Sunday, June 4, 2017

Morning Warm-Up: Belle Isle 2017 Race Two

Graham Rahal's victory means IndyCar is on the verge of doing something not done in 106 years
Graham Rahal heads into race two fresh off dominating race one of the weekend from Belle Isle. The Ohioan led 55 laps from pole position on his way to his fifth career IndyCar victory. It was his first victory from pole position and he became the first winner from pole position at Belle Isle since the race adopted the doubleheader format. Rahal became the seventh different winner from the first seven races of the IndyCar season. IndyCar has not had eight different winners from the first eight races of the season since 1911 when 13 different drivers won the first 13 races of the then sanctioned AAA national championship season. One driver who could be responsible for making that bit of IndyCar history is Scott Dixon, who finished second in race one. Dixon took the championship lead after that result and the New Zealander has finished on the podium in all odd-numbered races this season. Dixon has finished in the top five at Belle Isle in the Sunday race every year of the doubleheader-era.

James Hinchcliffe recovered nicely from a lap one spin in race one to finish on the podium in third, his best career finish at Belle Isle. That was Hinchcliffe finish top ten finish after three consecutive finishes outside the top ten. The Canadian has never finished on the podium in consecutive races. Josef Newgarden finished fourth in race one, the top Chevrolet on Saturday. That result matched Newgarden's career best finish at Belle Isle. He has three top five finishes this season, all of which have come on road and street courses. Alexander Rossi rounded out the top five yesterday, his career best finish on a street circuit and third top five finish on a road/street circuit. Rossi has three consecutive top ten finishes, matching the longest streak of his career. Mikhail Aleshin finished sixth, a career best for him at Belle Isle. Six of Aleshin's 14 top ten finishes have come on street circuits.

Hélio Castroneves started second in race one but finished seventh and that finished dropped him to second in the championship, two points behind Dixon. Castroneves is the only driver to finish in the top ten of all seven races this season. Dating back to last season, Castroneves has ten consecutive top ten finishes. Takuma Sato finished eighth yesterday and he is third in the championship, 17 points behind Dixon. Sato's finish was the best for an Indianapolis 500 winner at Belle Isle since the race adopted the doubleheader format. Ed Jones finished ninth in race one, his fourth top ten finish of the season. He started 21st in race one. Jones is seventh, just one point ahead of Hinchcliffe. Spencer Pigot rounded out the top ten. It was his third top ten finish of the season with Pigot finishing in the top ten in every one of his even-numbered starts this season.

Max Chilton missed out on three consecutive top ten finishes after needing a late splash of fuel, dropping the Brit to 11th. Andretti Autosport teammates Marco Andretti and Ryan Hunter-Reay finished 12th and 13th respectively in race one. Andretti is ten laps away from the 1,000 laps led milestone. He has not led a lap since Sonoma 2015. Hunter-Reay's next top ten finishes will be the 100th of his IndyCar career. Hunter-Reay finished third in race two last year. Hunter-Reay's last six top ten finishes have either been finishes of third or fourth. Fourteenth in race one was Carlos Muñoz. The Colombian driver has finished in the top ten in every even-numbered race this season. Tony Kanaan rounded out the top fifteen. In the doubleheader-era, Kanaan has never finished in the top ten in race two at Belle Isle if he finished outside the top ten in race one.

Simon Pagenaud finished 16th in race one, his fifth finish outside the top ten in ten Belle Isle starts. The Frenchman does have four podiums at Belle Isle. J.R. Hildebrand ended up 17th after being handed a late drive-through penalty for improper exit. Will Power finished one lap down in 18th and it was the first time Power did not lead a lap in a Belle Isle race since the first race in 2013. This is the second time Power has finished 18th at Belle Isle. He finished 18th in the race one in 2015 after an accident with Castroneves. He would finish 20th in race two. Esteban Gutiérrez finished 19th after starting 19th in his IndyCar debut. He is hoping to continue with Dale Coyne Racing for the rest of the season but if he cannot test prior to Texas race next week it appears Oriol Servià will drive the #18 Honda at the 1.5-mile oval. Servià finished 20th in race one after being had a penalty for pit lane speeding.

Charlie Kimball and Conor Daly rounded out the results in 21st and 22nd respectively. Kimball has finished outside the top twenty in the last three races and in four of seven races this season. Daly's retirement ended a run of three consecutive top ten finishes at Belle Isle.

Qualifying for race two will take place at 10:45 a.m. ET and like yesterday there will be two groups. The fastest time will start on pole position and the remainder of the cars from that group setting the odd-numbered positions on the grid. The other group will then set the even-numbered positions on the grid.

ABC's coverage of race two of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix begins at 3:30 p.m. ET with green flag scheduled for 3:50 p.m. ET. The race is scheduled for 70 laps.

Qualifying Update
Takuma Sato took his sixth career pole position after he ran a lap at 73.6732 seconds, just over 0.1373 seconds faster than Graham Rahal in the second group of qualifying. Sato will be joined by his teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay on row one after the American driver top an abbreviated group one session. This is Hunter-Reay's first front row start since last year's Sunday race at Belle Isle. This is the first all-Andretti Autosport front row since Long Beach in 2014 when Hunter-Reay was on pole position and James Hinchcliffe started second.

Rahal will be joined on row two by Hélio Castroneves, who started next to him on row one yesterday.  James Hinchcliffe and Mikhail Aleshin make it an all-Schmidt Peterson Motorsports row three with Will Power and Scott Dixon on row four. Power blew his final lap of qualifying as he went off at turn seven but suffered no damage. Marco Andretti and Conor Daly round out the top ten. This is Andretti's third top ten of the season and Daly's best start of the season.

Simon Pagenaud will start 11th and it is only the second time he will start outside the top ten at Belle Isle. He started 17th for race one in 2014 and that race ended for the Frenchman after an accident on lap five. Charlie Kimball joins Pagenaud on row six ahead of Josef Newgarden and Alexander Rossi. For the second consecutive race Tony Kanaan will start 15th and Max Chilton will be to his outside on row eight.

Ed Jones improved four positions from his starting position yesterday but he will still be rolling off from 17th position next to J.R. Hildebrand. Esteban Gutiérrez is at least being consistent in the dawn of his IndyCar career and he will start 19th for the second consecutive race. Oriol Servià finished 20th yesterday and he will start 20th today. Spencer Pigot and Carlos Muñoz round out the final row. Muñoz hit the wall exiting turn two in the first qualifying group, which brought out a red flag.

Both sessions were able to be completed without an interference from rain and it appears the chance of rain during the race has to about 25%.

ABC's coverage of race two of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix begins at 3:30 p.m. ET with green flag scheduled for 3:50 p.m. ET. The race is scheduled for 70 laps.