Fifth Gear: Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear

2022-06-07 07:16:36 By : Mr. Addison Xu

Victories by all three Team Penske drivers before the NTT INDYCAR SERIES reaches its season midpoint.

Will Power drawing within a single win of Michael Andretti’s career mark of 42, which ranks fourth on the sport’s all-time list.

Another Arrow McLaren SP driver on the rise.

A championship battle heating up.

Those are among the interesting items emanating from a highly competitive, certainly entertaining Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear, the final event to be held at The Raceway at Belle Isle. Next year’s Detroit race will be staged on the downtown streets.

Let’s examine the highlights from the unpredictable Belle Isle weekend.

Power Adds Power to Team Penske

Scott McLaughlin won the NTT INDYCAR SERIES’ season-opening race in St. Petersburg, and fellow Team Penske driver Josef Newgarden swiped victory from McLaughlin off the final corner at Texas Motor Speedway and won at Long Beach. Now Will Power has a victory, making Roger Penske’s organization the first to have each of its drivers win a race this season – and we’re not even halfway through the season yet.

With a spectacular late drive on Firestone Firehawk alternate red tires Sunday, Power extended his streak of consecutive seasons with at least one victory to 16, just one shy of the all-time record held by Scott Dixon, who has not yet won a race this season. How impressive are these marks? Consider that no other driver in the sport’s history has won a race in more than 11 consecutive seasons. Newgarden has the next-longest active streak at eight.

“I’m looking forward to a bunch of these races coming up,” said Power, who drives the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet. “Doesn’t mean you’re going to have a good day, (but) I know all the tracks. (I’m) going to do all the work necessary to be competitive.”

Power hasn’t piled up the race wins as quickly in recent years as he did earlier in his career, but he still has six over the past three-plus years.

Dixon ranks third with 51, and Helio Castroneves is tied for 10th with 31. Thus, three of the sport’s all-time greats will race this weekend in the Sonsio Grand Prix at Road America presented by AMR (12:30 p.m. ET, NBC, Peacock Premium and the INDYCAR Radio Network).

Rossi Looks Like His Old Self

Alexander Rossi (No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS/AutoNation Honda of Andretti Autosport) had been in a rut with race results, and not winning Sunday’s race extended his drought of victories to 44, easily the longest of his NTT INDYCAR SERIES career.

But anyone who watched Rossi storm through the field on Belle Isle recognized the performance as it was the hallmark of the Californian’s first four seasons in the series (2016-19), when he won seven races. Rossi appeared to have the best car in qualifying, was Power’s equal in the race and should be considered one of the favorites to win this weekend at Road America, where he last won, in 2019.

Rossi has top-five finishes in the past two races to climb to seventh in the standings as he chases his first NTT INDYCAR SERIES championship in his final season with Andretti Autosport.

“Two weeks in a row where we’ve had very good races and overall a good weekend,” he said. “That’s the result of a lot of work from the whole organization.

“I think the 27 car has some good momentum going right now into one of our best tracks, frankly, at Road America. We feel good about the position we’re in. We’ll just have to go out and continue that in five or six days.”

Rossi is a two-time podium finisher at Road America, adding a third-place finish in Race 2 of 2020 to his race win in 2019.

Arrow McLaren SP on a Roll

The organization that Rossi will join for the 2023 season is humming along quite well right now.

Pato O’Ward (No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet) and Felix Rosenqvist (No. 7 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet) have posted consecutive top-10 finishes, and O’Ward heads to Road America third in the standings, 12 points behind Power. Rosenqvist is ninth and has seventh within sight.

O’Ward followed Newgarden across the finish line Sunday in what initially appeared to be the winning strategy. Instead, Newgarden finished fourth with O’Ward fifth as the nearly green-to-checker race played out differently than last year’s race. O’Ward’s result came one week after he finished second in the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge.

“We did almost the best we could have (Sunday) on our strategy,” O’Ward said. “We were the best car on the reds in the first stint, (and) we were really, really strong at the end of it. That allowed us to pass a lot of cars at the end of that stint.

“I’m really happy with the solid points we got. I think we maximized, and we are going into Road America in a good position in the championship.”

O’Ward finished second after starting from the pole in Race 2 of 2020 at the 14-turn, 4.048-mile permanent road course in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.

A penalty for interference in qualifying forced Rosenqvist to start 25th in Detroit, but he drove through the field Sunday to finish 10th. Couple that with a fourth-place finish at Indy, and the Swede is making a strong case for a seat next season.

Power regained the series points lead, meaning the top of the standings changed for the fifth consecutive race this season. Entering Detroit, Indianapolis 500 winner Marcus Ericsson (No. 8 Huski Chocolate Chip Ganassi Racing Honda) held it, and before that Power was at the top.

Fifty-four points are available at each of the standard points-paying races, and six drivers are within that margin. Behind Power are Ericsson (-3), O’Ward (-12), Alex Palou (-14), Newgarden (-43) and Dixon (-53). Note that four of those are past series champions and three have won the “500.” In other words, this group represents some of the best the NTT INDYCAR SERIES has to offer.

The various strategies in play Sunday helped create a stirring race. There were a circuit-record 280 total on-track passes, with 148 of them for position. Fifty-nine passes were in the top 10, with 23 in the top five.

“(Those are) big numbers for a street course,” INDYCAR president Jay Frye said.

The previous record for total on-track passes at the Belle Isle circuit was 222 (2021 Race 1).

The Sonsio Grand Prix at Road America presented by AMR represents the eighth of 17 races on the NTT INDYCAR SERIES schedule.

Alex Palou (No. 10 NTT DATA Honda of Chip Ganassi Racing) won last year, but Power (2016), Dixon (2017, 2020 Race 1), Newgarden (2018), Rossi (2019) and Rosenqvist (2020 Race 2) have won races since the series resumed events in 2016. Newgarden is a three-time NTT P1 Award winner there.

The first NTT INDYCAR SERIES practice of the weekend is Friday at 4:45 p.m. (ET). Saturday’s action begins with a practice at 10:55 a.m. (ET). NTT P1 Award qualifying is at 2 p.m. (ET) with the final practice at 5:35 p.m. (ET). The 55-lap race is Sunday at 12:30 p.m. (ET) on NBC, Peacock Premium and the INDYCAR Radio Network.

Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires opens its weekend with a Friday practice at 3:05 p.m. (ET). Saturday’s schedule has a practice at 9:45 a.m. (ET) and qualifying at 1:10 p.m. The 20-lap race is Sunday at 10:40 a.m. (ET).

All NTT INDYCAR SERIES and Indy Lights action will be available on Peacock Premium, the streaming service of NBC.

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