Sting Ray Robb

The Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear is the site of a new circuit this year, which could be in no short supply of surprises.

The unique elements that make up the 1.7-mile, nine-turn temporary street circuit located in downtown Detroit for the first time in over three decades – when it was an entirely different layout – levels the playing field for the entire field in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. In that respect, it brings down veterans to rookies’ experience level at the new track. Sprinkle in that dash of inexperience and toss in some chaos, and that combination has a couple of rookies believing something special might be the works come Sunday.

One of those drivers is Benjamin Pedersen, driver of the No. 55 AJ Foyt Racing/Sexton Properties Chevrolet, who is fresh off claiming Rookie of the Year honors in last Sunday's 107th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge.

“Yeah, absolutely I feel like it's a huge equalizer for me,” Pedersen said. “There are some tracks I go to, the Indy 500, for example, where guys have been at that track and this car for almost 20 years.

“It's my first year. As a rookie, I just feel like this gives me a great equalizer with experience of track and the only thing is time in the race car. But yeah, we've had a lot of momentum recently, even before the Indy 500. I just can't wait.”

Sting Ray Robb, driver of the No. 51 biohaven Honda for Dale Coyne Racing and Rick Ware Racing, believes there will be plenty of action that could see several competitors fall out of the running.

“With the amount of attrition that we're going to see this weekend, I think it also allows more opportunity,” Robb said. “When you see guys dropping out of a race, you can move up without even doing anything. I don’t want to be one of those guys this weekend, but I think that we are going to see it. I'd be a very surprised if we don't see yellow flags turned at some point this weekend.”

The quickest rookie in the opening practice was Marcus Armstrong, who drove the No. 11 The American Legion Honda of Chip Ganassi Racing to 14th overall at 1 minute, 4.3134 seconds after spending the majority of the session in the top 10. Robb, Agustin Canapino and Pedersen ended up 21st, 24th and 27th, respectively.

Newgarden Feeling Motor City Vibes

Josef Newgarden has spent the week running ragged with a plethora of obligations that come with winning the Indianapolis 500. In fact, he hasn’t been home since “May 9th or something,” he said, living out of his bus since the GMR Grand Prix early last month.

Tired from the victory tour, the Tennessee native showed up to the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear motivated to get back to behind the wheel of his No. 2 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet.

Having done the track walk and feeling the atmosphere throughout the streets of downtown, the first edition of this new-look event already feels bigger than the previous races at nearby Belle Isle Park.

“Absolutely,” Newgarden said. “I think that's the big plus for this place is it really raises the event to another level.

“I could sell that all day long but just the access here that people have to be able to enter the track, not just race fans but the local community, the local businesses, etc. You know, 50 percent of it is for free, which is really cool. It will be a very big event.”

Newgarden finished 15th in the first practice session, with a best of 1:04.4376.

Frost Sees Gold

Count Danial Frost as one of the drivers excited to have Reece Gold as the newest member of HMD Motorsports’ stable in INDY NXT by Firestone.

Gold started the year with Juncos Hollinger Racing but switched to drive the No. 10 HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing entry ahead of the previous round on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. A tough 16th-place finish wasn’t the ideal start in rejuvenating Gold’s 2023 campaign, but a strong test at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and different perspective is something Frost, driver of the team’s No. 68 entry, has noticed immediately.

“We had a test at Mid-Ohio, and he was pretty up there and he's giving us some good insights of key things compared to how Juncos (Hollinger Racing) is to us, which was helpful for us to know,” Frost said.

“Obviously, they (Juncos Hollinger Racing) won at Indy. It's nice to have someone that knows from the inside to come in and give us some insight to know what their balance works compared to ours. I think he's got some good experience that we can learn off with. It's nice to have a little switch up in the team.”

Gold has enjoyed the change.

“Yeah, it's been good,” he said. “Not the result we wanted in Indy. Obviously, we were fast at the test in Mid-Ohio, but the team's welcoming and I feel good.

“Hopefully, during this long stretch of races through the summer we get some good results.”

Penske Doubles Down on Sustainability

The Penske organization is committed to driving innovation, sustainability, and decarbonization across its businesses, including the NTT INDYCAR SERIES and the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear.

In another groundbreaking first for the series and for the first time in motorsports history, Penske Truck Rental has committed to reducing the impact of emissions from all fan travel to and from the 2023 Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear.

This move by Penske Truck Rental builds upon the momentum of the industry-leading initiatives implemented this year by the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, designed to dramatically reduce the overall carbon footprint across the sport and the Detroit Grand Prix.

For more information about Penske Entertainment's commitment to sustainability in motorsports, click here.

Odds & Ends

  • After finishing a career-best third in last Sunday's Indianapolis 500, Santino Ferrucci spent Tuesday driving back to his home in Dallas, followed by a busy Wednesday spent mowing his yard – with a push mower – and celebrating his birthday before packing a bag to fly to Detroit Thursday.
  • The post “500” recharge for David Malukas consisted of doing some work in the Honda simulator to prepare for Detroit on Tuesday, and he finally unwound Wednesday by eating “normal food” with a burger and knocking out “Avengers: Age of Ultron” during his rewatch of the entire Marvel movie collection.
  • Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware Racing announced Thursday that Goodheart Animal Health Centers extended its partnership with the No. 51 biohaven Honda driven by rookie Robb for the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix and the Sonsio Grand Prix at Road America. The Goodheart Animal Health Centers logo first appeared on the team’s entry at last month’s Indy 500.