The NTT IndyCar Series was back on a street course for the third time this season and it was strategy packed Detroit Grand Prix from the Raceway at Belle Isle Park. It was the seventh installment of 2022 and for the fifth consecutive event, the series left with a points lead change.
Will Power dominated the day with 55 out of the 70 laps led, but much of the weekend had surprises aplenty.
A first podium for a six-time champion, two teams have found pace and one continues their tough stretch of finishes. Next year’s schedule will look a little different with a new circuit for Detroit.
It’s hard to believe, but runner-up finisher Alexander Rossi, who recorded a second consecutive top five finish and continued momentum for the No. 27 Andretti Autosport Honda team, didn’t make the list of notable takeaways.
1. First Podium for Dixon
Despite five straight top 10s before the Indianapolis 500, the 41-year-old Kiwi noted that he had a ‘horrendous’ start to the season.
Chip Ganassi Racing didn’t have a picture perfect weekend, but came on strong in the Sunday morning warmup with Marcus Ericsson and Dixon slotted in second and third. Dixon’s team chose the two-stop strategy and ran the first stint for one lap longer than the race winner, which set him up for a top three run after starting ninth.
“It just feels good for the No. 9 to be back on the podium,” Dixon said. “It’s been a little bit for us and hopefully we get on a bit of a role here. Kudos to everyone at Honda, tire deg (degradation) was interesting, but not too bad.”
A first podium this late in the season isn’t a negative aspect for his title hopes, the six-time series champion is now sixth in the points, 53 behind the lead.
In all of Dixon’s title winning seasons, he kicked off each campaign with at least one victory and multiple podiums in the first seven races.
2. Meyer Shank Racing’s Motor City Speed
Hélio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud – teammates at Meyar Shank Racing [MSR] — turned up in Detroit with the most promising pace they’ve [had/seen] all season.
Since the organization’s expansion to a full-time two-entry effort, MSR has been working out the kinks in their program on a race-to-race basis. Both pilots, former champions of the Indianapolis 500, have yet to find success on the same weekend, with one car usually far-and-away quicker than the other.
In the 106th Running of the Indianapolis 500, both Castroneves and Pagenaud placed inside the top-10, the first double top-10 result for Meyer Shank Racing in the organization’s tenure in the NTT IndyCar Series.
One week later, in Detroit, Pagenaud’s No. 60 AutoNation Honda found significant pace, placing inside the top-six in every on-track session throughout the weekend. Qualifying third, a season-high, the 38-year-old was able to parlay a stout qualifying run into his third consecutive top-10 finish.
Pagenaud’s teammate, Castroneves, also showed great speed over the weekend, posting times inside the top-seven in every on-track session prior to Sunday’s warmup. Starting the race alongside his MSR teammate, Castroneves didn’t end up with the same positive result that his teammate date, retiring with an electrical issue, after only 28 of 70 laps.
3. The Vet and Rookie
The month of May added a noticeable pep into Dale Coyne Racing’s step. The strength of Takuma Sato and rookie David Malukas continued to show this weekend at Belle Isle.
There is a stark difference of 198 career starts between their two drivers, but in their performances side-by-side, Malukas has held his own. Both drivers reached the Fast Six in qualifying, which for Malukas, was a first.
Sato rolled off on the outside of the front row, his best starting spot since the second race of the Gateway doubleheader back in 2020. He capitalized on the starting spot by snagging his fourth top 15 finish on the season.
Malukas started sixth and tied his best career finish of 11th place from Texas Motor Speedway.
4. Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Rough Season Continues
If one organization has had the roughest start to the year it would be Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing and their trio of Hondas.
Leading off with their highest driver in points, Graham Rahal has not recorded a top 10 finish since the fourth race of the season at Barber Motorsports Park. Rookie Christian Lundgaard has had a single finish inside the top 10, which was a ninth-place effort at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, the only circuit on the schedule where he has raced at before.
Jack Harvey, who is mired deep in the points standings, sat 20th. The No. 45 RLL Honda has a best finish of 13th, which he has achieved twice. It is important to note, he missed the second race this season at Texas due to a practice crash the day prior.
Lundgaard and Harvey started 19th and 20th respectively in Detroit and drove to a pair of top 15 results as Rahal made a driver error and hit the Turn 2 concrete wall. The No. 15 RLL Honda had right side damage which led to a last place finish after just two laps completed.
5. Farewell Belle Isle
IndyCar has utilized the island located on the Detroit river since 1992, with it being off the calendar for nine years in that span. From 2013 to last year (excluding 2020), it became a staple of doubleheader weekends.
Bob Rahal won the inaugural event, his only victory at the venue. Castroneves has three wins on the streets of Belle Isle and became the first two time victor with back-to-back wins in 2000 and 2001.
Sebastien Bourdais and the younger Rahal, Graham, joined as multi-time winners at the street course. With Power grabbing the checkered flag on Sunday, it marked the ninth win for Team Penske at Chevrolet’s home track.
Honda tops the American manufacturer as they captured 15 wins including eight straight wins at Belle Isle from 1998 to 2013.
Next year, the Detroit Grand Prix will be located downtown with a 1.7-mile temporary street course that will be used through 2025.