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Good things come to those who wait, but must also come to an end: Key Storylines from the Detroit Grand Prix

Written by Dan Jones

Credit: Justin Walsh

Good things come to those who wait.....

I distinctly remember saying on the DIVEBOMB IndyCar Podcast prior to the 108th Running of the Indianapolis 500, that Marcus Armstrong needs a headline result in his career. Fast forward to the first race post the '500', Armstrong has that result it felt like he desperately needed.

Chip Ganassi Racing entered 2024 with an interesting new look. You had two of the best in the series in multi-time champions, Scott Dixon and Álex Palou, but two new rookies in Kyffin Simpson and Linus Lundqvist. Armstrong, now in his second season, was in a weird situation between the two, as he stepped up to race on ovals for the first time in his career, after Takuma Sato occupied the #11 for the five ovals last season.

Armstrong's first season was not underwhelming, but neither spectacular, but when rookie teammate Lundqvist came flying out the blocks with a podium in Alabama, maybe the pressure was put on Armstrong a little bit more. And when he was involved in Christian Lundgaard's accident on Lap 53, positives from Detroit looked bleak.

But with an unconventional strategy placed into Armstrong's hands, he cycled to second, firstly resisting Kyle Kirkwood's charge, before superbly holding off Marcus Ericsson, to hand teammate and countryman, Scott Dixon, the victory. But for Armstrong himself, an impressive third, more so when the Kiwi trundled over the line after he ran out of fuel.

Armstrong's words: "In my opinion, it's been a long time coming." It's been an unremarkable year-and-a-bit for Armstrong in IndyCar, but after what was a personal best on the Indianapolis Road Course, followed by a first podium at Detroit, it feels like things are starting to come his way. Álex Palou stated he believed Armstrong 'would have a couple wins this year,' After a monumental day, that's the next step in his youthful IndyCar career.

A first IndyCar podium for Armstrong. Credit: Paul Hurley

..... But they must also come to an end

The watchword of Álex Palou's title-winning campaign last season was consistency. Yes, him winning five races played a huge factor, but it was the fact he never finished lower than eighth all season long, was the driving factor behind Palou's continual success.

And that's a streak that began when Palou won the 2022 season finale in Laguna Seca, but came quite literally, crashing to an end on Sunday, after Palou became the victim of Josef Newgarden's own mistake on Lap 70. Palou had done excellently to that point as it was. That streak looked to be over much earlier in the race when the Spaniard's rear alternate tyres were being chewed up, as he lost positions by the corner.

But Palou's recovery until that point was what defined his incredible streak. A racing intelligence like no other - it's hard to think of many mistakes, if any, that Palou has made in that tenure which have significantly affected him. We never see Palou go for a rash move, or crash into someone else, he drives with a maturity well beyond his years. It's almost fitting that it came to an end through no fault of his own, when he finished 16th at the flag in Detroit.

You doubt it's going to knock Palou in the slightest. Yes, he has lost the lead of the championship to his teammate, but the next three tracks are arguably Palou's three best of the entire season. It's an important run of races for Palou, with six ovals in eight races following Mid-Ohio. There's no secret that Palou's weakest track type is short ovals, although that deficit may be negated by the fact Milwaukee and Nashville will be new for the majority of the field. But, that deficit is closing, he claimed a podium at Iowa last season on merit - he'll be looking for a first oval win of his career.

It was a mixed bag at Detroit for Ganassi, and although Palou's great statistic ends, expect him to be right back at the forefront soon.

Palou, for once, was not at the forefront. Credit: James Black

Cautions, Carnage and Crashes

IndyCar seems to have an annual race which seems to go green, yellow, green, yellow, green, in what feels like a never-ending cycle of cautions. Laguna Seca took that last year, Nashville the two years prior, but Detroit takes that crown this year.

Eight cautions, which took up 47 of the 100 laps, became a bit ridiculous by the time Josef Newgarden spun into Kyle Kirkwood, the field effectively having six consecutive cautions. There's widespread debate on whether this was helpful to the series or not, especially after a classic Indianapolis 500, which many hoped would convert more fans to the series on a regular basis.

