaver on Twitter