Friday, June 1, 2012

Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix Preview

After about as fine an Indianapolis 500 as could have been witnessed, the IZOD IndyCar Series heads north to Detroit, as the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix returns to the schedule. After a turbulent week featuring plenty of speculation, indignation, and fury over discontented owners and INDYCAR CEO Randy Bernard, it's nice to get back to some honest-to-goodness racing. For those of us fighting the annual post-500 depression, it's extremely welcome as we try to get out of the racing doldrums of returning to the grind after spending time at one of the greatest places on Earth.

Back to Detroit: Justin Wilson is the last driver to win on this course (all the way back in 2008), but with the narrow, curvy course, it stands to reason Will Power will have every chance to once against assert his twisty-style dominance. Rain's expected through at least part of the weekend, so it could be pretty entertaining as teams work through changing weather conditions. This is a highly technical track, one with tights turns and without much room for error, so we'll probably see some carbon fiber fly before it's all over.

Here are a few other story lines to follow through the weekend's action:

Post-Indy Momentum: After a phenomenal 500, we'll see if Belle Isle is capable of keeping some of the interest for IndyCar fans. Now, traditionally, this course is not known for on-track action, but we said the same thing about Barber, and look how that turned out. If some great Firestone tire compounds and a new car can help make this race another action-packed one, it'll mean a great season of racing just keeps going.

Eyes On ABC: ABC generally received ok reviews on their Indy 500 coverage, missing some big lead changes, but putting together some nice segments as well. The question remains if ABC can improve their coverage to give the on-track action the sort of attention and excellence it deserves. If another day of poor camera angles and unexplained lead changes ruled, expect some (ultimately fruitless) complaints from fans.

Can Andretti Bounce Back?: We've seen great drives from Andretti Autosport drivers such as James Hinchcliffe and Ryan Hunter-Reay, and the entire AA team qualified very well at Indy before a disappointing overall turn in the race itself. Marco Andretti is struggling to put some good finishes together so far this year, but Hinch and RHR have looked like either one of them could contend for the win in any given week. An Andretti car winning this week would be a nice statement, and take at least a tiny bit of the sting out of Indy.

Wilson was all smiles after winning Detroit in '08.
(Courtesy IndyCar Media)
Engine Penalties Come Due: Both Simona de Silvestro and Graham Rahal will be serving their delayed 10-spot grid penalty due to engine changes at Indy. It's particularly a shame for Simona, who had a chance to demonstrate what the "updated" Lotus might be capable of. Lotus HVM will still be off on power, but hopefully the deficit is at least somewhat lessened.

Time To Get Movin': Competition is tight this season, but those Top 20 or so spots should be instrumental once more in TEAM money payouts for 2013. With drivers such as Ed Carpenter (P23), Josef Newgarden (P21), and Alex Tagliani (P25, missed Brazil) sitting outside the Top 20, putting together some good finishes will become paramount as teams fight for those spots. It should be a great fight, with every driver involved capable of a good finish on any given day.

Pole: I'm sure you're wildly surprised to see Will Power's name here.

Winner: Power seems like the easy bet, but I wouldn't be quite ready to sell the Ganassis short just yet. They have a pretty good sense of hanging on to any bit of momentum achieved, and if they reassert their normal role in the pecking order, it can't be too much of a surprise. I have a feeling this might be the sort of track Sebastien Bourdais can make some noise on, if his Dragon Racing crew is on it.

Dark Horse: Justin Wilson had an excellent Indy 500, and I like the engineering on this team. Let's see if they can keep the momentum rolling. My sympathetic pick would be Takuma Sato.

Also: A bit off-tangent, but I have to mention the Champion Crew Conversation website. Dedicated to giving as much assistance to IndyCar fans traveling to races as possible, they were key in helping me secure a great hotel deal for my trip to the Milwaukee IndyFest later this month. If you're planning on attending any races this season, make sure to check out their website first.

I won't be up in Detroit this weekend, but I'll be following along online and via broadcast. Have a great weekend, and let's get ready for a very busy month of June!

No comments:

Post a Comment