Series official, Bud Denker stated: "From a promoter standpoint, nobody disappointed where I was. There was so much action going on. There were some dive bomb moves there. What are they doing? That caused a lot of excitement."

Scott Dixon added: "I don't think it's ever embarrassing. I think you do a survey, most people go to races to watch crashes. I know when I watch some kind of NASCAR race, they have a similar kind of effect. It's obviously exciting. Obviously you don't want to see the caution laps and them taking over."

Detroit is notoriously narrow, quite the difference to the popular Belle Isle Circuit, referenced by the likes of Pato O'Ward, Marcus Ericsson, Graham Rahal and Ryan Hunter-Reay. The only real overtaking opportunity is into the hairpin at Turn 3, where drivers were trying ridiculously ambitious overtakes as they got desperate late-race. The narrow nature of it makes it even ambitious there, and as drivers get more frustrated at constant cautions, more incidents will naturally happen.

Whether it's a good look on the series all comes down to perspective, but maybe the series needs these farcical but fun races once in a while.

The chaos would start at the very first corner. Credit: James Black

'500' winners curse continues

It was supposed to be a joyous weekend for Josef Newgarden. One week on from what will be remembered as one of the all-time great Indianapolis 500's, as he won back-to-back after a sensational final lap overtake, only bolstered by him signing a new multi-year deal with Team Penske, announced mid-weekend, it was supposed to be a fairytale weekend for Newgarden, but it turned into a bit of a nightmare.

No Indianapolis 500 winner has won the following race since Juan Pablo Montoya in 2000, and even that can be argued as illegitimate due to the controversial IndyCar/CART split of the 2000s. Before then, you have to turn to Arie Luyendyk in 1997.

Newgarden's comment immediately after his 500 victory were as follows: "I'm going to try and honor my commitments and do a great job for the series and for this event, but I definitely need to measure it more than last year and find some time to get back into the season rhythm." He had stated that when arriving at the 2023 event, he felt like a 'zombie,' on his way to a 10th place finish.

And the weekend had started well for Newgarden, qualifying an impressive P4. But his race would turn pretty disastrous, running over his wheel gun during a pitstop, harpooning him into Christian Lundgaard's crew, thankfully, providing no major injuries. Newgarden would receive a drive-through for his troubles. And it wouldn't get any better when he would half spin into Kyle Kirkwood at the hairpin on Lap 70 - Álex Palou the unfortunate victim of Newgarden's accident. Newgarden went several laps down and wisely lost more places to get out of the way of the leaders.

It's been a bizarre season for Newgarden, it wouldn't be unfair to say somewhat underwhelming - an odd statement for the Indianapolis 500 winner. Yes, that has to be taken with a pinch of salt after his controversial disqualification from his St. Petersburg victory after a push-to-pass infraction, but a third of the way into the season, Newgarden lays only 10th in the standings, with two top ten finishes to his name.

A joyous weekend turned out rather disappointing. Credit: Joe Skibinski

Uncertainty at Meyer Shank

Tom Blomqvist was dropped for the race at Detroit, and this weekend's upcoming race at Road America in a 'mutual agreement,' but pointers over the weekend suggest Blomqvist's IndyCar career may have already ended for good.

Blomqvist was replaced by Hélio Castroneves temporarily, but many believe the 49-year-old Brazilian may be a stop-gap for further options. Blomqvist will remain part of the Meyer Shank family, many interpreting that as the Brit leading their sportscar program once the team return to the IMSA Sportscar Championship next season.

The reason behind it is financially-based. The top 22 cars in the championship (excluding two of Ganassi's five cars) are eligible for a $910,000 payout from the series as part of the 'leaders circle program.' After Castroneves finished 25th in Detroit, after being hit by Santino Ferrucci, that car remains bottom of the circle, even behind the turbulent #51 Dale Coyne Racing car, which was seen five drivers already in 2024.

It's an extremely harsh outlook on Blomqvist, a rookie who was steadily improving. But after a disappointing first corner crash at the Indianapolis 500, and with a major sponsor set to leave the team at the conclusion of the season, you can sort of see the team's outlook on trying to get the car into the circle before it becomes a bigger issue than it needs to be.

