Thursday, May 28, 2015

Track Walk: Belle Isle 2015

IndyCar heads to Detroit for the only doubleheader of 2015
The Verizon IndyCar Series may have completed the 99th Indianapolis 500 but the month of May is far from over as the series reaches the halfway point of the season with rounds seven and eight taking place this weekend at Belle Isle. Last year, Will Power won race one from 16th on the grid, the first time a Belle Isle winner started outside the top ten and the Australian had to hold off a hard-charging Graham Rahal. In race two, Hélio Castroneves picked up his third victory at Belle Isle holding off Power, who overcame a penalty for avoidable contact to finish second.

TV Channel: ABC
Time: Race one coverage begins Saturday May 30th at 3:30 p.m. ET. Green flag will be at 3:50 p.m. ET. Race two coverage begins Sunday May 31st at 3:30 p.m. ET. Green flag will be at 3:50 p.m. ET.
Announcers: Allen Bestwick, Scott Goodyear, Eddie Cheever are in the booth. Rick DeBruhl, Jon Beekhuis and Dr. Jerry Punch will work the pit lane.

Penske Motors into Motown
Team Penske has won three of six races and has three of the top four in the championship and swept the Belle Isle races last year. Juan Pablo Montoya is fresh off his second Indianapolis 500 victory and holds a 25-point championship lead over Will Power (272-247). Scott Dixon is the only thing between a Penske 1-2-3 as the Kiwi is 61 points behind Montoya. Hélio Castroneves is fourth, 66 points back.

Fresh off three consecutive top five finishes; Graham Rahal is two points outside the top five and holds a 31-point cushion over Barber-winner Josef Newgarden. Sébastien Bourdais quietly sits in seventh on 161 points with Charlie Kimball a point behind the Frenchman. Marco Andretti is nine points behind Kimball with Tony Kanaan rounding out the top ten in the championships on 147 points.

Simon Pagenaud finds himself 11th in the championship, five behind Kanaan. Ryan Hunter-Reay is 12th, 12 points behind Pagenaud. Despite missing the Indianapolis 500, James Hinchcliffe is still 13th in the championship and a point behind Hunter-Reay, however the Canadian is out indefinitely but is shooting for a comeback in August. Carlos Muñoz is 14th, eight points behind his Andretti teammate while Takuma Sato rounds out the top fifteen on 106 points.

Driver Changes
With Hinchcliffe sidelined, recovering from his accident in Indianapolis 500 practice, Conor Daly get a chance to drive the #5 Arrow Electronics Schmidt Peterson Honda. Daly run the #43 Smithfield's Honda for SPM at Indianapolis but the car failed to take the green flag after suffering a fuel leak. This will be Daly's third appearance of the 2015 season. He substituted for an injured Rocky Moran, Jr. at Long Beach in the #18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda.

Luca Filippi returns to the #20 Fuzzy's Ultra Premium Vodka Chevrolet after sitting out for the Indianapolis 500. Filippi is 18th in the championship with 85 points. The Italian has two top ten finishes this season.

At Dale Coyne Racing, Rodolfo González returns to drive the #18 Honda. The Venezuelan made his IndyCar debut at Barber last month finishing 20th. Tristan Vautier will run his second consecutive round of the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series Championship, as the Frenchman will step behind the #19 Honda. In Vautier's lone Belle Isle appearance, he finished 11th and 14th in 2013.

Pirelli World Challenge
Twenty-eight cars are entered for the Pirelli World Challenge doubleheaders at Belle Isle as only the GT/GTA cars make the trip to the Motor City.

Olivier Beretta enters as the championship leader with 799 points and his closest championship rival will not be at Belle Isle. Ryan Dalziel will miss the Belle Isle weekend due to the Le Mans Test Day as he prepares to drive for Extreme Speed Motorsports. Dutch driver Renger van der Zande will replace Dalziel in the #31 EFFORT Racing Porsche. McLaren driver Kevin Éstre is Beretta's closest challenger as the Frenchman trails the Monegasque driver by 70 points. Johnny O'Connell jumped to fourth in the championship after sweeping the Mosport round. O'Connell trails his former Corvette teammate by 83 points.

Acura driver Ryan Eversley is 206 points back of Beretta in sixth. Mike Skeen is seven back of Eversley with Michael Lewis seventh on 532 points. Chris Dyson is four points back of Lewis with James Davison and Nicky Catsburg rounding out the top ten of the championship. Catsburg did not compete at Mosport but will return for Belle Isle.

Last year, Johnny O'Connell swept the Belle Isle round and they were the final victories of his season. Race one from Belle Isle will take place Saturday at 9:50 a.m. with race two at 12:10 p.m. ET on Sunday.

The fifth round of the 2015 Tudor United SportsCar Championship takes place at Belle Isle with three of the four classes on track. GT Le Mans will not be at Belle Isle as those teams will prepare for the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Twenty-four cars are entered across three classes.

