Honestly most of the news this week centers around the Indy 500, with the awards, checks, and media blitz being the focus. But wait-leave it to the ongoing engine saga to generate at least one story. Jay Penske’s Dragon Racing put together a deal with Chevrolet for an engine lease after being dropped from the Lotus program and while the manufacturer provided two engines to power the team’s entries for Sebastien Bourdais and Katherine Legge at Indy, the deal is for a single engine lease going forward. Chevrolet has 13 leases now, more than its contractual obligation to the series and for the moment, all the manufacturer feels it can provide. For the time being, Dragon Racing will have to scale back to a single car, with Bourdais running the remaining road and street courses while Legge finishes out the ovals.
Dragon is hoping that Chevrolet may be in a position to accommodate a 14th engine lease later in the year, allowing the team to return to fielding separate entries for both drivers.
*Track Preview:* The IZOD IndyCar Series returns to the Raceway at Belle Isle Park for the first time since 2008. The Motor City has hosted Indy car racing off and on since 1989. Until 1991, the course was in downtown Detroit. For the 1992 edition the event was moved to Belle Isle Park, located on a 987 acre island in the Detroit River that is also host to a conservatory, boat club, the Dossin Great Lakes Museum, a Coast Guard station, and a golf course. The event continued there until 2001. The IZOD IndyCar Series returned to Belle Isle for 2007 and 2008 and will make its third visit to the track this year. Tony Kanaan won the 2007 event and Justin Wilson won in the series’ last visit in 2008.
The race course is a 2.07 mile 14-turn temporary street course. Race distance is 90 laps. Tune in on ABC television at 3:30 p.m. ET or listen to the IMS Radio Network broadcast on XM Channel 94/Sirius Channel 212 for coverage.
*What’s the Points (Driver Standings):* And now this is where it gets fun. Prior to the Indy 500, the IZOD IndyCar Series had run all road courses, giving us just one points leader essentially. But there are three championships in IndyCar. Will Power remains the leader in the overall championship standings, with a margin of 36 points over teammate Helio Catroneves in second and James Hinchcliffe in third. Castroneves gets the second spot over Hinch thanks to his win in the season opener. Scott Dixon and Ryan Hunter-Reay round out the top five. Defending series champion Dario Franchitti has moved up to sixth after a slow start to the season.
Power also leads the road course championship standings over Castroneves and Hinchcliffe. Indy 500 winner Dario Franchitti now leads the oval track championship standings followed by Ryan Briscoe and Scott Dixon.
*What’s the Points (Engine Manufacturers):* Honda scored the win at Indy, it’s first of the year, but Chevrolet still sits atop the point standings by a nine point margin, 42 points to 33. Lotus, down to one car piloted by Simona de Silvestro, remains a distant third with 20 points. That total doesn’t sound so bad but in this case it may not be reflective of how far behind Lotus really is. Points are awarded based on the finishing position of the highest finishing car of each respective manufacturer at each race, with first place receiving nine points, second six, and third four. There have been five races and Lotus has 20 points, meaning they’ve essentially walked out with four points each week for showing up.
*Featured Driver: Tony Kanaan.* With momentum on his side from a third place finish at Indianapolis, Kanaan returns to a track where he scored a victory in 2007. Kanaan is looking for his first win since Iowa in 2010 and his first with the KV Racing Technology team. His best finish to date with the team is a second last year at Iowa. This is Kanaan’s 15th season in a U.S. open-wheel series and 10th full season in the IZOD IndyCar Series. He holds the record for consecutive series starts for the IZOD IndyCar series with 153 and will be looking to increase that total as well as his overall open-wheel total of 185 (dating to Portland in 2001) this weekend. Ironically it’s Kanaan’s team owner Jimmy Vassar who holds the all-time record with 211.
*Any Other News:* Fast national numbers from Neilsen Media Research and ESPN show the 2012 Indy 500 delivered a 4.34 household rating which translates to 6,857,100 viewers. That represents the best rating for the race since 2008 and is an eight percent increase from last year’s race (4.03).
-Rubens Barrichello won the Chase Rookie of the Year Award for being the highest finishing rookie at Indianapolis after placing 11th.
-For you football fans, Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh will be the grand marshal for the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix.
*Upcoming:* The Indy 500 was the first in a run of five consecutive race weekends. After this week’s twists and turns at Belle Isle, it’s three weeks of oval racing. Next up is Texas Motor Speedway on June 9th followed by the Milwakuee Mile on the 16th and finally wrapping up the month of June at Iowa Speedway on the 23rd. After that IndyCar gets a week off before heading north of the border for two stops in Canada at Toronto and Edmonton in July.