INDYCAR Pre Race-Media: Belle Isle Track Trends, race preview, stats, etc

TRACK: Streets of Belle Isle (2.35-mile, 14-turn street course), DISTANCE: 70 Laps (164.5 Miles each race)

This will mark the series’ 30th yet final race on the island. Also, for the first time since 2012, it will be a single race weekend instead of the doubleheader which was started in 2013 and stayed every year this way until last year with the exception of 2020 (COVID).

The series started coming to Detroit in 1989 but moved to the streets of the island on Belle Isle in 1992. They remained here through 2001, but from 2002 through 2006, the race wasn’t held. The INDYCAR Series came back in 2007 but only lasted two years before another hiatus from 2009 through 2011. They came back again in 2012 and stayed every year since other than last.

  • Penske has just 1 Belle Isle win in the last 8 races and only 2 in the last 12 overall.
  • Since the doubleheader format started in 2013, only once (2017) did someone sweep both races (Graham Rahal).
  • Only 1 pole winner (Rahal 2017) has won the race outright in the last 16 tries.
  • 3 of the last 5 Belle Isle winners started 10th on back. Last year it was 15th and 16th respectively.
    • In fact, just 4 of the last 12 winners had a starting spot in the top 5 even.
  • 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.
  • 2019 saw high cautions with 4 in Race 1 and 5 in Race 2, but traditionally, Belle Isle features low yellows. There’s been 3 or fewer in the previous 7 races prior to 2019.
  • Since the new car came out in 2018, the “Big 3” have won 54 of the 70 races run (77%). Penske has won 26 times with Ganassi (17) and Andretti (11). But, RLL is next best with four victories while no one else has more than three. – total races include up to now but race wins only through St. Pete
  • Throw in RLL and AMSP and you get 61 of 70 races won by these teams. With the only exceptions being HSR’s pair of wins by Herta in 2019, DCR (1), ECR (1) and MSR (1).

TRACK COMPARISONS/WHO’S BEEN GOOD ON THEM

Belle Isle being a street course is unique in the sense that we don’t have many of them on the schedule. In 2020, there was just one – St. Pete. Last year, we have a few more in Belle Isle, St. Pete, Nashville and Long Beach. The same are back with the addition of Toronto again this season.

These are the best comparisons to Belle Isle in the fact that the top drivers on those places are also good here too.

If you go back to the start of the 2019 season, we’ve had 14 races on these tracks with eight different winners. Josef Newgarden, Marcus Ericsson and Colton Herta are the only multi-time winners with Newgarden having three trips to victory lane, two of which coming on the streets of St. Pete and two wins each last year for Ericsson and Herta.

The big teams are strong on them with Penske winning five of those last 14 races, Ganassi and Andretti each with 3 wins a piece. Arrow McLaren SP is the only other team to have won.

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

Favorites – Can Penske Get Just 3rd Win In Last 13 Belle Isle Races?

Pato O’Ward

He won this race last year and was third in the first doubleheader. O’Ward now has a top 2 finish in 2 of the last 3 races.

Alex Palou

In his first ever Belle Isle start, one from the back, he finished 15th. A day later, he was third. He’s improved greatly on street courses now too. In six prior starts on them, his finishes were 13th, 17th, 15th, 3rd, 7th and 4th respectively. Now, he’s second and as you can see, he’s improving greatly in going from no top 10’s in his first three to three top four’s in his next four.

Josef Newgarden

He won Race No. 1 in 2019 and has five top four finishes in his last nine Belle Isle starts. The only problem is, those are his only five of his career there too. He has a win in 2019 and a runner-up in 2021.

Will Power

He’s not won this race since 2016 but he did have a podium in 4 of the last 5 races in the second round of the doubleheader format. He was sixth last year. It’s just that the first race he’s finished 20th, 18th, 7th, 18th and 20th respectively too. With only 1 race this weekend now, which Power shows up?

Sleepers

Alexander Rossi

He’s really good at Belle Isle despite not ever having won on this track. Rossi, has three top fives in his last six tries including a top 10 in all but three starts.

Graham Rahal

He swept the weekend in 2017 and has 9 top seven finishes in his last 11 Belle Isle tries. He was 7th in both races in 2019 and 5th in both in 2021.

Marcus Ericsson

He was 13th in Race 1 of his Belle Isle debut and then second in the second race. He won the first race last year and was ninth in the second. Ericsson, also won on the streets of Nashville last August too. He’s entering having a win in the Indy 500.

Takuma Sato

Coyne always pulls a rabbit out of his hat on street courses and Belle Isle is a place where Sato has 6 top 10’s in his last 9 tries including Race 1 results lately being – 8th, 5th, 3rd and 4th respectively.

Rinus VeeKay

He was runner-up in Race 1 last year and had a top six car in St. Pete earlier this season.

Fades

Scott Dixon

Hard to bet against him here. Dixon, won the second race of 2019’s weekend and has two wins in his last six Belle Isle starts overall. He’s also had eight top eight results in his last nine overall. The thing is, he’s a great fantasy play with those top 8’s. He’s not won a race in over a year now and has 1 in his last 28 races.

Colton Herta

His fourth place run in Race 2 last year was his only top 10 in four tries. He was 12th (each race of 2019) and 14th (Race 1 last year) in those other three starts.

Scott McLaughlin

He was 19th and 20th as a rookie in 2021. The thing is, he won St. Pete back in March.

Simon Pagenaud

Just 1 top 5 in his last 8 Belle Isle tries including 4 of his last 8 being 12th or worse.

Felix Rosenqvist

His last 2 finishes are 16th and 25th.

Conor Daly

He had 3 top 6’s in his first 4 Belle Isle starts but only 22nd, 12th, 13th and 15th since. He does have a pair of top 6 finishes from Indy though.

Of Note

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.


Key Stat

Just one pole winner has won at Belle Isle in the last 16 races.

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