Santino Ferrucci Colton Herta

Santino Ferrucci’s AJ Foyt Racing pit box had plenty of heated visitors Saturday in Detroit.

In the shadows of boxing legend Joe Louis’ 24-foot bronze Detroit monument, a scuffle nearly broke out in pit lane between Andretti Global driver Kyle Kirkwood and Ferrucci at the end of the 45-minute NTT INDYCAR SERIES practice session.

Ferrucci leaped the pit wall and pushed away Kirkwood, who walked into Ferrucci’s pit to discuss the on-track spat with audio on Peacock picking up Ferrucci yelling: "You turned into me, you (bleeping) piece of (crap). Don't ever do that to me again."

A few hours later after the opening round of knockout qualifying, Juncos Hollinger Racing driver Romain Grosjean angrily issued a stern warning to team president Larry Foyt, vowing revenge and a wrecked race car for Ferrucci for blocking him on track, preventing his No. 77 Juncos Hollinger Racing Chevrolet for advancing to the second round.

This isn’t the first time this season the feisty Ferrucci has clashed with Grosjean. They had on-track dustups at Barber Motorsports Park and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

Foyt said after Ferrucci qualified 10th for Sunday’s Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear (noon ET, USA Network, Peacock, INDYCAR Radio Network) that it’s a shame Ferrucci and Grosjean keep getting close to each other on track and that they need to be adults about the situation.

“Race hard, but as long as we don't start wrecking each other and stuff like that,” Foyt said. “That doesn't belong here.”

Foyt said he and Juncos Hollinger Racing co-owner Ricardo Juncos shared a chat before and thinks they may need to again ahead of Sunday’s race.

“Hopefully things will calm down,” Foyt said.

The situation between Ferrucci and Kirkwood already has. Ferrucci apologized during an on-air interview with NBC during qualifying for how he handled his anger at both drivers Saturday morning.

Ferrucci accused Kirkwood of running into his No. 14 AJ FOYT RACING/SEXTON PROPERTIES Chevrolet while he was on a hot lap, also claiming Kirkwood’s Andretti Global teammate Colton Herta did the same earlier in the session. Kirkwood blamed Ferrucci for initiating the contact with his No. 27 AutoNation Honda.

“We’re in practice, I’m on a lap that’s going to put us P3,” Ferrucci said. “I know everybody is fighting traffic. I’m coming down a hill. Who just turns into somebody and turns their car into you? It’s such a di*kish move.”

The tight, bumpy nature of the nine-turn, 1.645 mile temporary circuit leads to bottlenecks that are tough to avoid as drivers try to establish gaps on track for clean laps.

“Everyone stops here,” a frustrated Kirkwood said of the situation. “Everyone has to wait. Get your gap. Get your lap in. It is practice, relax. He decided to do it to me, and he did it to Colton, too. They collided. I don’t know what he’s doing. His lap was already ruined. He ruined his next lap, too. It’s just dumb. It’s dangerous. He drove right into me and purposely tried to drive me into the way. Then I went to talk to him about it and he grabs me and is shaking me. It’s insane. We’ve seen it before. I was going to tell him it’s completely unnecessary and kind of to see where his head was at. It just makes no sense to me at all.”

Said Herta: “He can do his thing; we’ll do ours. We don’t have time for him or his shenanigans in the back.”

O’Ward Frustrated with Qualifying

NTT INDYCAR SERIES drivers search for gaps not just in practice, but more importantly, in qualifying. Drivers said the 1.645-mile track, with nearly every car searching for space, reminds them of a short oval.

Even in qualifying with split groups, cars still find each other like magnets.

Arrow McLaren driver Pato O’Ward was frustrated with his qualifying session, saying he didn’t think he deserved to transfer to the second round because he was in close wake of Felix Rosenqvist and his No. 60 AutoNation/SiriusXM Honda.

“Everybody is trying to gap,” he said. “You can’t back up because you’re going to mess up their lap, but then you also can’t speed up because you’re going to mess up your chance to get a lap.”

O’Ward stalled his No. 5 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet in the second round after overshooting a turn, trying to create space in traffic. He will start 12th in Sunday’s 100-lap race.

Pourchaire Shows Strength after Indy Break

Arrow McLaren rookie driver Theo Pourchaire is back in action this weekend after being on the sidelines for last weekend’s 108th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge.