In Prototypes, Michael Valiante and Richard Westbrook took the championship lead after winning at Laguna Seca. The Anglo-Canadian duo has 129 points and holds a four-point lead over Sebring winners Christian Fittipaldi and João Barbosa. Jordan and Ricky Taylor are the defending winner at Belle Isle and are 11 points behind the Spirit of Daytona duo. Joey Hand and Scott Pruett are still looking for their first victory of 2015 and sit on 113 points with Dane Cameron and Eric Curran rounding out the top five, a point behind Hand and Pruett.

The Shank pairing of Oswaldo Negri and John Pew have 103 points and are sixth in the championship. The #07 Mazda SKYACTIV-D featuring Tom Long and Joel Miller.

Seven cars are entered in the Prototype Challenge. Colin Braun and Jon Bennett of the #54 CORE Autosport lead the PC championship but have yet to score a victory this season but the pairing have finished second in all three PC races this season. Daytona and Sebring winners Tom Kimber-Smith and Mike Guasch, drivers of #52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports entry, are two points back of Braun and Bennett. Laguna Seca winners the #11 RSR Racing duo Bruno Junqueira and Chris Cumming are six points back of the championship leaders. Mikhail Goikhberg and Stephan Simpson will drive the #85 JDC/Miller Motorsports entry. James French will be in the #36 Performance Tech Motorsports entry with a second driver yet to be announced and Renger van der Zande and Mirco Schultis will drive the #8 Starworks entry. The #16 BAR1 Motorsports entry still has yet to announced their drivers. This will be the first appearance at Belle Isle for the PC class.

Ten cars are entered in GT Daytona. The #48 Paul Miller Audi of Christopher Haase and Dion Von Moltke lead the championship with 87 points, one point ahead of the #63 Scuderia Corsa of Bill Sweedler and Townsend Bell. Scuderia Corsa won last year with Alessandro Balzan and Jeff Westphal. The #22 Alex Job Porsche of Leh Keen and Cooper MacNeil are four behinds behind Haase and Von Moltke. Seven points back of the #48 Audi is the #007 TRG-Aston Martin of James Davison and Christina Nielsen. None of the top four in the championship have won this season. The Laguna Seca winning #73 Park Place Porsche of Patrick Lindsey and Spencer Pumpelly round out the top five in GTD, 11 back of the #48 Audi.

Andy Lally and John Potter of the #44 Magnus Racing Porsche are six points outside the top five. Sebring winners Marco Farnbacher and Ian James of the #23 Team Seattle/Alex Job Porsche are two behind Lally and Potter. Ben Keating and Jeroen Bleekemolen of the #33 Viper are a point back of Farnbacher and James with the #97 Turner Motorsport BMW of Michael Marsal and Markus Palttala a point behind the Viper. Madison Snow and Jan Heylen round out the entry list in the #58 Wright Motorsports/Brumos Porsche.

The IMSA race will take place at noon ET Saturday on Fox Sports 2.

Fun Facts
Saturday's race will be the 61st American Open-Wheel race to take place on May 30th. Of those 60 previous races, 55 were Indianapolis 500s. The last American Open-Wheel race to take place on May 30th that wasn't the Indianapolis 500 was a NASCAR Speedway Division Race at Rochester in 1952. Wally Campbell took the victory. The last race to take place on May 30th was the 2010 Indianapolis 500 won by Dario Franchitti.

Sunday's race will be the 13th race to take place on May 31st. The most recent was last year when Will Power won race one from Belle Isle.

Hélio Castroneves is the only driver with multiple victories at Belle Isle. He won there in 2000 (his first career victory), 2001 and 2014 race two.

Other active drivers to win at Belle Isle are Tony Kanaan (2007), Scott Dixon (2012), Simon Pagenaud (2013 race two) and Will Power (2014 race one).

Prior to last year's Penske sweep, Honda had won nine consecutive Belle Isle races (CART 1998-2001; IndyCar 2007-2008, 2012-2013. 2013 being a doubleheader).

Possible Milestones:
Scott Dixon needs to lead 44 laps to become the eighth driver to reach the 4,500 laps led club.

Marco Andretti needs to lead 70 laps to join the 1,000 laps led club.

James Hinchcliffe needs to lead 76 laps to reach the 500 laps led milestone.

Takuma Sato needs to lead ten laps to reach the 400 laps led milestone.

Graham Rahal needs to lead 24 laps to reach the 200 laps led milestone.

Charlie Kimball needs to lead 6 laps to reach the 100 laps led milestone.

Sébastien Bourdais needs one podium to reach 50 career IndyCar podiums.

Will Power needs two podiums to reach 50 career IndyCar podiums.

Simon Pagenaud is one top ten away from 50 career IndyCar top tens.

Simon Pagenaud and Graham Rahal split the weekend. Chevrolet extends their consecutive pole position streak to 16 consecutive races as they sweep the pole positions for the doubleheader. At least one driver scores their first top ten of the season this weekend. At least one driver scores their first podium of the season this weekend. Chevrolet takes at least five of the Firestone Fast Six in race one qualifying. Sleeper: Luca Filippi.