BELLE ISLE, Mich – The NTT IndyCar Series stars were back in action on Friday as all 22 drivers here this weekend in Detroit took to the 2.35-mile Belle Isle street course for the only two practice sessions of the weekend. On both Saturday and Sunday, we will qualify in the morning and then race in the afternoon for the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix (3 p.m. ET/NBC/INDYCAR Radio Network).
In the two sessions, it appears that the usual suspects will be the tough ones to beat. Scott Dixon, Graham Rahal, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Will Power and Josef Newgarden were in the top six of both practices on Friday. Throw in Alexander Rossi being eighth and quickest respectively in the two sessions and you get six drivers who are arguably the top favorites to take the checkered flag first on both days.
Dixon, led the first practice with a top lap of 1:16.7418-seconds on his No. 9 Honda. The Chip Ganassi Racing driver has five straight top six finishes on Belle Isle including a win in the first Dual last year. He was third (1:15.7824-seconds) in final practice.
Power was second (1:17.0082-seconds) and fourth (1:15.8713-seconds) in his No. 12 Chevrolet. The Team Penske driver has four top seven finishes in his last five Belle Isle starts. Hunter-Reay was P3 (1:17.1060-seconds) in the first practice and P6 (1:16.1964-seconds) in his No. 28 Honda on Friday. Newgarden himself was fourth (1:17.1981-seconds) and P2 (1:15.6641-seconds) in his No. 2 Chevrolet while Graham Rahal was fifth (1:17.2201-seconds) and (1:16.0757-seconds) in his No. 15 Honda in each session.
Rossi, turned the quickest lap overall with a time of 1:15.1367-seconds in final practice in his No. 27 Honda.
The only incident of the day came at the end of final practice when Indy 500 champion Simon Pagenaud got into the Turn 12 wall with his No. 22 Chevrolet. Pagenaud, ended the session as he crashed with just over two minutes remaining. The Frenchman was 12th and ninth respectively in practice on Friday.
Here are my main takeaways.
Honda Showed Strength Again
Penske has shown to have improved their street course program but the Honda’s were quick again on Friday. Honda drivers have swept each of the two races the last two years in Chevrolet’s backyard with Chevy’s branding on the race sponsorship. On Friday, Honda had six of the top eight speeds and nine of the top 14 overall. In final practice, Honda’s had five of the top eight times in that session too.
Penske and ECR Look Strong Still
While Honda’s have the top speed on the bumpy street circuit, Penske and Ed Carpenter Racing proved that they still have something for the Honda teams. Penske has both Will Power and Josef Newgarden in the top four of both sessions on Friday. Power, has the lone Penske win at Belle Isle since 2013. Newgarden, has five top 10 finishes in his last six Belle Isle starts including finishes of first and second respectively on street courses in 2019. He has a shot to win too.
ECR was P7 and P10 in final practice and could have a strong showing as well. Spencer Pigot finished 10th in Race 1 last year and was seventh on the overall speed chart on Friday. Ed Jones was 10th on Friday and was sixth and third respectively at Belle Isle last year.
Past Winners Shine
The last five races at Belle Isle have seen Will Power (2016 Race 2), Graham Rahal (2017 sweep), Scott Dixon (2018 Race 1) and Ryan Hunter-Reay (2018 Race 2) reach victory lane. On Friday, all four were found in the top six of the speed charts in both sessions. That has me thinking that they will extend their streaks this weekend.
Can they qualify well on Saturday and Sunday to put themselves in position to though? Right now, they have the fastest cars.
Points Could Be Shaken Up
Pagenaud had a great Month of May in earning a sweep of IMS but he was only 12th and ninth respectively in practice on Friday. He even found the wall in final practice. Meanwhile, Newgarden trails his teammate by just one point and was fourth and second respectively in practice. Rossi is third and was eighth and first respectively himself. Dixon, is in a tie for fourth and was first and third respectively. Power, is sixth and was second and fourth respectively. Hunter-Reay is seventh and was third and sixth respectively.
The only other driver in the top seven that had a day like Pagenaud was Takuma Sato who was 10th and 15th himself.