When asked by DIVEBOMB, Felix Rosenqvist stated that he 'honestly doesn't know what's going to happen after that,' in reference to the situation after Road America. Many signs are logically pointing toward David Malukas, who is near completing recovery after a pre-season mountain bike accident. With six of the last 10 races of the season being on ovals, it's an ideal time for Malukas to step in, as it's something the American has specialised in his young career to date.

Whatever does happen, it's an extremely tough situation for Blomqvist, who's IndyCar career looks over after five races.

The future looks bleak for Blomqvist. Credit: Chris Owens

Unacceptable behaviour on and off-track

Maybe the storylines this weekend are dominated by Santino Ferrucci, and not for the first time, for the wrong reasons. Ferrucci would hold help Herta in practice whilst the A.J. Foyt Racing driver was on an in-lap, before having a close shave with Kyle Kirkwood, when the Andretti driver failed to realise Ferrucci was on a fast lap and turned in on Ferrucci.

It wasn't a great move by Kirkwood, albeit accidental, but Ferrucci spiralled it out of control by shoving Kirkwood in pitlane when the Floridian came over for a civilised conversation. A war of words would ensue for the rest of the weekend between Herta, Kirkwood and Ferrucci. Herta described Ferrucci as a 'headcase' and stated Ferrucci was 'driving a Penske car to like P20 for like the fifth consecutive weekend.'

Ferrucci described Kirkwood's manoveure as a 'dickish move' and 'something dumb.' Ferrucci would then overstep the mark by describing Herta as Kirkwood's 'little boyfriend team-mate.' Words so over the mark, IndyCar themselves had to step in, expressing their 'displeasure' at Ferrucci's comments towards his fellow competitor.

His weekend wouldn't get any better when he held up Romain Grosjean in qualifying, before the Frenchman angrily stormed to Larry Foyt saying that'd he'd 'put him [Ferrucci] in the wall next time. Ferrucci ended the weekend with a respectable ninth, but only after he punted out Helio Castroneves early on.

Having conflict on and off-track isn't necessarily a bad thing. At the end of the day, it does bring attention on the series, but maybe when the mark is overstepped to the degree that Ferrucci did, it does not set a good precendent on anybody, particularly the series, but especially himself. It's not something that IndyCar deserves to be associated with.

Ferrucci would apologise for his comments. Credit: Joe Skibinski

But that's almost been overshadowed by even worse events post-weekend involving Agustín Canapino. Théo Pourchaire clumsily ran into the back of the Argentine driver on Lap 60, a clear error of judgement, but not anything more than that. However, for the third time in eighteen months, a driver involved in an incident with Canapino has suffered torrent online abuse, Pourchaire, and later Arrow McLaren, forced to make a statement on the situation. Juncos Hollinger Racing retweeted the McLaren statement (as part of their strategic alliance), but their own statement wouldn't come until a day later.

Canapino made his own statement, which was pretty poor, stating he 'had not seen a death threat from those who claim to have recieved them,' before saying 'no-one in their right mind would do such a thing.' Canapino wouldn't help his own situation when he liked multiple tweets joking about the abuse, and in one case, replying to the comment with several laughing faces.

It'd be ludicrous to claim that Canapino wouldn't have been aware of previous incidents involving ex-teammate, Callum Ilott, many of which believe that to be the driving factor for Ilott to leave the team at the conclusion of last season. Matters weren't helped by a horrific comment by Ricardo Juncos over the radio, directed at Pourchaire.

This needs to stop being a regular occurence. IndyCar have stated they've discussed it with both teams. It's hard to imagine a scenario where IndyCar can sanction a sporting penalty in this situation. It's also hard to imagine the McLaren-Juncos alliance staying fruitful for much longer. Juncos and Canapino need to find a way for this to stop, they certainly need to stop igniting the situation further through their own actions, an absolute disgrace to themselves, McLaren and the series.

Whatever they deem appropriate to fix it, they need to solve it, and solve it now.

Credit: James Black


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