Today’s question: Which driver needs to pile on the points during the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit doubleheader this Saturday and Sunday on Belle Isle, and why?
Curt Cavin: There are plenty of drivers in this camp, but I’ll go with Graham Rahal given the soft spot I have for those doubly punished by Indy handing out double points. Rahal had a car and a strategy that could have won the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge, but a mid-race pit miscue resulted in his No. 15 United Rentals Honda slamming the Turn 2 SAFER Barrier. Rahal’s day ended with a 32nd-place finish, worth a mere 11 points. Rahal is 100 points out of the series lead, but on Monday’s media conference call he singled out six-time series champion Scott Dixon as his target. By that standard, Rahal trails by 64 points, a manageable figure considering there are 10 races left on the schedule. But Rahal needs to start finishing ahead of Dixon – “go blow to blow” with him, he said – and two races in Detroit is a good place to begin doing that.
Zach Horrall: I think it’s Will Power, for a similar reason as to why Curt chose Rahal: Power was hit hard by Indy’s double points and walked away from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway with just 10 points after finishing 30th. He is 12th in the points standings, 120 points behind leader Alex Palou. It’s surprising when you think back just one month ago, and the 2014 series champion was second in points entering the Texas doubleheader. In the last few years, Power’s seasons seem to start rough and get better as the months go on, but his early-season woes put him in a hole he couldn’t climb out of to win the Astor Challenge Cup. After finishing second in the season-opening race at Barber Motorsports Park, Power was extremely optimistic about his chances for a second title. But if he must capitalize on Detroit’s two races this weekend to have a realistic chance.
Paul Kelly: This may sound nuts, but I think championship leader Alex Palou needs to pile on the points this weekend in Detroit. He leads six-time and defending series champion Scott Dixon by 36 points – a decent gap approaching the midway point of the season – but does anyone think Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Dixon won’t charge this summer like an angry bull on the streets of Pamplona in an effort to earn title No. 7 and tie A.J. Foyt for the all-time INDYCAR SERIES record? Remember, Dixon’s fast start last year, in which he won the first three races, was a career anomaly. Usually, the Iceman starts slowly and then melts his competition in the second half of the season. Dixon has one win in the first six races, two less than last year, so he could be poised for another second-half charge. Three of the six drivers closest to Palou in the standings – Dixon, Simon Pagenaud and Josef Newgarden – are series champions and have endured the crucible of a title run. This is Palou’s first NTT INDYCAR SERIES title chase, as he’s in just his second season in the series. He needs to mop up every point he can get.