IndyCar drivers break down Belle Isle Park street course

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The Verizon IndyCar Series has finally raced around an oval this year, with Sunday’s Indianapolis 500 won by Juan Pablo Montoya.

But now it’s time to go back to the streets.

IndyCar returns to Detroit this weekend for the Chevrolet Indy Dual in Detroit, two races around the 2.35-mile, 14-turn temporary street course in Belle Isle Park.

After four weeks spent in Indianapolis for two races, it’s now two races in one weekend, the only remaining double header on the schedule.

“I love coming to Detroit,” said Scott Dixon in a release. Dixon has two poles and one win at Belle Isle (2012).

“I was leading the race once and went off strategy and that didn’t work out. We dominated the year the track came apart (2012) and led every lap there as well, so anything can happen. The track really has got a great flow to it.”

After the CART series stopped racing in Detroit in 2001, IndyCar ran its first of seven races in Belle Isle in 2007 and began holding doubleheader weekends in 2013. All seven races have been won by a different driver. Helio Castroneves, who won race two last year, also won the final two CART events held there in 2000 and 2001.

“This race is a one of attrition a lot of times because it’s a pretty bumpy track,” said Graham Rahal, who finished second in race one last year for his only podium of 2014. “You have to be smart, patient and let it come to you.”

Takuma Sato, who was the pole sitter for race two last year but has never finished better than 18th, calls the street course “nice and refreshing” after Indianapolis.

“Detroit is a great track – heavy braking followed by a long straight makes a good opportunity for overtaking and that makes the race very exciting,” Sato said. “The track is bumpy and has a variety of different type of corners, so after having the month of May with the smooth track at Indy, Detroit is a quite contrast, but I like it.”

Sato’s A.J. Foyt Enterpises teammate, Jack Hawksworth, said the race challenges both driver and engineer to adapt to the track’s rough surface.

“Detroit is probably the most technical track we visit from a driver’s point of view and one of the hardest tracks on the car,” Hawksworth said. “It’s extremely bumpy and there are huge amount of corners with big variation between very slow generic street circuit corners to some quick sweepers like Turns 1 and 2.”

Hawksworth finished 19th and 14th last year in his first two races in Detroit.

“(The track) rewards a compliant car and big commitment but can catch you out with even the smallest mistake,” Hawksworth said.

Five drivers will be competing in their first IndyCar race at Belle Isle: Gabby Chaves, Stefano Coletti, Conor Daly, Luca Filippi and Sage Karam.

“Detroit will be a challenge for us; I’ve never raced there and the track is very difficult from what I’ve seen of past races there,” Chaves said. “I’m excited about the dual race format, even though I’m sure it will be physically tough on myself and the team.”

The first of the two 70-lap races begins Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC.