May 31, 2014, 2:40 PM EDT
BRUTAL BELLE ISLE
Much like Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama, Detroit’s Belle Isle Park hides a grueling circuit beneath its beautiful setting. It’s a major shift for these drivers just one week after the Indianapolis 500. Ryan Briscoe’s explanation to the AP sums it up perfectly: “The Indy 500 is not a physical event, but it’s extremely mentally draining. In Detroit, you get beat up with all the bumps because this is one of the more physical circuits we come to and we race it twice in two days.”
INTRIGUE AT THE BACK
Today’s qualifying session saw multiple surprises with guys like Will Power (16th), 2013 Detroit Race 2 winner Simon Pagenaud (17th), and ‘500’ winner Ryan Hunter-Reay (21st) all failing to escape the first round. On a course as challenging as Belle Isle, that may be too big a mountain to climb in today’s 70-lapper. But these are three of the best road/street racers in the IndyCar paddock, and they’re going to give it their best shot.
AN ENCORE FOR MIKE CONWAY?
Last time Conway was in Ed Carpenter’s car was at the Grand Prix of Indianapolis, and damage sustained during the big start-line crash made for a disappointing result. But now he returns to Belle Isle, where in last year’s Race 1, he flat-out whipped the field in Dale Coyne’s second car. It may be too much to expect another tour de force performance from the Long Beach winner, but he can definitely take another checkered flag in the Motor City from fourth on the grid.
CHEVY VS. HONDA
You always have to bring this battle up any time IndyCar comes to GM’s backyard. And this, too: Honda has won all three Detroit races since this event’s revival in 2012. Last year was particularly grim for the Bowtie, with the Race 1 runner-up from Ryan Hunter-Reay (now a Honda man for Andretti Autosport) keeping Honda from sweeping all of the podium spots that weekend. In the ‘500’, Honda had four cars – all from Andretti – in the Top 6. The Chevy camp will be bent on stopping that momentum cold.