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IndyCar Preview: Detroit Grand Prix

Written by Dan Jones

Credit: Joe Skibinski

After the conclusion of the 'Greatest Spectacle in Racing,' the NTT IndyCar Series heads to more subdued quarters immediately after, as the show hits the narrow Streets of Detroit, filled with bumps and single file sections - the complete opposite to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, for Round 6 of 17 in the 2024 season.

And the man who heads into Detroit with all the attention on his shoulders again is Josef Newgarden, the winner of the 108th Running of the Indianapolis 500, as he became the first driver to go back-to-back in 22 years, after a daring last lap overtake on Pato O'Ward, who had to settle for second for the second time in three years.

It was a chaotic '500', which saw the start delayed for four hours due to weather, and once we did get going we saw multiple accidents, Tom Blomqvist, Marcus Ericsson and Pietro Fittipaldi getting caught up in the first corner, before later crashes for Linus Lundqvist, Colton Herta, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and Will Power.

In the last 40-50 laps, the contenders emerged, with longy-time frontrunners Newgarden and Alexander Rossi in the mix, with Scott Dixon and O'Ward cycling to the front due to ingenious strategy. The four would duel it out for a thrilling final 30 laps. O'Ward, who had made an unbelievable save mid-way through the race, overtook Newgarden on the frontstretch on Lap 200, but Newgarden would boldly go back around the outside at Turn 3 to claim a famous Indianapolis 500 win. You can read the full report here.

The man with all the attention in the world. Credit: Chris Owens

Newgarden has once again had all the media commitments in the world, appearing on multiple TV shows, travelling to New York - but I'm sure he won't mind. But him, like the rest of us, need to turn our attention to Round 6 of the season in Detroit.

Expect bumps, tight corners and crashes, Detroit can be wild, from what we saw in it's inaugural race last year. The laps starts with two 90 degree left handers, slowly climbing uphill, in a single-file section of track. Drivers will then head down East Jefferson Street, an extremely long backstretch, for the best overtaking section of the lap - this is where starts and restarts will take place.

Once they head down the bumpy straightaway drivers then brake for a particularly double-apexed hairpin, before swinging right for a particularly narrow section of racetrack, before the swoop downhill for another left-hander. Turns 6 and 7 provide a narrow right-left chicane, both corners 45 degrees, before a tricky braking zone into the Turn 8 left-hander, and the narrow Turn 9 right-hander round out the lap.

Last year's event was chaotic, seeing no less than six yellow flags through the course of the 100 laps. Palou would dominate the day though, in the period where he won four out of five races, Detroit kickstarting a three-in-a-row sequence, which would eventually see him become champion.

The very unique split pits. Credit: James Black

The circuit features a unique quirk amongst motorsport enthusiasts in a 'split pit lane,' where half the drivers will turn left into their pit box, and half will turn right, due to the narrow space provided in pitlane. Pit lane saw chaos last year, where it effectively ended Pato O'Ward's day.

But who to watch out for on the Streets of Detroit. With the circuit only moving from the Belle Isle Circuit last year, Palou remains the only winner at the new circuit, and he ran away with the event last season, like we've seen him do throughout the course of his IndyCar career - expect him to be a favourite here once again.

Colton Herta has always been traditionally strong at street circuits, and took a podium in both Long Beach and St. Petersburg. Detroit could prove a big weekend for Herta as he looks to recover from a frustrating Indianapolis 500. Teammate, Kyle Kirkwood, had a much better day, and he's found his best career successes on street circuits too. He ran particularly well here last year, finishing 6th, despite Callum Ilott flying over his rear wing on Lap One.

The winner of the Indianapolis 500 has not won the following round since 1997, so Josef Newgarden will have quite the task on his hands this weekend. Newgarden finished 10th here last year, but was understandably tired from all the media commitments - but will know what he's doing this time around! After his disqualification threw him out the championship picture, Indianapolis has firmly placed Newgarden back in it.

How will O'Ward react after another gutting '500'. Credit: Dana Garrett

Watch out for Pato O'Ward. The Mexican was understandably dejected at losing out at yet another Indianapolis 500 crown. One of the positives he can take though, it that it's put him back in the championship picture again, despite a rocky few rounds. O'Ward had his weakest round of any race last year at this circuit - after a pitlane error and a clumsy crash. How will he react after a frustrating week?

I'd also keep an eye out on the likes of Scott McLaughlin - who's been particularly strong on road and street courses recently. Alexander Rossi ran particularly well here last year, until he collided with teammate-at-the-time, Felix Rosenqvist, who has starred himself at Meyer Shank Racing this year, and could be another one to look out for after his street course performances this season.

Heading into Detroit the top ten in the standings are as follows:

Palou: 183

Dixon: 163

Power: 157

O'Ward: 134

Herta: 134

McLaughlin: 131

Newgarden: 122 Rossi: 120

Rosenqvist: 116

Kirkwood: 115

This weekend will also so a plethora of driver changes. All the Indy-only entries obviously don't return, which sees Christian Rasmussen back in his usual #20 Ed Carpenter Racing car. Théo Pourchaire was recently announced to do the full season bar the Indianapolis 500 in the #6 Arrow McLaren car. Callum Ilott drove an impressive race, but will now hand the keys back to Pourchaire to take over for the rest of 2024.

Tristan Vautier becomes the latest driver in the #51 Dale Coyne Racing car, as he makes his first IndyCar appearance since Texas 2017. He becomes the sixth driver the team have fielded in as many races in 2024.

Blomqvist has stepped aside without much explanation. Credit: Chris Jones

Meyer Shank Racing 'mutually agreed' for Tom Blomqvist to step aside for two races after his opening lap crash at the Indianapolis 500. It is unclear whether Blomqvist will return after Road America, but for the next two rounds, four-time Indianapolis 500 winner, and minority owner of the team, Hélio Castroneves will sit in.

There's plenty going on ahead of the Detroit weekend, as the dust settles on another thrilling Indianapolis 500. But keep your eye on the IndyCar action at Detroit. Will there be carnage yet again? How will the likes of O'Ward and Herta recover? Can Newgarden make history once again? There's so much to look out for once again in IndyCar.


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