With Indy in mirrors, teams focus on Belle Isle doubleheader


DETROIT – The thrills and drama of the 100th Indianapolis 500 are a distant memory now, as far as Verizon IndyCar Series teams and drivers are concerned. There’s not time to look back.

With two races on the docket this weekend at the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit presented by Quicken Loans, the focus is forward. Especially when the championship is still very much up for grabs with 10 races remaining on the schedule.

CLICK HERE: Chevrolet Dual in Detroit entry list

Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud entered May in first place and – despite finishing 19th at the Indy 500 – extended his championship lead slightly over second-place Scott Dixon. Thanks to his victory in the Angie’s List Grand Prix on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course May 14, Pagenaud enters the Belle Isle weekend with 292 points to 237 for Scott Dixon, the reigning series champion.

“I don’t feel we lost any momentum (from the Indy 500 result),” said Pagenaud, driving the No. 22 Hewlett Packard Enterprise Chevrolet this weekend. “As a team, the whole Hewlett Packard Enterprise Chevrolet crew is in a great place. We came out of Indy with the points in good shape, so the big-picture view is good.”

Much of the order behind the two front-runners was shaken up following the Indy 500 that paid double the normal race points plus points for qualifying that nearly equaled a normal race payout.

Juan Pablo Montoya plummeted from third to 10th in the standings following his 33rd-place Indy 500 finish, while Alexander Rossi vaulted from 15th at the start of May to sixth in the championship following his surprise win at “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”

With two normal points-paying races on tap Saturday and Sunday (both air at 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network), the Belle Isle weekend matches the Indy 500 for championship importance but on a much tighter schedule. A single practice session Friday morning is available prior to Verizon P1 Award knockout qualifying in the afternoon. A 30-minute practice Saturday morning precedes the first weekend race. Sunday’s schedule consists of 30 minutes of qualifying (two groups, 15 minutes each) to determine the starting order for the second race.

“Two races and two qualifying sessions in as many days really puts the teams to the test,” said Dixon. “Usually you have some time to recover from an event and prepare yourself mentally and physically for the next round. Not in Detroit. The dual races there provide a lot of excitement and twice as much action for all our fans.”

It’s just as tough, the four-time series champion and 2012 Belle Isle winner added, on the drivers. The 2.35-mile, 14-turn temporary street circuit is notoriously bumpy and involves several surface changes.

“Detroit is one of the most grueling weekends of the season for a few reasons,” Dixon said. “The track is tough and really demands a lot from the drivers. It’s very physical in nature and you really have to wrangle the car to compete at the front of the grid.”

Detroit’s open-wheel racing history dates to 1982 with a Formula One race on the downtown streets that ran through 1988. Indy cars raced on the streets from 1989-91 before moving to Belle Isle Park in 1992.

Helio Castroneves captured his first career Indy car win at Belle Isle in 2000 and climbed the track fencing for the first time that day. Castroneves, driving the No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevy this weekend, has three wins at Belle Isle, more than anyone. Carlos Munoz (No. 26 Magnetti Marelli Honda) and Sebastien Bourdais (No. 11 Team Hydroxycut – KVSH Racing Chevy) are the defending champions from last year’s 70-lap races.

“The doubleheader is tough because it’s physical and a lot is thrown at you in a short period of time,” said Graham Rahal, driver the No. 15 United Rentals Honda for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing whose dad, Bobby, won the first Belle Isle race 24 years ago. “With two full races, it’s very valuable in the championship to have a great run in both races and gain as many points as we can.”

Chevrolet Dual in Detroit presented by Quicken Loans fast facts:

• Races 6 and 7 of 16 in the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series season. There have been 19 previous Indy car races on the Raceway at Belle Isle Park temporary street circuit; the first in 1992.

• Race distance: 70 laps/164.5 miles.

• Track record: Will Power in Firestone Fast Six qualifying, May 29, 2015 (1 minute, 16.0941 seconds, 111.178 mph).

• Tickets and event information: www.detroitgp.com

• Twitter: @detroitgp, #DetroitGP; @IndyCar, #IndyCar

• TV: ABC will televise the races live Saturday and Sunday, beginning at 3:30 p.m. ET. Allen Bestwick is the play-by-play announcer alongside analysts Eddie Cheever and Scott Goodyear. Pit reporters are Rick DeBruhl, Dr. Jerry Punch and Jon Beekhuis.

• Radio: The Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network is led by chief announcer Mark Jaynes, with booth analyst Davey Hamilton. Pit reporters are Dave Furst, Katie Hargitt and Michael Young, with Jake Query and Nick Yeoman in the turns. All Verizon IndyCar Series races are broadcast live on network affiliates, Sirius 212, XM 209, IndyCar.com, indycarradio.com and on the INDYCAR Mobile app. Qualifying broadcasts are available on Sirius 212, XM 209, IndyCar.comindycarradio.com and the INDYCAR Mobile app. Practice sessions are on IndyCar.comindycarradio.com and the INDYCAR Mobile app.

Video streaming: All practice sessions and qualifying will stream live at RaceControl.IndyCar.com. Live timing and scoring for all weekend sessions is available at the same site.

• Fantasy league: The #INDYRIVALS Fantasy Challenge driven by Firestone allows fans to become a team manager by fielding a four-driver lineup for each Verizon IndyCar Series race, with a stockpile of prizes on the line each week. Sign up today at fantasy.indycar.com.

From the fans