Pourchaire in May was named as the driver of the No. 6 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet for the rest of the season, beginning with Sunday’s Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear. So, for “The Greatest Spectacle In Racing,” he was a spectator for the first time in his life.

“The ‘500’ was amazing,” Pourchaire said. “It’s definitely the greatest spectacle in motorsports in the world. I loved it. I really enjoyed it. I was enjoying life watching this race, and I really hope I can win it one day and drive in the race.”

Before the Frenchman can get to the 109th Running of the Indianapolis 500 next May, he has to leave an impression for the rest of the 2024 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season.

Pourchaire is off to a rapid start this weekend. In his first visit to the Motor City, Pourchaire was fourth in Saturday morning’s 45-minute practice despite spearing into a barrier late in the session and backed that up with a career-best seventh-place qualifying effort a few hours later.

“I'm really happy with my career-best results in qualifying in (the) INDYCAR SERIES,” Pourchaire said. “Of course, a little bit disappointed, as well because I feel like I had a great car. I was driving well, and with one more lap in the in the Fast 12, I could have made the Firestone Fast Six. It’s OK to be disappointed like this with a good result, so I'm happy, and I'm pretty sure we can do something good tomorrow.”

Palou in Familiar Position

Second-place starter Alex Palou enters Sunday’s Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear not only the defending race winner but also the NTT INDYCAR SERIES points leader. He comes into the sixth race of the season 20 points ahead of Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Scott Dixon.

Last year, Palou arrived at the streets of Detroit in a similar situation, leading then-Ganassi teammate Marcus Ericsson by 20 points.

“Kind of, yeah,” Palou said on if the 2024 season feels a lot like his championship winning 2023 campaign. “It’s been a bit tougher, but at the beginning, I felt like we had a better start to what we had last year.”

Palou last season had an average finishing position of 4.33 through six races. This season, Palou’s average finish though six races is 3.16, including his victory in The Thermal Club $1 Million Challenge exhibition race March 24.

Last year, Palou won the Sonsio Grand Prix and finished fourth in the Indy 500 before ripping off a streak of three straight wins starting at Detroit, shifting his title bid into overdrive. Last month he repeated as Sonsio GP winner and finished fifth in the Indianapolis 500.

The similarities are evident.

“If you look at just the results, it feels the same, but from inside, it always feels different,” Palou said. “In the INDYCAR SERIES, it doesn’t really work like that. It just keeps on changing, especially with different Firestone Firehawk tires we have this year. We’ve been making changes every track based off setups we had last year. We’re starting off with a better base than some other teams and drivers, but we have a lot of work to make sure that it works.”

Palou extended his points lead last season from 20 to 90 points clear of second in this stretch. Can he mount another charge in this span and push his No. 10 DHL Chip Ganassi Racing Honda to a third championship in four years?

In both of Palou’s championship winning seasons 2021 and 2023, he emerged from the Month of May at Indianapolis Motor Speedway with the points lead.

Odds and Ends

  • Dixon’s fifth-place qualifying effort in the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda was his 100th career Firestone Fast Six appearance.
  • Kirkwood said his Andretti Global car is a “rocketship” this weekend after qualifying sixth. He admitted he had more speed in the car and knew teammate Herta had a big lap and pushed too far over the edge to catch him. In hindsight, Kirkwood wished he just settled for second on the front row but said he had to push the boundaries of grip in a series as competitive as the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. Kirkwood was fourth and second, respectively, in the pair of practice sessions.
  • Andretti Global earned both the NTT INDYCAR SERIES and INDY NXT by Firestone top qualifying positions for Sunday’s races. Joining Herta, who earned his 12th career NTT P1 Award for the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear, Louis Foster won his fifth career INDY NXT by Firestone pole.
  • Foster boasts a perfect weekend so far in the No. 26 Copart/Novara Technologies car. He was quickest in both INDY NXT by Firestone practice sessions before winning his first pole of the season.
  • Jamie Chadwick (No. 28 VEXT for Andretti Global) qualified a career-best fourth, scoring her fourth consecutive top-six starting spot. She finished third from the sixth starting position in Race 1 of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway race weekend May 10.
  • INDY NXT by Firestone points leader Jacob Abel qualified second in his No. 51 Abel Construction entry for Abel Motorsports. He’s qualified second, first, first, first and second, respectively, this season.