Now, for something totally different. Before the ink is even dry on the 2014 Indy 500 chapter of the season, the circus moves to Milwau… nope… Tex… nope… Detroit? You got it. Nothing against the event, but it really feels odd going road racing a week after the 500. Not a bad event by any means, just the opposite in fact, but possibly sitting in the wrong place in the season. But the strong Penske death state can sway many a feelings, so to Detroit we go! The lengthening of the facility and aesthetic additions for the 2013 race went a long way in quenching the fire many fans had about the 2012 shemozzle on a track that was literally impossible to find room to pass on. This is definitely not old Detroit.
5 Things to Watch
Gorgeous Facility? – The off season has seen the addition of new curbing, moved walls, and a bit of grass added to previously barren areas. It may not be Barber, but the Belle isle facility is looking better and better each year. Add an additional 4 million dollars of pavement for 2015 and we could be looking at yet another premiere road course facility for indycar to race on. Penske is plowing the way and I expect nothing less than perfection out of a project spear headed by The Captain. Chevy has also resigned a multi-year extension to sponsor the race so it feels like we have a long term partner with Belle Isle.
The Conway Factor – it’s hard not to expect the Destroyer Of Worlds to not play a factor in Saturday and Sundays races. Past event winner, 2014 street race winner and all around bad ass, the quiet Brit has nothing standing in his path to absolutely crushing the weekend. The more I think about Conway, the more I feel that he is not bothered by the big three, and that all the work Derrick Walker did with the team in its formative years is finally paying off. Conway is so cool
Double Header – The double headers in 2013 were hard on teams and drivers to say the least. After three tries and an off-season to work the kinks out, I imagine everybody involved will be much more prepared for what may happen across two days of racing. Although there were no cases of a team being unable to make the Sunday race, there were teams that were thrashing to be ready for race two. Drivers have also had quiet time to really think about the best way to prepare for these weekends. It is very hard to make in season changes to much of anything without upsetting the balance of a team so I wouldn’t be surprised if we seem some operations attack the weekend slightly different with an offseason of preparation.
Title Race – Can RHR ride the momentum of the season and place a crippling blow to the rest of the title contenders? Every single time I bet against RHR, he makes me look like a fool. Instead, I hope a few of the other contenders are able to step their game up. At this point, Mike Conway is just steeling points from the field and is making RHR’s job just that much easier. The competition not only needs to beat Hunter-Reay, but they must also neutralize the Conway Factor. And will all of the talk of the big 3 and who is and isn’t a title contender it’s easy to forget Simon, The Giant Killer, Pagenaud. It’s almost as if his historic GP of Indy win went unnoticed; it was hot news for all of a single evening before the world went oval racing.
Concrete Canyons – The biggest fear I have when entering into a street race weekend is a track blockage. GP2 suffered just such a blockage last weekend and received the ire of the racing world, but it wasn’t unexpected in GP2 because they are a true development series in every sense of the word. Indycar is supposed to be so much more, yet we still suffer from development series issues on track. Having half of the season contested between concrete jersey barriers only adds to the frustration; drivers have nowhere to go as said concrete is pretty unmoving and unforgiving. Getting everyone through a street racing weekend relatively unscathed will be a huge win for the series, and not something I believe even F1 can do on as regular a basis as indycar racing is contested on the streets.
Pole – Helio Castroneves – The Brazilian knows how to get around Detroit, and looks to regain his historic strength at the island circuit.
Race 1 Winner – Simon Pagenaud – The dude just will not miss a beat.
Race 2 Winner – Ryan Hunter-Reay – I have never chosen him as a race winner. As a new believer, it’s time to put my money where my mouth is; we all know he can do it.
Epic Performance – Marco Andretti – The young prince has been showing increased speed this year. Another podium on a street course could go a long way for the who just doesn’t seem to believe in himself.
Biggest Loser – Graham Rahal – Will he be able to overtake Kurt Busch in the points?! Tune in this weekend for two more episodes of “watch Graham continue to squander possibly the most important sponsorship in the paddock” !!!!!!!
All that’s left to do is race this thing! I actually really enjoy the double header weekends, and I don’t really care if the teams and drivers don’t. With how compressed the season it, it’s nice to have a few bonus races thrown in for good measure. Given the huge lead RHR was able to notch, it will be very interesting to see how the dual race weekend can temper the lopsided table we are seeing right now. No matter what kind of silly stuff that may happen this weekend, I feel it is most important that the drivers avoid blocking the track if at all possible. It’s bush league, plain and simple. And frankly, our drivers are better than that.