IndyCar

2022 Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix: The Rookie Report

5 Mins read
(Photo Credit: James Black / Penske Entertainment / Courtesy of IndyCar)

The 2022 IndyCar rookie class got to experience their first (and last) taste of the Raceway at Belle Isle Park this past weekend for the Chevrolet Grand Prix of Detroit, one of the most physically demanding racetracks that the series visits. Will Power redeemed his heartbreaking loss last year with a victory, holding off a hard-charging Alexander Rossi to win. While it may not have been a doubleheader weekend, the Beautiful Island still provided ups and downs aplenty for the five (yes, five) rookies that competed.

Unfortunately, Callum Ilott suffered a broken right hand in his crash at the Indianapolis 500, and due to the incredibly physical nature of the Belle Isle circuit, he did not compete this week. Santino Ferrucci filled in for him at Juncos Hollinger Racing, finishing twenty-first.

One rookie made headlines on and off the track this weekend, while another had the best performance of his season so far. So who’s on the move? Which rookie reached their first Fast Six qualifying session? Who was able to hang tough on the streets of Belle Isle? Let’s break it all down in this week’s NTT IndyCar Series Rookie Report.

DAVID MALUKAS – DALE COYNE RACING W/ HMD MOTORSPORTS

QUALIFYING: SIXTH – RACE: ELEVENTH (-5)

(Photo Credit: Joe Skibinski / Penske Entertainment / Courtesy of IndyCar)

David Malukas once again was the highest-finishing rookie, coming away from the Motor City with his best road or street course finish of the year and tying his best result of the season in what he called “an unexpected race.”

The 20-year-old American really turned heads with his qualifying performance. He was fastest in his group in the first round of qualifying, a star-studded group featuring Power, Rossi, Scott Dixon, Alex Palou, Josef Newgarden and more. Malukas then advanced to his first Fast Six by finishing second in round two behind Pato O’Ward, before finishing sixth in the final round.

In the race, Malukas opted to start on the alternate tyres and run the three-stop strategy. “We were expecting the red tires to last longer than they did,” he said. “Thankfully we made the early call to pit and switch to the primary tire.”

It was a quiet race, but he did earn the fastest lap on lap 52.

“It destroyed the tires a little bit, but it was worth it!” Malukas said.

Although he had a net loss in positions, Malukas came away looking at the positives of the weekend.

“It kind of stings when you start P6 and finish 11th you usually want to move up, not go backwards. But being a rookie, I’m happy to finish the race and to be the highest finishing rookie.”

CHRISTIAN LUNDGAARD – RAHAL LETTERMAN LANIGAN RACING

QUALIFYING: NINETEENTH – RACE: FOURTEENTH (+5)

(Photo Credit: James Black / Penske Entertainment / Courtesy of IndyCar)

Lundgaard and the rest of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing‘s search for pace continues, with his nineteenth place starting position the best that the team could muster. Starting on the primary tyres, Lundgaard ran a three-stop strategy, and found himself inside the top ten for a time, but was forced to pit early to remove debris that was overheating his car. The team had this same issue in St. Petersburg during the first race of the season.

After losing that track position, the Dane fought hard to bring back a fourteenth place finish, also the best for RLLR. After the race, Lundgaard lamented that the team is not where they want to be, but they have to remain optimistic.

“Generally I’m quite disappointed at the moment but we’ve got to look at the positives,” he said. “We learned some stuff so that’s positive. We just have to translate it to the next race.”

One positive Lundgaard can hold onto is that he still leads the rookie of the year standings with 119 points.

DEVLIN DEFRANCESCO – ANDRETTI STEINBRENNER AUTOSPORT

QUALIFYING: TWENTY-FIRST – RACE: EIGHTEENTH (+3)

(Photo Credit: James Black / Penske Entertainment / Courtesy of IndyCar)

After catching traffic in qualifying, DeFrancesco felt like the car had more speed in it than his twenty-first place result showed. He was right, improving a few positions to eighteenth in a quiet race, running the two-stop strategy.

The Canadian was looking for a caution to help his strategy, but unfortunately for him the race went green the entire way.

“…I think that’s the way it goes sometimes so we’re looking on to Road America,” he said.

TATIANA CALDERON – A.J. FOYT ENTERPRISES

QUALIFYING: TWENTY-FOURTH – RACE: TWENTY-THIRD (+1)

(Photo Credit: James Black / Penske Entertainment / Courtesy of IndyCar)

This was Calderon’s first race weekend back on her road and street course program after not being on the grid for the Indianapolis 500, admitting to making mistakes with her tyres, learning first hand just how rough and bumpy the Belle Isle street circuit can be.

“Unfortunately, I did do mistakes on the first set of tires,” she said. “And on my red tire run [second stint], I had a big flat spot so I compromised a little bit my pace there. I couldn’t really brake hard, because I was just locking up so easily. So I had to take it easy in that part of the race.”

On her final stint, she was able to put together some stronger laps and finish twenty-third. We’ve seen Calderon improve every race when she has consistent seat time, and she will get three more races in succession over the next two months.

KYLE KIRKWOOD – A.J. FOYT ENTERPRISES

QUALIFYING: FIFTEENTH – RACE: TWENTY-FOURTH (-9)

(Photo Credit: James Black / Penske Entertainment / Courtesy of IndyCar)

Kyle Kirkwood was a name found in most every headline at the beginning of the weekend, starting with his announced move back to Andretti Autosport next season and compounded by going fastest in the weekend’s first practice session. From there, the weekend became a rollercoaster for the American where once again he wasn’t able to turn pace into a result.

In second practice Saturday morning, Kirkwood’s session ended early with a crash. The Florida native didn’t get his hands off of the wheel in time, injuring his right hand. X-rays said that no bones were broken, and he pressed on for the weekend. He qualified fifteenth for IndyCar, but in the accompanying IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship, Kirkwood put his team not only on the pole, but helped to win the race all while dealing with his hand injury.

In the race on Sunday, Kirkwood started on the primary tyre and propelled himself into the top five as the leaders’ alternate tyres all began to wear off. Thanks to his strategy call, he continued to run in the top five for a majority of the race and keep up with some of the best drivers in the series.

But on his out lap following his final pit stop with 22 laps to go, Kirkwood clipped a curb in turn four. While it looked like he saved it at first, his left rear made contact with the outside wall, bending the upper wishbone of the suspension and ending his race.

Everything was solid and on our last stop when I knew it meant a lot to get that one out lap under our belts really, really quick,” Kirkwood said. “I made a very small mistake that had massive consequences, which is a very common thing I guess around street courses. I feel really, really bad for the team with all the effort that we put in.”

This isn’t the first time Kirkwood has had a fantastic run end in heartache. We saw the same thing happen at the Xpel 375 and GMR Grand Prix as well. While he put in a herculean effort through injury, at the end of the day results matter. If he’s able to correct these small yet costly mistakes, he will be a threat in the IndyCar Series.

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Lifelong sports junkie, currently studying Broadcast Journalism at Hofstra University. Lead writer for Indycar at The Checkered Flag.
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