History will be made on Sunday.
IndyCar will race at Detroit’s Belle Isle Park for the 30th and final time at the 2.35-mile, 13-turn temporary street circuit.
In the finale, the race will be a single event and not a doubleheader as it has been for the last decade. Next season, the Detroit Grand Prix will move downtown along the Renaissance Center, the site of the first Detroit Grand Prix in 1982, which was a part of the Formula 1 calendar. The race was won by McLaren’s John Watson, followed by then-24-year-old Eddie Cheever Jr., who went on to win the Indianapolis 500 in 1998.
Who to watch for
Talk about déjà vu! Marcus Ericsson and Pato O’Ward finished 1-2 at last week’s Indy 500. They were also the winners at the Belle Isle doubleheader last season. In Ericsson’s case, his victory was his first as an IndyCar driver, while O’Ward, who finished third in the first race, picked up his second career win and his second of 2021. Both drivers are coming in with a plethora of momentum and just in case you thought we were done with the 1-2 mentions, think again. Ericsson and O’Ward are also first and second in points coming into a track where they perform very well.
This battle could very well boil down to a question of discipline. Because of the changes in asphalt and the past repairs done to the course, some areas have good grip and others don’t. But the common denominator is that the track is equally abrasive. As a result, the driver who manages their tires the best will likely put themselves in contention for a win.
Just two days before the Indy 500, O’Ward inked a contract extension with Arrow McLaren SP that extended his commitment through the 2025 season and makes him the centerpiece of the expanding three-car program. The worst kept secret in IndyCar was announced Thursday when it was revealed that 2016 Indy 500 champion Alexander Rossi would become O’Ward’s new teammate, signing a multi-year deal with Arrow McLaren SP.
Rossi, who hasn’t won since 2019, will finish the rest of the season with Andretti Autosport before parting ways with the team he has driven for the past seven seasons. But it would certainly be a special moment should Rossi find his way back to victory lane before joining AMSP. Don’t count him out. Rossi has two podiums and two poles at the 982-acre island situated in the Detroit River.
Penske struggles at Indianapolis
Over the course of its 56-year history, Team Penske has earned 18 Indianapolis 500 victories. However, none of the team finished in the top 10 last Sunday. Two-time series champion Josef Newgarden was the team’s highest finisher at 13th. Prior to last weekend, the last time Team Penske was left out of the top 10 in the Indy 500 was in 2011. Penske won the opening three races of the season, but they are winless in their last three. 2014 series champion Will Power and Newgarden have a combined three wins and nine podiums in Belle Isle. Can one of them break into victory lane or can Scott McLaughlin break through for his second career win?
Although Chip Ganassi Racing won the Indy 500, it was hard not to feel bad for six-time series champion Scott Dixon, who led a race-high 95 of 200 laps, but a late-race speeding penalty ended his chances of tasting the Borg-Warner Trophy for the second time. But as the saying goes, the best don’t dwell on the past and move on to the next opportunity. It certainly wasn’t the first time Dixon has been snakebitten in the big race. After all, he has led the most laps in Indy 500 history and yet only has one win (2008).
Despite the heartbreak, Dixon, who has won at least one race every year since 2003, remains one victory shy of tying Mario Andretti for second on the all-time win list at 52 wins. AJ Foyt is the all-time leader with 67 trips to victory lane.
With three wins and four podiums, expect Dixon to attack Belle Isle with redemption on his mind.
My pick to win the IndyCar Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix is Pato O’Ward. The young Mexican sensation was on the receiving end of criticism for not being aggressive enough towards the end of the Indianapolis 500. O’Ward proved at Barber that he is very disciplined at his craft and that type of style will benefit him at a very rough course. Furthermore, he will use the negativity thrown at him for the runner-up finish at Indy as motivation to pick up his second consecutive win at Belle Isle in a perfect send-off for the storied racetrack.
How You Can Watch
Sunday, 3 p.m. ET on USA Network and streaming on Peacock, the NBC Sports App and NBCSports.com.
COMMAND TO START ENGINES: 3:38 p.m. ET
GREEN FLAG: 3:45 p.m. ET
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