DETROIT – Will Power looked exhausted as he took questions at Belle Isle Park on Thursday. Rightfully so.
The emotion of his Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil victory on Sunday, followed by a whirlwind national media tour, had caught up momentarily with the Team Penske driver.
But it hadn’t diminished his determination to do well at this weekend’s Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear, where the doubleheader race weekend on Saturday and Sunday offers just as many race points.
CHEVROLET DETROIT GRAND PRIX PRESENTED BY LEAR: Entry list
Power arrives as the Verizon IndyCar Series points leader after his breakthrough Indy 500 win, the first by an Australian citizen.
Power, 37, has won on the Raceway at Belle Isle Park’s 2.35-mile temporary street course in 2014 and 2016, and will push hard in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet to extend his two-point lead in the championship.
“I’m trying to keep as low-key as I can now because I’ve done so much over the last few days,” said Power, whose best finish in the Indy 500 prior to his victory was second to teammate Juan Pablo Montoya in 2015. “I have to charge the batteries. We’ve got a doubleheader … and I really need to perform, obviously; we have to go for a championship now.”
While he has the need to put Indy in his rear-view mirror, Power will never forget the feeling of winning that was on clear display in his post-race celebration with wife Liz.
“I don’t have to say anything, really. You just have to look at the victory lane celebrations between me and my wife and you understand how much it means to me,” the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series champ said.
Power said he expects the 2018 Indy car, with its universal aero package, to make the racing better than ever on Belle Isle.
“The car is quite different this year,” Power said. “I think it will race better this weekend, and that we will be able to follow closer and that there will be more passing.
“To me, it’s already been a much more fun car to drive. You’ve got to really work the wheel.”
Simon Pagenaud, who collected the first of his 11 career wins at Belle Isle in 2013, is in his element on the notoriously bumpy, slick street course.
“I love the track,” said Pagenaud, driving the No. 22 DXC Technology Team Penske Chevrolet this weekend. “It’s very physical. It’s quite a shock to come from Indy, where it’s been smooth all month, to Belle Isle. All of a sudden, you have to start muscling the car around. You have to dance with it.
“I think you will see a lot of passing; quite a bit more than last year.”
Graham Rahal hopes things won’t be too different from last year, when he became the first driver in the Detroit doubleheader format to sweep the weekend.
“Really, we can’t better what we did last year,” said Rahal, who drives the No. 15 United Rentals Honda and enters the weekend sixth in series points, 60 behind Power. “But we can match it and I think our team should be very confident.
“Coming off the street course at Long Beach, I think we found some pretty good stuff. Had I not hit Pagenaud (in the race), I think I was going to give (winner) Alexander Rossi probably everything he could handle.
“We just seem to be very good at Belle Isle, and I really can’t tell you exactly why. It’s just one of those places we race well.”
Like Power and Pagenaud, Rahal predicts more action in the two 70-lap races.
“I expect a lot of passing this weekend,” the 12th-year Indy car driver said. “The push-to-pass will have a bigger effect because there is less drag with the new car. The cars will go down the straights better. I think we can continue our solid season in Detroit.”
With the doubleheader race weekend, teams face an unusual schedule. A pair of 45-minute practice sessions (starting at 11:20 a.m. and 3:10 p.m. ET) take place Friday.
Instead of the traditional three rounds of knockout qualifying conducted at road- and street-course events, there will be a 30-minute qualifying session for each race, with the field split into two groups. Each group receives 12 minutes of track time, with the fastest driver from the two groups earning the Verizon P1 Award and pole position.
Qualifying for Race 1 starts at 10:55 a.m. Saturday, with qualifying for Race 2 at 10:45 a.m. Sunday. All practice and qualifying sessions stream live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com, youtube.com/indycar and the INDYCAR Mobile app.
The races on Saturday and Sunday air at 3:30 p.m. on ABC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.
CHEVROLET DETROIT GRAND PRIX PRESENTED BY LEAR
Races 7 and 8 of 17 on the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule.
Track: Raceway at Belle Isle Park, a 2.35-mile, 14-turn temporary street course on Belle Isle located in the Detroit River. A total of 23 previous Indy car races have been contested at the track from 1992-2001, 2007-08 and 2012-present. Belle Isle has hosted a doubleheader race weekend format every year since 2013.
Note: The last driver to win a race at Belle Isle and go on to win the Indy car championship was Will Power in 2014.