BELLE ISLE, Mich – Qualifying to set the field for this weekend’s doubheader in Belle Isle is a little different here than all the other tracks on the NTT IndyCar Series schedule. See, with two races in two days, qualifying to determine the starting spots will be done on the morning of instead of the day prior.
So, with Saturday’s Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix (3 p.m. ET/NBC/INDYCAR Radio Network) being run later, the starting lineup was determined by just one session instead of the typical three that we see on normal street course weekends.
Normally, qualifying is setup with the first round being separated into two groups. The top six in each group advances to the second round. Then, the top six in the second round advances to the Firestone Fast Six.
But, with a time crunch on both days, the first round is the only round and the quickest overall in the two groups wins the pole. That means his group will start on the Inside of the Rows and the quickest driver of the other group leads the Outside Rows.
With that being said, Alexander Rossi kept his hot streak going in earning the pole for Saturday’s 75 Lap race for the second straight year. Rossi, won the pole for last year’s Race No. 2 in Belle Isle but it was the only race that he didn’t win from when the Andretti Autosport driver started on the pole. He finished 12th instead.
In his other four poles that he won heading into this weekend, Rossi had won the race in each of them including leading 80 of 85 laps in his first pole of the season on the streets of Long Beach back in April.
Overall, Rossi has six career Indy Car poles now and is looking for his seventh career series win.
Joining him on the front row is Josef Newgarden who was quickest in the first group with a lap of 1:14.8272-seconds in his No. 2 Chevrolet. Newgarden, gained a championship point for that too and will now be tied with Simon Pagenaud for the points lead heading into the race. On street course races this season, Newgarden has started second (St. Pete), fourth (Long Beach) and second (Belle Isle 1).
Scott Dixon will roll off third in his No. 9 Honda after completing the second quickest qualifying lap overall with a time of 1:14.3995-seconds. His Chip Ganassi Racing teammate of Felix Rosenqvist (1:14.9984-seconds) will start fourth in his No. 10 Honda while fellow rookie Colton Herta rounded out the top five in turning in a lap of 1:14.8811-seconds in his No. 88 Honda.
Here are my main takeaways from Saturday’s qualifying session.
Group 2 The Way To Go
By virtue of having the quickest lap turned in Practice on Friday, Rossi was able to pick which group he wanted to qualify in. It was a no brainer to him. Rossi, chose group 2. See, prior to Indy Car qualifying on Saturday, the TransAm Series had a race. They race on a different tire compound, meaning the first group would have to lay down new rubber. So, for Group 2, the rubber would already be down.
That’s why Rossi chose the second group and the reason to why he won the pole. Plus, the quickest car in Group 1 would have only been fourth overall in the second group.
Andretti/Ganassi Cars Look Strong
Josef Newgarden said on Friday that he felt like they were a step behind Andretti and Ganassi so far this weekend. Saturday, showed he was right. In qualifying, Andretti put four cars in the top eight and that includes Colton Herta who’s with their satellite team. Ganassi, put both cars in the top four. Combined, six of the top eight starters belong to Andretti or Ganassi.
Chevy May Be In Trouble
I wrote heading into this weekend that Chevrolet was after a better weekend in Belle Isle. See, the race is contested in their backyard as well as having their branding on the event with this being the “Chevrolet” Detroit Grand Prix.
Over the last two years, Honda drivers have swept both race weekends in Detroit. So far this weekend, they’re back at it again.
Honda, has five of the top six starting spots and nine of the top 11 overall for Saturday’s race. Penske, will have starters second (Newgarden), 12th (Will Power) and 13th (Simon Pagenaud).
Rookies Were Quick Too
If you look at the starting lineup, you’d see three rookies in the top seven of the starting lineup. Felix Rosenqvist bounces back after a rough Indy 500 on the oval to qualify fourth in his No. 10 Honda.
Colton Herta earns his fifth straight top 10 starting spot including three of which in the top five in his No. 88 Honda. He was even penalized for a pit road speeding penalty in his qualifying group and here he is in fifth.
Then there’s Pato O’Ward. He missed out on the ‘500 but here he is seeking redemption and qualifying his No. 31 Chevrolet in seventh. By comparison, his teammate Max Chilton only qualified 19th.
Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix Race 1 Starting Lineup
Row 1: Alexander Rossi, Josef Newgarden
Row 2: Scott Dixon, Felix Rosenqvist R
Row 3: Colton Herta R, Ryan Hunter-Reay
Row 4: Pato O’Ward, Zach Veach
Row 5: Takuma Sato, James Hinchcliffe
Row 6: Graham Rahal, Will Power
Row 7: Simon Pagenaud, Ed Jones
Row 8: Marcus Ericsson, Sebastien Bourdais
Row 9: Spencer Pigot, Marco Andretti
Row 10: Max Chilton, Matheus Leist
Row 11: Tony Kanaan, Santino Ferrucci R