BELLE ISLE, Mich – The finale of the doubleheader weekend on the streets of Belle Isle is upon us. Sunday’s Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix (3 p.m. ET/NBC/INDYCAR Radio Network) will run a whole lot different than yesterday’s timed race.
So, who’s going to win? What are the storylines?
Here’s what I think.
Josef Newgarden celebrates his Belle Isle 1 win on Saturday – INDYCAR Media Site
Can Newgarden/Penske Sweep The Weekend
At Indy, Simon Pagenaud pulled the rare sweep with a win in the GP as well as the ‘500 too. Will Power was the only other driver to be able to do so as he did it in 2018 as well. Now, can Josef Newgarden give Penske a sweep of Belle Isle?
He fluked into a win on Saturday but starts on the pole on Sunday. Can he hold off a bunch of hungry Honda’s behind him for the second weekend sweep here at Belle Isle in three years?
Honda vs. Chevy
This is a big weekend for the Chevrolet camp since this race is in their own backyard. Plus, Chevy is the title sponsor of the weekend too. But, last year was a black eye for the bowties. The pace car, a Chevy obviously, crashed pulling out of the pits to start the second race on Sunday. Then, Honda drivers swept the weekend in winning both races. It was the second straight year that Honda swept the doubleheader event in Belle Isle.
On Saturday, Honda’s dominated the finishing order in putting four cars in the top five and seven in the top nine. They just didn’t get the win as Newgarden in a Chevy did. But, for qualifying for Sunday’s race, Newgarden did win the pole but Honda’s earned six of the top seven starting spots and seven of the top nine.
Honda has won four of the last five races in Detroit and has won three of the seven races in 2019 and 12 of the last 18 overall. That comes after Chevy won four of the first six races last year. Honda has claimed a 12-6 advantage in victories since Belle Isle last year.
Will Power loses his right front tire after a disastrous pit stop on Saturday – INDYCAR Media Site
Don’t Expect Many Cautions
Despite being a bumpy street course, Belle Isle doesn’t produce a ton of caution flags. Since 2016, we’ve had three or fewer in each race minus Saturday’s rain delayed event.
2, 3 – 2016
2, 1 – 2017
2, 1 – 2018
As you can see, we’ve had two stoppages in race No. 1 in each of the last three years. We’ve only had one caution in race No. 2 in each of the last two years. So, if Sunday plays out clean, then tire selections and when they put them on may dictate who wins today’s race.
The start of the 2018 race in Belle Isle – INDYCAR Media Site
Starting Position Matters
Four of the last five races run on the 2.35-mile street course have been won by a driver coming from the top 2 Rows. Six of the seven races run in 2019 have also been won by a starter from the top four starting spots. That’s great news for Newgarden, Alexander Rossi, Zach Veach and Colton Herta. They all start in the top four spots on Sunday.
Alexander Rossi races his No. 27 Honda in Belle Isle on Saturday – INDYCAR Media Site
Josef Newgarden took the points lead back on Saturday. He holds a 26 point advantage now heading into Sunday’s race. Alexander Rossi is still 33 points out but earned another point to move closer to getting passed Simon Pagenaud for second. With Takuma Sato starting 16th, Pagenaud 14th and Will Power 11th, the second, third and sixth place drivers in the standings are all coming from midpack on back. Then, you have Scott Dixon who is 92 points out in fifth who’s starting sixth.
With Newgarden and Rossi sharing the front row for the second straight day, they can really pull away from everyone else leaving here this weekend.
27 Rossi – He had the pace to win on Saturday but a fluke caution and strategy play by Newgarden put Rossi to second. For a race without any weather impacts, watch out for Rossi. He clearly has the faster race car and should shine on Sunday. Rossi, has finished either first or second in all three street course races in 2019, so why not a fourth?
2 Newgarden – Like Rossi, he’s finished either first or second in all three races on street courses this season. He starts on the front row again on Sunday and comes home a close second to Rossi.
9 Dixon – Strategy gets him up to a podium to make up for Saturday’s crash. Dixon, has the speed for a podium and comes from sixth to get there. He had a second and third place finish on street courses this season heading into the weekend. He gets back on it on Sunday.
10 Rosenqvist – He finished fourth on Saturday and has two fourth place finishes on street course tracks in three tries in 2019. Why not a third? This car finished sixth and third respectively last year, so Rosenqvist will get another top five on Sunday.
26 Veach – He gets a top five after finishing eighth on Saturday. Honda gets four cars in the top five with Veach coming from the third starting position.