Rinus VeeKay

The NTT INDYCAR SERIES has moved into Motor City this weekend for the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear.

The atmosphere is buzzing as North America’s premier open-wheel championship makes its return to downtown Detroit after more than three decades across the Detroit River on Belle Isle. Josef Newgarden is fresh off winning last Sunday’s 107th Running in the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge and has showed up ready to play this weekend after qualifying fifth in the No. 2 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet.

SEE: Starting Lineup/Tire Designation

Alex Palou, driving the No. 10 Ridgeline Lubricants Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing, will start on pole following an electrifying performance in NTT P1 Award qualifying, rolling to a flying lap of 1 minute, 1.8592 seconds around the 1.7-mile, nine-turn temporary street circuit. The Spaniard leads a respectable performance by all the drivers at Chip Ganassi Racing, with teammates Scott Dixon, Marcus Ericsson and rookie Marcus Armstrong starting fourth, sixth and 11th, respectively.

Coverage of the 100-lap race will begin at 3 p.m. ET on NBC, Peacock and the INDYCAR Radio Network.

Red Flags, a Cautionary Tale

With 27 drivers attempting to learn a new circuit and pushing the limits – and often going beyond them – there were going to be times when trouble struck or even interrupted on-track activity.

Two major incidents happened on Saturday, with Devlin DeFrancesco struggling through the Turn 6-7 complex and hitting the wall in second practice. His No. 29 EVTEC Honda needed major repairs from the Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport crew, made just in time for qualifying, where he ended up 17th.

The other incident involved another Andretti Autosport driver, Kyle Kirkwood, who was trying to advance into the Firestone Fast Six during qualifying when the left front wheel caught the wall. The damage to his No. 27 AutoNation Honda was severe enough to sideline him for the remainder of the session. He will start 12th.

In all, there were a combined 11 red flags throughout the opening two practice sessions Friday and Saturday.

New Circuit, New Winner?

Experience usually wins out in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, but a new circuit provides a more level playing field for all.

Several drivers came into the weekend after logging several hours in a simulator to try to gain any advantage in learning the track.

Some drivers searching for their maiden win have flexed their muscles so far this weekend, and the new circuit could provide an opportunity to see one of them shine and find Victory Lane. Andretti Autosport’s Romain Grosjean, who has five runner-up results in 36 starts, was the highest qualifier among the winless drivers. The Swiss-born Frenchman will start third in the No. 28 DHL Honda.

Armstrong is another driver who has impressed in his adaptability this weekend. The New Zealander qualified 11th in the No. 11 The American Legion Honda and showed flashes of stout pace in both practice session, especially the second session, when he ended up eighth.

Callum Ilott also is another driver to watch, finishing ninth in both practice sessions in the No. 77 Juncos Hollinger Racing Chevrolet. He starts 16th.

McLaughlin Accepts, Enjoys New Challenge

Scott McLaughlin was happy to qualify second in his No. 3 Gallagher Insurance Team Penske Chevrolet but was visibly frustrated over some of the negative chatter about moving away from nearby Belle Isle Park – where the series raced previously – to downtown Detroit.

That aggression could be something to watch Sunday as the New Zealander, who sits sixth in the championship standings, is enjoying the challenging track layout. There is an unknown, though, as to how conservative or aggressive his competitors will be and what that might look like for the race.

“Yeah, you don't know,” McLaughlin said. “It is what it is. Same for everyone. Hopefully just everyone, cool heads prevail, but you just never know.

“Yeah, we'll go in with the same aggression, see how we come out. It's not the track I'm worried about, it's just the outside. Everyone on the outside line, it's going to be interesting. We'll be all right.”

And like anything new, McLaughlin accepts the teething issues with the circuit and continues to move forward. He has seen the track improve through small tweaks to where he is genuinely enjoying himself.

“With the track, there's been a lot of noise I've seen in Twitter, from other drivers and stuff,” McLaughlin said. “At the end of the day, this is a new track, new complex. I think what everyone has done to get this going, like the vibe is awesome. Belle Isle was getting old. We had to do it.

“Yeah, first-year problems. It's always going to happen. It's just going to get better from here. The racetrack for the drivers is a blast. We don't even know how it races yet. Everyone is making conclusions already. They probably just need to relax and wait for tomorrow. I just had to get that in. Sorry.”

Latest Track Updates

Track enhancements rolled onward into Sunday morning, which saw four adjustments based on continued feedback between race officials and drivers:

  • The pit boxes on pit lane have been repainted blue to aid visibility.
  • One tire pack has been removed at the exit of Turn 5.
  • The barriers at Turns 6-7 have been reprofiled to smooth the radius.
  • A procedure has also been added that will feature a mirror green flag displayed from the finish line stand for all starts and restarts.

Pagenaud Leads Warmup

Simon Pagenaud jumped to the top of the time sheets during the 30-minute warmup Sunday morning, turning a best lap of 1:02.3615. Pagenaud will start eighth in the No. 60 AutoNation/SiriusXM Honda.

SEE: Warmup Results

Ilott was second at 1:02.4818, followed by Armstrong at 1:02.5860.

Pole sitter Palou ended up seventh at 1:02.9679.