5 things I’m watching heading into Sunday’s Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix (3 p.m. ET, USA, INDYCAR Radio Network)

Will Indy 500 Hangover Carry Over?

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. Marcus Ericsson is hoping to buck both trends.

He won his first career race at this very track last year. It’s also the site of his first INDYCAR podium in 2019. Both of Ericsson’s previous wins in the series prior to last weekend were last year on street courses. But, will the lack of sleep and routine affect him this weekend?


Alex Palou is the defending series champion and sits just 14 points out of the lead leaving Indy and heading to Belle Isle. Photo Credit: INDYCAR Media Site

Championship Push

For most drivers in the paddock, there’s pre Indy 500 and post Indy 500. You really don’t start looking at points until after. I mean partially is because the season is still young by time you get to Memorial Day weekend and also the fact that you get qualifying points and double points scored for the ‘500 too.

So, as we head to Belle Isle for just 1 race not 2 this weekend, you’ve got to look at how the standings sit.

Ericsson leads AMSP’s Pato O’Ward by 13 points. Both combined to win the doubleheader weekend here last year. Defending series champion Alex Palou is 3rd just 14 points arrears. Will Power is 4th (-24) as the Indy 500 was the first time all season that he didn’t score a top four result. Josef Newgarden (-52) is 5th while Scott Dixon (-60) is behind in 6th.

Between Ericsson, O’Ward, Newgarden and Dixon, the 4 drivers who make up 4 of the top 6 spots in points have won each of the last 4 Belle Isle races including 5 of the last 6 in general. Then it’s to Road America to where Palou, Dixon, Newgarden and Power have combined to win 5 of the last 7 races there.

Between the top 7 in points, 6 belong to Penske and Ganassi. The two organizations have combined to win 13 of the last 14 series titles and if you throw in Andretti Autosport, the trio has won every series title since 2003. They hold 8 of the top 11 spots in points.

However, AMSP has a pair of drivers in Pato O’Ward (2nd) and Felix Rosenqvist (9th) too and are the best option to breakup this Penske, Ganassi and Andretti party.


Scott Dixon during practice last year at Belle Isle. Photo Credit: INDYCAR Media Site

How Will Scott Dixon Respond?

They don’t call him the “Ice Man” for no reason which is why I’m curious how Scott Dixon will respond to such a heartbreaking loss in last Sunday’s Indianapolis 500. Dixon led a race-high 95 laps from the pole and by doing so became the all-time laps leader in the 106 year history of the great event. Coming to the final pit stop of the day, the race was in Dixon’s hands. This was going to be his race to lose.

Unfortunately, he made a costly and rare mistake by speeding on pit road taking him from a win to a 21st place finish in a matter of seconds. Now, I’m curious what happens this weekend on the streets of Belle Isle.

Dixon has been put in precarious positions during his career before and has always responded well. Can he this time around?

Dixon said entering the oval action at Indy during the Month of May that the No. 9 Dallara-Honda team needed a reset. The season hadn’t gone the way that they had hoped and what better change of pace than the Indy 500.

It worked. He won his first pole since the 2021 Indy 500 and the vibe of the team was back. Will how Sunday’s race ended bring them back to reality or was reality how they were during practice/qualifying/95% of the race?

Dixon has 5 top 10’s in 6 races run this season but no finish has been better than 5th. He hasn’t won a race in over a year (19 race winless drought) and has just 1 victory in his last 28 tries. In that 28 race span are just 6 podiums too.

However, we’ve also seen Dixon can get hot and do so in bunches too. Prior to this last 28 race span, he had 8 wins in his prior 36 starts including 23 podiums.

Maybe Detroit was just what Dixon needs now. He has 3 top 8 results in his last 8 starts there. Then its to Road America to where Dixon has 2 wins and a 3rd place effort in his last 6 starts.


Penske easily could have swept both Belle Isle races last year but didn’t. Photo Credit: INDYCAR Media Site

Will Penske Get Back To Winning Ways?

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.

Also, they very well could have swept both Belle Isle races last year too. Will Power was leading before that fluke red flag with just a handful of laps left and while sitting idle on pit road during the period, his No. 12 Dallara-Chevrolet wouldn’t start handing the win off to Ericsson. A day later, Newgarden led the first 67 laps but on the wrong tire strategy as Pato O’Ward sailed by him to lead the final 3 laps.


Parity

We’re 6 races into the 2022 season with 6 different pole winners, 5 different race winners and 4 different point leaders. Does that parity continue on Sunday?

We’ve had 5 different winners in the last 5 Belle Isle races run and 8 in the last 10. Will someone new reach victory lane this weekend?

We’ve had 8 different drivers win the last 14 street course races in general but they all hail from either Penske, Ganassi, Andretti or Arrow McLaren SP.

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