BELLE ISLE, Mich — This was the 30th and final year that the NTT INDYCAR Series has come to the streets of Belle Isle. Next year, the race moves inland to downtown Detroit. I get the reasoning behind this but after the last 2 years of open wheel racing around the 2.35-mile street course inside of the state park, one has to wonder if this move away from Belle Isle is a wrong one.
“I’m going to miss Belle Isle regardless,” Pato O’Ward said. “I love this place. Feel like it’s a place that has a lot of character.
“I always say it. If you were to describe INDYCAR SERIES, I think this track describes it the best. It’s very old school, very raw. Lots of commitment has to be from the driver’s side to extract a lap from this place.
“Yeah, it’s a really cool place. Sad to see it leave. But I know a lot of people are very excited for downtown Detroit. New tracks are always really cool. Looking forward to that.”
He’s not wrong. I wrote last year how the Duel in Detroit was everything the INDYCAR Series pushes itself to be. This year further proved that point.
280 passes in 70 laps was a race record. 148 of those 280 were for position. We saw Will Power come from 16th to win. Alexander Rossi started 11th. He finished 2nd. Scott Dixon went from 9th to 3rd. All did so without the help of a caution in a yellow free race.
Throw in pole sitter Josef Newgarden and you get 3 of the top 4 finishers are a different strategy in a race that saw 4 different teams represented the top 5 of the finishing order.
The 2nd place finisher made up 15 seconds in the final 20 laps but came up 1 second short of the win.
hit pit lane 35.781-seconds up on Rossi. He exited 16.079-seconds.
20 laps, 16 seconds.
3 laps later, it was down to 14.9507-seconds. 2 laps after that the lead was down to 12.6534-seconds. However, this is where Power won this race. His lead held steady. On Lap 58, it was still 11.7301-seconds. On Lap 60, it grew to 12.0130-seconds.
10 laps into his stint, his lead only dropped .6-seconds.
On Lap 63, he led Rossi by 10.0512-seconds. With 5 to go, it was down to 8.2928-seconds. With 3 to go it was 6.5551-seconds. A lap later, it was 5.1271-seconds. By the white though, Rossi had chopped the lead to 2.4652-seconds.
2.35-miles, 2.4 seconds.
Power narrowly held the hard charging Rossi off by 1.0027-seconds to score Penske’s 4th win in 7 races run this season.
3 straight Belle Isle races now have been won by a Row 8 starter.
This is Belle Isle at his finest and one that we may not see again. That could be a shame.
I mean the first time there ever was a race in the Motor City was in 1982 and it was on these streets of downtown. That was for a F1 race. That lasted until 1988. In 1989, CART came to town to replace F1 and they raced on the street course in downtown for three years.
A year later, CART moved from downtown to Belle Isle and would remain there through 2001. They didn’t go back in 2002 and wouldn’t again until Roger Penske got involved. Thank the Super Bowl at Ford Field for that.
Penske, was on the Super Bowl XL committee and strived to bring an INDYCAR race back to his hometown in 2007. That worked. Then came the economy drop out which greatly affected the Detroit area.
INDYCAR stopped going again in 2009 but returned in 2012. With the current contract ending at the end of 2022, Penske Corp, who not only run the series but also promotes the race, is wanting a fresh start and that’s to move the race back downtown.
Is this the best move for this race moving forward?
Belle Isle threw a fitting farewell party on Sunday. Lets hope the downtown move can pick up where this one left off.