Race Weekend Central

2024 IndyCar Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix Preview

Time to shift gears from the Greatest Spectacle in Racing to the rest of the NTT IndyCar Series championship as the series heads to the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix. This is the second year on the new layout which took inspiration from the look and feel of the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix, which took place on a street circuit in downtown Nashville. 

Last year, the race with the dual-sided pit road put on a thrilling street battle between Will Power and eventual winner Alex Palou over the 1.645-mile course. It was Palou who took the checkered flag which started him on a remarkable series of finishes which catapulted him out in front in the championship.

Palou rolls into Detroit as the defending winner, and the current points leader, well aware of the impact this result had on his second title run. Meanwhile, through the field there are many drivers and teams looking to rebound after a frustrating Indianapolis 500 and Month of May. 

It’s time to grind away on the streets of Detroit.

Last Year

Over 100 laps in the 2023 running of the Detroit Grand Prix, it seemed the two best cars were Power and Palou, which was true. Power had Palou on a crossover move heading through the best passing zone in turn 3 with 10 laps to go, but as he dipped under the Spaniard, Scott Dixon, running in third, hit the Team Penske No. 12 in the rear. Like Josef Newgarden earlier in the year at the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach, it thrust his engine into anti-stall mode, which killed his momentum. Palou pulled away and Power lost a couple spots. Fortunately he made up the lost ground to make it back to the runner-up spot but the win was out of reach. 

Further in the field, the race was also known for the on-track battle between Arrow McLaren Racing teammates Alexander Rossi and Felix Rosenqvist. With the Swede long moved on to Meyer Shank Racing, leaving Rossi still in papaya orange, will a repeat of that conflict flare up again?

Indy 500 Winner Doesn’t Need Fuel, He Needs Caffeine

Winning the Indy 500 is the greatest achievement in a driver’s career. However it doesn’t bode well for them the race after. Since 2012 when the Detroit Grand Prix was moved to the week after Indy, the best finish at Detroit of someone coming off adding their face to the Borg-Warner Trophy was a second place by Dario Franchitti in 2012 and Power in the second race of the 2018 doubleheader. Outside of those two runner-ups, only one other top five has been recorded, by Takumo Sato in 2017 in Dual Race 2. In fact, out of every Detroit race weekend since 2012, the winner of the preceding Indy 500 has an average finish of 9.6, with the addendum that 2021 isn’t in the calculation because Helio Castroneves did not compete. 

See also
Tristan Vautier Back in IndyCar at Detroit

The Indy 500 win is awesome, but all the requirements of the new champion in the ensuing media tour takes its toll. Newly-crowned two-time 500 champion Newgarden will need to pull out all he’s got to keep his momentum going on the Motor City. Good thing there’s only one race to run this weekend, instead of the old format with a doubleheader. 

Time for the O’Ward Revenge Tour 2024

The emotions from Pato O’Ward after losing the Indy 500 in the third turn on the final lap were everywhere after the race. He was feeling the pain from losing out on the biggest race yet another time. Adding up the 2022 and 2024 race results, O’Ward was five total turns away from being a two-time Indy winner. 

But that was last weekend. It’s time to get on his horse again and put the power down. His second place helped him in the points battle, putting him 49 points behind Palou. If he can get into the hunt for the Astor Cup Trophy then he can offset some of the pain from Indianapolis. However, he needs to learn to get consistent results. Last year, after a loose tire in a pit stop put him behind, his attempt to climb back up the field resulted in him pushing too hard. While trying to pass Santino Ferrucci, the Mexican driver carried too much speed and hit the wall on exit of the turn. 

If he wants to be a championship level driver, which he can surely be at Detroit, then those mistakes have to stop. 

Indy 500 Recovery

Several drivers had disappointing days at Indianapolis. Rosenqvist has had a great start with Meyer Shank Racing, but his engine decided to take the race off while he was in the top 10. Marcus Armstrong experienced the same thing, finishing well down in the running order. This was coming off his best points-paying result of fifth at the Sonsio Grand Prix. 

Then there is 2021 Detroit winner Marcus Ericsson, whose Indy 500 lasted approximately 3/8th of a mile. His switch to Andretti Global hasn’t been a stellar return on investment, as he has only one top five to show for it. However, Motown is the perfect place for a rebound. 

Shank Makes A Change

The news on Wednesday (May 29) that Meyer Shank Racing was going to replace Tom Blomqvist with Castroneves for the next two rounds, to include Detroit, was surprising. The young Briton, who has been with Shank previously in the IMSA series, was just finishing up his ninth IndyCar race, counting the exhibition at Thermal Club. 

Unfortunately that might have been enough time to see the sports car ace didn’t have what it takes to wheel the open-wheel cars around. In those nine events, his best finish was 15th at the season opener this year. With the added dismay of crashing in the first turn of the Indy 500, perhaps a few weeks seeing what speed is in the car with a veteran like Castroneves can prove fruitful for the team. 

See also
Helio Castroneves Subbing for Tom Blomqvist at Detroit & Road America

Rest of the Field

While his teammate Palou is putting the bright light on himself with his run of top fives, six-time champion Dixon isn’t looking too bad himself. His worst run this year is 15th at Barber Motorsports Park. Besides that, he’s been seventh or better in the other four events. That’s why he is only 20 points behind Palou heading into Detroit. 

What could have been for Colton Herta if he didn’t lose the rear and crash at Indianapolis while running second. He had finished eighth or better in every race to that point, and looked certain to have a top-five result on his plate before his incident. Detroit might be a challenge though, as his best result there was a fourth in race two of the doubleheader in 2021. 

Power isn’t out of this championship yet, even after his crash at Indy. Thanks to three runner-ups, he is in a good position to recover at Detroit where he finished, you guessed it, second last year. 

Frontstretch Predictions

Alright, let me do this, please. I’m taking a bow. Why? Because I almost got all three picks right at Indianapolis. Sort of. I had Scott McLaughlin taking the win, O’Ward finishing second and Rossi third. Give me some credit for getting the team at least right for the winner, and nailed O’Ward. Had Rossi not had a hiccup off turn 4 heading to the finish, I’d be quasi-three-for-three. OK, two-for-three. That’s not bad folks. 

I’m feeling Power at the top in this one. Bounce back opportunity for the long-time street and road course ace. 

  1. Power – no more seconds for this guy.
  2. Palou – do we crown him yet?
  3. Dixon – he sneaks in, just watch.

The Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix in downtown Detroit, Michigan, will start at 12 p.m. ET on Sunday, June 2, with coverage on the USA Network and Peacock.

About the author

Tom Blackburn

Tom is an IndyCar writer at Frontstretch, joining in March 2023. Besides writing the IndyCar Previews and the occasional Inside Indycar, he will hop on as a fill-in guest on the Open Wheel podcast The Pit Straight. His full-time job is with the Department of Veterans Affairs History Office and is a lieutenant colonel in the Army National Guard. After graduating from Purdue University with a Creative Writing degree, he was commissioned in the Army and served a 15-month deployment as a tank platoon leader with the 3d ACR in Mosul, Iraq. A native Hoosier, he calls Fort Wayne home. Follow Tom on Twitter @TomBlackburn42.

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