Rain delays, yellow flags and near-misses were just part of the topsy turvy doubleheader weekend in Detroit. Alexander Rossi was one of the fastest of the field of 22, qualifying on pole for day 1 and qualifying second on day 2. The Detroit Grand Prix is a 14-turn, 2.35-mile temporary street course on the island of Belle Isle.
The start of Saturday’s race was delayed more than an hour after a thunderstorm moved through the area. INDYCAR then adjusted the race from its scheduled 70 laps to a timed event. Rossi was dominant in the early stint, with only Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon keeping pace in second.
Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden, who had been lurking a few spots behind, came into the pits a little early. And then came a yellow flag. Rossi and the other frontrunners had to pit during the caution period and Newgarden inherited the lead. With roughly 20 laps to go, there was a chance for Rossi’s Honda to get Newgarden on gas mileage. But a couple more yellows came out and Newgarden’s Chevy was able to conserve and go the distance. Rossi finished a strong P2.
“These yellows are tough,” said Rossi. “They’ve killed our race three times this year, but it’s part of the game in INDYCAR, (and) it’s the same for everyone. We had a really good car under wet conditions. We were able to control the race and control the gap to Scott [Dixon]. Track position on a one-line track is obviously key. There was really only one dry line; there was not much I could do. Josef [Newgarden] did a good job. I tried to push him into a mistake, but it didn’t come. It’s hard. I’m frustrated. I think we had the best car again today.
Sunday’s race ran the full 70-lap distance under blue skies. In addition to the myriad of race strategies that mixed up the running order several times, the race saw five full-course cautions for incidents on the tight and bumpy circuit. Rossi was shuffled back just below the top five as other teams gambled on pit stop timing. But on Lap 33, a battling Newgarden and James Hinchcliffe slid together, nearly collecting Rossi who was able to spin away and avoid the pile-up. Rossi persevered to a decent P5 finish, while his nearest Championship competitors (Newgarden and Simon Pagenaud) both had tough days.
“This weekend was more missed opportunities,” said Rossi. “But at the end of the day, the NAPA team did a really good job and we capitalized on the two guys in front of us having problems. A win continues to elude us here, but we had a fast race car and that’s good enough, I guess.”
The NTT IndyCar Series returns to action Saturday, June 8 with the DXC Technology 600 at Texas Motor Speedway. Live coverage begins at 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN and the INDYCAR Radio Network.
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!