With apologies to some of the higher-profile events on the schedule, the Verizon IndyCar Series’ annual visit to Detroit may be the most unique event of the season. It’s the only one that features two separate rounds of action on back-to-back days, and will be run that way for the sixth year in a row when the 23-car field takes the green flag on the streets of Belle Isle later this afternoon.
Of course, two rounds of action means the additional challenge of trying to manage the car for twice as much racing over the course of the weekend, so don’t be surprised if drivers with an eye on the championship at season’s end aren’t willing to take quite so many risks on Saturday as they might be on Sunday. With that in mind, here are some of the things to watch out for in this afternoon’s action, and throughout the weekend as a whole:
Can anyone replicate Graham Rahal’s sweep of this event last year?
Since moving to a doubleheader format in 2013, Rahal is the only driver who’s been able to win on Belle Isle on back-to-back days. Leading 96 of 140 laps over the course of the weekend, his dominance allowed him to register a victory for the third season in a row. He’s been quick already this weekend, kicking things off with the third-best time in the first practice session, but other past winners like Sebastien Bourdais and Scott Dixon have also shown plenty of speed in the early stages of the event.
What will Santino Ferrucci do with his one-off opportunity for Dale Coyne Racing?
Joining Coyne in its second seat alongside Bourdais for the weekend, Ferrucci is a Connecticut-born driver whose honors include a multiple-year stint as one of Haas F1 Team’s test drivers. His current racing focus is on competing in Formula 2 with Trident, but he adapted to the Dallara-Honda fairly quickly on the streets of Detroit, posting the sixth-best time in the first practice session—within half a second of Bourdais, who paced the session with a time of 1:17.8545.
Is this year’s championship going to come down to Alexander Rossi and Will Power?
Power and Rossi were the two most impressive title contenders at Indy, for two completely different reasons. Power, who had little oval experience before coming to IndyCar, has become a threat to win on any of them, and led 59 out of 200 laps on the way to his first 500 victory; Rossi sliced and diced his way through the field to go from 32nd all the way up to fourth by race’s end. He managed to match that ranking in Friday’s first practice, while Power’s best lap placed him 13th.