Detroit Is What’s NEXT for INDYCAR
The future of the Verizon IndyCar Series is encapsulated by its current “NEXT” marketing campaign theme.
Next drivers to watch … next technology … next innovation … next car … next venues.
No more so is the “Next” chapter more relevant in the evolution of the open-wheel series this season than the 2017 Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear, June 2-4 at Belle Isle.
It’s the next-race-up after the famed Indianapolis 500 this Sunday, May 28, at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. There could not be a bigger contrast to the smooth and fast oval at Indy to the tantalizing but daunting doubleheader weekend of punishing street-course competition on the bruising 2.3-mile track within the shadows of General Motors World Headquarters.
As veteran IndyCar team owner and driver Ed Carpenter said before practice for the Indy 500 began last week, “It’s definitely challenging; there’s no way around it.”
Carpenter, team principal of the two-car Chevy-powered Ed Carpenter Racing outfit, won’t drive at Belle Isle, leaving on-track duties to his American young guns JR Hildebrand and Spencer Pigot, who certainly rank among the next stars of IndyCar.
Carpenter will be on the pit box formulating strategy – and figuring out the finances, because the twin-bill race weekend in the Motor City, the only doubleheader on the Verizon IndyCar Series circuit, is brutal on drivers and just as hard on equipment.
“If you can come out of the Indy 500 unscathed, you’ve got so much better chance in Detroit,” said Carpenter, a two-time Indy 500 polewinner who will start second in Sunday’s race. “You don’t have that much time at all to prepare the cars for Belle Isle. It can be dealing with adversity getting to Detroit. It’s our next big race weekend of the season and, like the Indy 500, it offers double points.”
Carpenter will be hoping Hildebrand and Pigot will be fast on Belle Isle – and smart.
“We have to run well and manage equipment,” said Carpenter. “They are both future stars of the series, so I’m confident they will.”
Honda driver Tony Kanaan, now in his 20th season in IndyCar, knows firsthand how tough the transition from Indianapolis to Belle Isle can be.
Winner of the 2013 Indy 500, Kanaan won the Detroit Grand Prix at Belle Isle in 2007. But IndyCar’s ironman also suffered concussions and broken bones in qualifying runs on the island in 2000 and 2001.
“You come from the most brutal month of racing in May at Indy to a bumpy, narrow and physically demanding track in Detroit,” said Kanaan, who drives for Chip Ganassi Racing and has made 270 straight starts since his 2001 accident. “It’s very stressful. You have to get it right now in the doubleheader. You could lose the championship right there in one weekend if you don’t. I’ve had a lot of glory at Belle Isle and a lot of crashes. Detroit can take a toll on you.”
On a recent trip to Detroit, Will Power, the Team Penske ace who’s won twice on Belle Isle, including Dual II last year, spoke about the pressure associated with racing in the Motor City and the short week following the Indy 500.
“It comes quick after the 500,” said Power, who drove his Chevy to victory at the IndyCar Grand Prix on the IMS road course earlier this month. “But I love the track. It’s very technical; it’s tough; and it has a lot of bumps. If you get (Belle Isle) wrong, the walls are pretty nasty. But win, and you have plenty of momentum over the next five or six races.”
The “Chevy Dual in Detroit,” just a week after the running of the 101st Indianapolis 500, can make or break a driver’s season.It may be next up after Indy, but put a wheel wrong, and it could be mess up, says Conor Daly, another young American hard charger.
“Belle Isle is just really challenging,” said Daly, who drives a Chevy for A.J. Foyt Enterprises. “I love the doubleheader and you have a double points opportunity. I enjoy the contest … but, man, it’s a tough weekend on your body and car.”
While Carpenter is hoping for a great result in Indy this weekend to celebrate Memorial Day, he knows there won’t be much time to celebrate with the team switching its cars over to a street course setup and hitting the road to Motown in just a couple of days.
“We don’t have much time at all getting up to Belle Isle for the race,” said Carpenter. “Not having a break after the month of May at Indy is tough. We go right into the next race at Detroit. But honestly, what a place to do it, in the Motor City, within view of GM World Headquarters.”
Experience all the excitement of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear, June 2-4 at Belle Isle Park. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit www.DetroitGP.com.