Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear
It’s time for one last dive into the iconic James Scott Memorial Fountain for the NTT INDYCAR SERIES this weekend with the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear at Belle Isle Park Raceway.
As 26 drivers prepare for one of the toughest street races on the calendar, all eyes are on 2023 as the Detroit race moves from the scenic vistas of Belle Isle Park, an island on the Detroit River, to the busy streets of downtown Detroit. .
All drivers like to be the first to conquer a new circuit, but they also like to be the last to take the checkered flag on a circuit. Belle-Île is no exception. Today’s race will be the 30th and last on the island’s bumpy streets, and only one NTT INDYCAR SERIES driver will be known as the last driver to win at Belle Isle and celebrate by jumping into the famous fountain behind Victory Circle.
Firestone supplies more than 1,400 tires for the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear. The tires feature the same technology that Firestone Racing used in that race weekend last year, which was a double-header event. The unique nature of the track, which is 80 percent concrete, is unlike anything Firestone makes tires for. Each entry received six sets of main tires (black), four sets of alternate tires (red) and five sets of rain tires (grey).
Racing drivers and islanders are expecting a cool, cloudy day, with high temperatures around 70 degrees by the time the green flag drops around 3:45 p.m. (ET). Race day coverage begins at 3 p.m., live on USA Network, Peacock Premium and the INDYCAR Radio Network. You can listen to live broadcast radio on network affiliates, SiriusXM 160, INDYCAR.com and the INDYCAR mobile app powered by NTT DATA.
You can prepare for a fantastic day of racing by attending Indy Lights Race 2 presented by Cooper Tires Grand Prix of Detroit at 12:10 p.m., live on Peacock Premium, INDYCAR Live! and the INDYCAR radio network.
Here’s what you need to know to prepare for today’s action:
If you poll every NTT INDYCAR SERIES driver in the paddock on the most physically challenging circuit on the calendar, a majority, not all, would point to Belle Isle Park Raceway.
Although the surface is mostly concrete, there are asphalt in some areas and many bumps that shake the NTT INDYCAR SERIES cars in many directions. Simply put, Belle Isle is a 14-turn, 2.35-mile urban course that features hard braking zones and fast straights that reward the daring and punish the inaccurate.
Even the training sessions this weekend proved it. Drivers who have derailed or made contact with the wall include Kyle Kirkwood, David Malukas, Colton Herta, Romain Grosjean, Jimmie Johnson, Will Power, Dalton Kellett, Felix Rosenqvist and Rinus VeeKay.
For Kirkwood, Kellett, Grosjean and Rosenqvist, their incidents were heavy hits with the wall that required extended work on their respective cars.
“It’s just tricky,” said reigning NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion Alex Palou. “There’s not a lot of grip and there are so many bumps. If you are not comfortable with the car, you cannot enjoy it 100%.
Last year’s race weekend was survival of the fittest. Marcus Ericsson took his first career victory after a late red flag catapulted him into the lead when Power’s car failed to restart. It launched an upward career trajectory for Ericsson, who won the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge last weekend.
Pato O’Ward won the second race of the double weekend, beating two-time NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion Josef Newgarden in a late-race battle over different tire strategies.
It’s not always about knowing where to start
As we said, the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix Presented by Lear is a race that is truly survival of the fittest, and qualifying isn’t as important as at other racetracks.
In the previous 29 races, the race has only been won four times from the first starting position: Robby Gordon (1995), Helio Castroneves (2001), Scott Dixon (2012) and Graham Rahal (2017).
Additionally, the race has only been won five more times from the other front row position: Bobby Rahal (1992), Alex Zanardi (1998), Mike Conway (2013), Dixon (2018) and Josef Newgarden (2019).
Last year, Marcus Ericsson won from 15th place and Pato O’Ward won from 16th place. These aren’t stats Newgarden and Takuma Sato want to hear as they line up first and second on the grid, respectively.
The average starting position for a Detroit race winner is 6.3. So if you’re looking for today’s race winner, it might be safer to look at rows three and four than row one. Rookie David Malukas starts sixth today and Colton Herta starts seventh.
But don’t count someone coming from the back of the field. Five times the winner of the race has started outside the top 10: Ericsson, O’Ward, Sébastien Bourdais (13th in 2016), Carlos Munoz (20th in 2015) and Will Power (16th in 2014).
Tire wear and the surrounding pit strategy will make today’s race on the 14-turn, 2.35-mile street circuit interesting. With the alternate Firestone tires (red) producing great speeds for just a few laps, this will allow teams in the back half of the field to use strategy to move up the leaderboard.
“It will be interesting,” said three-time Belle Isle winner Dixon of today’s race. “I think on paper it’s an easy two-stop race with fuel, but the reds are literally about two laps, so that’s definitely going to spice things up. I don’t know how that will work out. We’ll have to see and play by ear and hopefully we’ll be lucky because it will take that.