Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden won the NTT P1 Award for Sunday’s Chevrolet Grand Prix of Detroit presented by Lear – and take nothing away from him for it.
But the results of qualifying might have been different had Andretti Autosport’s Romain Grosjean not hit the wall in the final seconds of the second round at The Raceway at Belle Isle.
That incident, which was significant, prematurely ended the late hot laps of Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon and Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi, the latter of whom was poised to contend for his first pole since the 2019 event in Detroit. Both drivers were about to complete laps projected to be quick enough to transfer to the Firestone Fast Six. From there, a pole would be within reach pending another quality run.
With Grosjean’s accident ending the second round with just seconds remaining, Dixon settled for the ninth starting position in the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, Rossi the 11th. Both drivers figure to be factors in Sunday’s 70-lap race.
Rossi had the fastest lap of Saturday morning’s one-hour practice, a lap of 1 minute, 15.8101 seconds in the No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS/AutoNation Honda. That lap was nearly three-tenths of a second quicker than the best time posted in Friday’s practice, a 1:16.1345 by Kyle Kirkwood in the No. 14 ROKiT/AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet. Rossi called the performance “an A-minus.”
Two of Rossi’s six career poles have come at Belle Isle, as he also took the top spot in 2018 for the second race of that year’s doubleheader. Rossi has never won a race in this event, but he finished second to Newgarden in Race 1 of 2019 and was third in Race 1 of 2018.
As for Grosjean, he couldn’t explain what went awry. He said he “didn’t try anything different from the lap before.” This time, the rear of the No. 27 Zapata/DHL Honda snapped, and it glanced off the wall. When Grosjean tried to turn right for the next corner, it spun into the wall, hitting so hard that the opposite side of the car lifted off the ground. He was not injured.
“That was a decent hit,” Grosjean said on NBC’s Peacock Premium broadcast. “We were really good (in both practices) but couldn’t keep it.”
Morning Practice Impacts Afternoon Qualifying
The morning practice was certainly chaotic.
Kirkwood took responsibility for corner contact with fellow rookie David Malukas, which ended with Kirkwood’s car in the tire barrier and Malukas in the run-off area with the No. 18 HMD Honda of Dale Coyne Racing with HMD. Kirkwood said he was having rear brake issues.
Later, Kirkwood’s AJ Foyt Racing teammate, Dalton Kellett, slammed the Turn 10 outside wall in the No. 4 K-LINE/AJ FOYT RACING Chevrolet. Jimmie Johnson and Will Power had no-contact spins to temporarily halt the action, and Simon Pagenaud did likewise with a stalled car.
Kirkwood failed to advance out of the first round, and he said crashing in the opening minutes of the morning practice prevented him from experiencing the Firestone Firehawk alternate (red) tires. He also said his right hand hurt from the impact.
“It definitely wasn’t feeling awesome,” he said.
Kellett’s car incurred heavy left-side damage with the nearly flush impact, and his crew opted to skip qualifying to make full repairs. The car was already facing a six-grid spot penalty for an unapproved engine change following the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge.
Odds and Ends
- Indianapolis 500 champion Marcus Ericsson is using the same No. 8 Huski Chocolate Chip Ganassi Racing Honda that won last weekend’s race. He will start Sunday’s race from the eighth position.
- Felix Rosenqvist (No. 7 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet) was dealt a difficult blow in Saturday’s qualifying when his team sent him out of pit road with Johnson charging up the front straightaway in the No. 48 Carvana Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. Rosenqvist was penalized for interference, wiping away his two fastest qualifying laps. Where it seemed he would advance to the second round, he will start 26th.
- Helio Castroneves (No. 06 AutoNation/SiriusXM Honda of Meyer Shank Racing) nearly had his first NTT P1 Award since the 2017 race at Road America, a span of just under five years. He had the top spot until the final seconds of the Firestone Fast Six round and will start fourth. Castroneves has 50 career poles, which ranks fourth on the sport’s all-time list.
- Sunday’s pre-race practice is set for 10:15 a.m. (ET), with live coverage on Peacock Premium. The race airs at 3 p.m. on USA Network, Peacock Premium and the INDYCAR Radio Network.
- Detroit Lions offensive tackle Penei Sewell will be the grand marshal of Sunday’s race. The University of Oregon product made the NFL’s All-Rookie team last season.
- The Detroit branch of NXG Youth Motorsports brought a group of minority children to the track Saturday. Mike Hull, the managing director of Chip Ganassi Racing, gave a guided tour of the team’s pits.
- In Race 1 of the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires doubleheader, pole sitter Linus Lundqvist of HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing led all 25 laps to score his second consecutive victory and third win of the season. Teammate Benjamin Pedersen of Global Racing Group with HMD Motorsports started and finished second, 3.7 seconds in arrears. Sunday’s Race 2 airs live on Peacock Premium at 12:35 p.m. (ET).