PREVIEW: 2019 NTT IndyCar Series – Detroit

by Jordan Groves

The drivers of the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series have had barely any time to pause for breath after last weekend’s Indianapolis 500, but nevertheless, the series will be back out on track again this weekend for not one, but two races.

The only double-header race weekend of the season, the Detroit Grand Prix at the Belle Isle Street Circuit, takes place this weekend, with the drivers qualifying and racing twice on Saturday and Sunday. Here is everything you need to know ahead of this weekend’s doubleheader.

What happened in 2018 at the Detroit Grand Prix?

For the first of last year’s two races at Belle Isle, Marco Andretti would start on pole position for the first time in five years with a mighty lap in qualifying. Marco would go on to hold onto the lead for much of the opening stages of the race, but the lead would change hands during pit-stops, with Chip Ganassi Racing getting Scott Dixon out into the lead after the stops.

Ultimately, Dixon would go on to take the race win, his first win of the season in what would go on to be a victorious championship campaign. Ryan Hunter-Reay would come home in second-place with a great three-stop strategy from Andretti AutosportAlexander Rossi would pull off a great late pass on Marco Andretti in the closing stages to steal the final spot on the podium.

Fresh off of his third-place finish on Saturday, Rossi would take a fantastic pole position for Sunday’s race. Wet conditions greeted the drivers for qualifying, with Rossi putting on a masterclass to set the fastest time of the session.

After a delayed start due to the now infamous pace car crash on the formation lap, Rossi would hold on to the lead for much of the race. Andretti put Alexander onto a two-stop strategy early on, hoping that it would lead to the victory as it had done for Dixon the day before. However, the three-stop strategy was much more dangerous on Sunday, as the second race was much less affected by cautions.

For the second day in a row, Hunter-Reay was put onto a three-stop strategy to try and limit the damage of having qualified down in tenth place. Hunter-Reay’s pace was fantastic and he found himself on the gearbox of race-leader Rossi in the closing stages.

Ultimately, with Hunter-Reay all over the back of him, Rossi would crack under pressure. He would suffer a massive lock-up with eight laps to go which would force him down an escape road. He would get back out onto the track, albeit having lost many positions, but his problem was compounded when he suffered a puncture due to his flat-spotted tyres; forcing him to pit with a handful of laps to go.

Hunter-Reay would cruise around the final few laps to take the race win, a win that would snap a three-year winless streak. Team Penske‘s Will Power would take second-place and the championship lead, with Ed Jones taking the final spot on the podium ahead of team-mate Scott Dixon. After his late pit-stop, Rossi would finish down in twelfth-place.

You can read the full race reports from last year’s Indianapolis 500 by following the link below

Credit: Joe Skibinski / Courtesy of IndyCar

What should I look out for this weekend?

The driver with undoubtedly the greatest momentum heading into the Detroit doubleheader is Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud. An utterly dominant month of May from the Frenchman saw Simon take the win in both the Grand Prix of Indianapolis and the Indianapolis 500; with the latter victory coming after starting from pole position and leading the most laps.

In amongst all of the tradition and magnificence of becoming an Indianapolis 500 race winner, Pagenaud completed a seismic shift in his championship position. His pair of Indianapolis wins have seen him vault up into the championship lead, one point ahead of his team-mate, Josef Newgarden.

This weekend, Pagenaud returns to the site of another one of his milestone moments in the NTT IndyCar Series. The Frenchman took his first IndyCar race win at the Belle Isle Street Circuit back in 2013 whilst driving for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. Simon has finished on the podium four times at Detroit and would like to add to that tally this weekend to try and increase his championship lead.

Both Josef Newgarden and Alexander Rossi will be hoping to secure their first wins at Detroit to put themselves back where they believe they belong. Both drivers have come close to the top step of the podium at Belle Isle in the past, with Newgarden having finished second in the second race of the 2017 event.

Rossi, meanwhile, will be out for revenge in Detroit for two reasons. Firstly, Rossi will no doubt be extremely determined to win after missing out on the Indy 500 win by just two-tenths of a second last Sunday. Secondly, Rossi was arguably on course to win in Detroit twelve months ago when he made a mistake whilst being pressured by team-mate Ryan Hunter-Reay. This time, Rossi will be wanting no mistakes as he looks to put himself closer to the top of the championship table.

A lust for redemption after a disappointing Indy 500 will also be a feeling shared by Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing‘s Graham Rahal. The American was eliminated from last Sunday’s race after an incident with Sebastien Bourdais. Both drivers currently sit outside of the top ten in the standings, but both have secured two wins on the streets of Detroit before; Rahal’s brace of wins memorably coming in 2017 when he swept the weekend. A much-needed return to form would do both Rahal and Bourdais a world of good.

Finally, keep an eye on the rookies of the championship once again this weekend. The current best-placed rookie in the standings is Dale Coyne Racing‘s Santino Ferrucci; who secured his best IndyCar race finish to-date in last week’s Indy 500 by taking seventh place after a mightily impressive performance.

This weekend’s Detroit doubleheader will be the first time that Santino returns to a race-track that he has previous race experience at. Ferrucci made his IndyCar debut at this race twelve months ago. It will be interesting to see if that experience helps him feature in the top ten again this weekend.

Whilst Ferrucci looks to maintain his advantage over his rivals, his fellow rookie classmates will be hoping to gain some ground on him. Colton Herta, in particular, will be desperate for a solid race result after having endured five consecutive race retirements since his victory at the Circuit of the Americas in March.

Felix RosenqvistMarcus Ericsson and Patricio O’Ward will also be hoping for a strong result after a poor Indy 500. Rosenqvist and Ericsson both crashed during last weekend’s race, whilst O’Ward was one of the three unfortunate drivers who failed to qualify. All will want to bounce back this weekend.

What is the schedule for the weekend?

Friday 31 May

10:55 ET / 15:55 GMT – Practice one
14:50 ET / 19:50 GMT – Practice two

Saturday 1 June

10:45 ET / 15:45 GMT – Qualifying
15:30 ET / 20:30 GMT – Race one

Sunday 2 June

10:45 ET / 15:45 GMT – Qualifying two
15:30 ET / 20:30 GMT – Race two

Where can I watch the 2019 Detroit Grand Prix?

Tickets are still available for this weekend’s race. Head to the Detroit Grand Prix website for more information.

As a part of the IndyCar’s UK coverage deal, both qualifying sessions and both races will be broadcasted live on Sky Sports F1.

In the United States, television coverage for the Detroit Grand Prix will be shown on NBC Sports.

Further coverage of practice and qualifying will be provided in the United States by NBC Sports Gold.

How can I keep up to date with all the race action?

If you cannot make it to Detroit for this weekend’s race, you can keep up to date with all the action across the weekend right here at The Checkered Flag. We will have coverage of this weekend’s practice, qualifying and race sessions.

Be sure to also follow IndyCar on Twitter – @IndyCar – for live updates throughout the event.

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