Can Penske get back going? Ericsson, O’Ward hoping for big weekend in Belle Isle

Heading into the Month of May, Team Penske was off to an undefeated start to the 2022 season. They were the team that everyone was talking about to win this year’s Indy 500. They had won each of the 1st 3 races, started on the front row in 4 of the 5 and have taken 6 of the 15 podiums spots available.

They’re winless since.

They went from 2-3-4 in points entering the Month of May with Scott McLaughlin (-3), Josef Newgarden (-9) and Will Power (-10) to 4th (Power), 5th (Newgarden) and 7th (McLaughlin).

Power lost 14 points in going from -10 to -24, Newgarden went from -9 to -52 with McLaughlin suffering the biggest setback in going from -3 to -64. That’s a loss of 61 points in a 2 race span. Can they get back to their winning ways on Sunday in Belle Isle?

Penske has just 1 Belle Isle win in the last 8 races and only 2 in the last 12 overall. However, they’ve 2-for-2 on street course races this season with McLaughlin winning the season opener in St. Pete and Newgarden in Long Beach.

Pato O’Ward has 2 top 2 finishes in the last 3 races run and a pair of podiums last year in Belle Isle – Photo Credit INDYCAR Media Site

They’ll have a fight on their hands with last weeks’ 1-2 finishers in the 106th Running of the Indianapolis 500 though. Marcus Ericsson won Race 1 on the 2.35-mile Detroit street course on the island with O’Ward winning Race 2.

Ericsson topped O’Ward at Indy with 13 points separating the two heading into this weekend.

The thing is, the races following the Indianapolis 500 haven’t been kind to the winner of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing,” especially the doubleheader races that have routinely followed the Indy 500 since 2013.

Since 2011, the Indy 500 winner has an average finish of 10.2 in the doubleheader races that follow Indianapolis (Dan Wheldon didn’t compete in Texas in 2011) and has only finished on the podium twice in that span – Dario Franchitti finished second at the Raceway at Belle Isle Park in 2012, and Will Power finished second in the second race at Belle Isle in 2018.

It’s been 23 years since Arie Luyendyk won the Indianapolis 500 and the race that followed it at Texas Motor Speedway in 1997, and that was just the fifth time a driver had won the “500” and the race that immediately followed it since 1980.

Also, we’ve not had a driver win both the Indy 500 and the season championship in the same season since 2010. Ericsson is hoping to buck both trends.

Defending series champion Alex Palou is 3rd (-14) and improving greatly on street courses now too. In six prior starts on them, his finishes were 13th, 17th, 15th, 3rd, 7th, 4th and 2nd respectively. He went from no top 10’s in his first three to three top four’s in his next four.

Scott Dixon is the only other driver in the top 7 but he’s not won a race in over a year now and has 1 in his last 28 races.

That’s 6 Ganassi and Penske cars in the top 7 for a group that’s combined to win 13 of the last 14 series titles. O’Ward has a chance to stay in the hunt while Ericsson is hoping to stay afloat up top.

We’ve had 6 races run with 6 different pole winners, 5 different race winners and 4 different point leaders.

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