BELLE ISLE, Mich — We’re six races into the 2021 NTT IndyCar Series season and the starting lineup for Saturday’s Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix (2 p.m. ET, NBC, INDYCAR Radio Network) looks an awful like the one back in Barber for the season opener. Pato O’Ward started first, Alexander Rossi second. The problem was, they were on the wrong strategy that day in April. Will they be on the right one later today?
O’Ward qualified with a time of 1:15.5776-seconds in his No. 5 Chevrolet to score his third career Indy Car pole. Rossi (1:15.6584-seconds) joins him on the front row in his No. 27 Honda. They finished fourth and ninth respectively in Barber but Rossi enters Saturday’s race now with a ton of optimism.
Rossi, has five top seven finishes in his last six Belle Isle starts and has a great vantage point to start today’s 70 Lap adventure. This is his fourth straight front row starting spot in Belle Isle. He started first and finished second in Race 1 of 2019, started second and finished fifth in Race 2 and was on the pole and finished 12th in Race 2 of 2018.
The Dale Coyne Racing duo of Romain Grosjean (1:15.7433-seconds) and Ed Jones (1:15.8119-seconds) share Row 2 while Josef Newgarden (1:15.8697-seconds) rounds out the top five.
The qualifying session was unique on Saturday in the sense instead of taking it down to the Fast Six, we went to the Fast 12. The top six out of each group in the first round make it to the second and final round with the top 12 speeds in that next grouping shaping the top 6 Rows.
We had four different teams qualify in the top five. The thing is, current points leader Alex Palou didn’t make it out of the opening round and qualified only 21st. He is facing a six place grid penalty for changing the engine on his No. 10 Honda after Carb Day, so he’ll move to the back at the start of today’s race.
The guys chasing him in the championship all made it out of the first round. Scott Dixon (-36) starts 11th but O’Ward (1st), Simon Pagenaud (9th), Rinus VeeKay (11th), Newgarden (5th) and Herta (6th) all start in the top half of the field.
The other thing is 38 of the last 39 Indy Car races have seen the race winner come from a top 10 starting spot. That’s great news for O’Ward, Rossi, Grosjean, Jones, Newgarden, Herta, Will Power, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Pagenaud and Sebastien Bourdais.
Penske has just 1 Belle Isle win in the last 6 races and 2 of the last 10 overall, so you can almost eliminate their trio of drivers. We’ve had just one pole winner winning the race outright in the last 14 tries, so maybe eliminate O’Ward.
4 of the last 6 Belle Isle winners started in the top three spots. The top four starters have won 12 of the last 15 races overall too including 4-for-6 this season.
Then there’s this, we’ve had six different winners in six races run this season including eight in-a-row if you date back to the final two races of 2020 too. The winner is…
So, that’s great news in respects to Rossi and the DCR duo.
Top 5 Prediction
- 27 Rossi
- 51 Grosjean
- 5 O’Ward
- 18 Jones
- 28 Hunter-Reay
Chip Ganassi Racing had a rough go of it for qualifying. They will start 11-15-21-23. This is Dixon’s worst starting spot in Belle Isle since qualifying 22nd in 2014. He finished forth in that race.
None of the three RLL cars advanced past the first round. They’ll start 16-20-22. This is the second worst starting spot for Rahal since 2014 here.
McLaughlin crashed yesterday in practice and that cost him for qualifying. With the lack of track knowledge here, he qualified second to last.