With the month of May at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway now fully behind them, the teams and drivers of the Verizon IndyCar Series head to the Raceway at Belle Isle near Detroit, Michigan where there will be two chances to race instead of one. Although slightly varying from the double points races like the Indianapolis 500 and the season-ending Sonoma Grand Prix, the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit could play a significant role in determining the 2016 series champion.
With three victories in the last three road course events, Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud could very well put his stamp of control on his pursuit to claim his first championship with a victory in either or both races this weekend. Despite finishing only 13th last Sunday in the Indianapolis 500, the Frenchman stills holds a solid 57-point lead on defending Verizon IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon of Chip Ganassi Racing. Both contenders have had their moments in Detroit, with Pagenaud claiming his first career win here for Sam Schmidt’s squad in 2013. In addition to the triumph, the driver of the No. 22 PPG Chevrolet, has also placed sixth or better three other times in his six other efforts at Detroit.
Dixon meanwhile, earned the top step of the podium at Motown in 2012 and has placed fifth or better in three of his last six Belle Isle starts over the past three years. Amazingly, despite being a circuit famously difficult to overtake on, the 2.36 mile, 14-turn layout has yet to create a multi-time winner. The first nine Verizon IndyCar Series races on the man-made island have yielded nine different champions, including Carlos Munoz and Sebastien Bourdais won split last year’s events.
Each of the 2015 winners in the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit, enter Saturday and Sunday with momentum. If not for the late successful fuel gamble by Indy 500 champion Alexander Rossi, it could be fair to say that Munoz could have added his own visage to the Borg Warner Trophy last Sunday. Still, with Honda’s engine and aero kit showing its most potential since a sluggish start to 2016 last weekend, the prospects for Munoz and the rest of the Honda runners appear much more promising entering the Motor City. The Colombian won the rain-shortened first race at Detroit a year ago, but then was eliminated early from the second race the following day.
As for Bourdais, the four-time Champ Car World Series titlist has struggled with his KVSH Racing squad in the first six races this season. Despite featuring the preferred Chevrolet engine and aero package, the Le Mans-native has placed no better than eighth in any of the first six events, and despite finishing ninth at the Indy 500, he currently ranks only 15th on the current points table. Bourdais however, did dominate the second race in Detroit last year, an event cut short due the two-hour time limit being exceeded.
Among other contenders, the Verizon IndyCar Series’ newest race winner Alexander Rossi returns his from Indy 500 winning media tour in New York City with the attention reserved for the winner of racing’s most prestigious event, but will in continue on Saturday and Sunday? Since the first North American open wheel event held in downtown Detroit in 1989, only one time has the winner at the Brickyard gone on to win at Motown, when Emerson Fittipaldi completed the trick in the inaugural event. Eyes will also be on both Will Power and Helio Castroneves of Team Penske, who are surprisingly each winless so far this season. The two longtime drivers for the Captain split the two legs of the Dual in Detroit in 2014.
Stay tuned to OnPitRoad.com for updates throughout the weekend.