By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
The lone practice session for the NTT IndyCar Series at Belle Isle certainly didn’t lack any drama. In fact saying drama is a total understatement. Friday’s session can be defined by many words, but chaotic takes the cake.
Both Will Power (1:17.2768) and Sebastien Bourdais (1:17.4291) led the board, only separated by 0.1523 seconds.
PRACTICE RESULTS: 2021 Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix
For Power, it’s about finding any determination to put a dreadful Indianapolis 500 behind him. More so, when the championship trail is pushing its halfway mark.
“Indy was a massive disappointment. I was a little bit down for a few days. Certainly got back in training. Very determined this weekend to get back on track,” said Power after practice.
“This is kind of the halfway point. If I’m not moving forward here, it just makes it impossible to have a shot at being a championship contender at the end of the year.
“It’s not a big deal, man. I just want to get out there, be running at the front, have a shot to win. I can’t stand the last few races running back there, getting stuck behind wankers through exchanges that shouldn’t be even out there. I want to get up the front, man.”
Bourdais’s No. 14 ROKiT Chevrolet, in his own words, can be described as “pretty racy.” Noting the heat will certainly play a role this weekend. Already, the challenge for the 25-car field intensified with temperatures pushing the mid-80s and the track surface hitting triple digits.
“Pretty decent day. The car definitely felt pretty racy. It’s going to be a long weekend with the heat, but we have pace. Looking forward for Qualifying No. 1 and Race No. 1, and see what we can do.”
Although the top-two carried the torch, a series of incidents came to define the sights and sounds of Belle Isle. Especially, if certain competitors were trying to tackle the street course for the first time.
Both Scott McLaughlin and Jimmie Johnson had separate incidents that brought out the red flag. When the dust settled, they so happened to be the bottom two guys in practice.
Johnson was able to keep it off the wall by inches, but the same can’t said for McLaughlin, who had significant right front suspension damage.
“I lost the rear going into a pretty tight corner. Nosed her into the fence and wiped the right front corner off,” said McLaughlin in a tweet.
“Really sorry to all the guys in the PPG car because I felt really good. Initially, I was loving the track and feel of the car. Got to put it behind us and get going for tomorrow.”
For Johnson, he was once again the slowest, trailing Power’s fastest time by 5.4585 seconds. When describing the ordeal early in the going, he was trying to find the limits of his No. 48 Carvana Honda.
“I just got into Turn 3 a little too fast and had too much rear brake in the car. Did a lazy spin,” said Johnson. “It’s one of those things rookie do and keep learning from those mistakes.”
Despite spending time on the sim and at the Honda Performance Development, he admitted nothing prepared him for what he dealt with Friday.
“I was just floored about how technical this track is,” said Johnson. “How rough and little grip there is. I got a challenge for myself.”
Once the session resumed, Romain Grosjean had a near scare in Turn 3. His No. 51 Honda lost control and barely kept it from rearing the tire barriers.
The GMR Grand Prix pole sitter was 13th quickest, over 1.3 seconds off Power.
Finally, Rinus VeeKay had folks jaws dropping as to how in the world the car didn’t wreck. At the exit of Turn 1, VeeKay kept his Chevrolet off the wall but his car got some air in the progress.
Compared to everyone else that had wild moments, VeeKay ended up in the top-10 practice charts. The most recent winner on the left and right turns commented how Belle Isle is “sketchy” to navigate.
“Lot is happening, but it’s (a) pretty cool (circuit),” said VeeKay. “Car is pretty good on the black tires, but kind of struggle on the reds. We have a night to sleep about it, but I think we have a very fast car.”
Saturday is going to be busy for the sport with qualifying commencing at 11:00 a.m. ET (live on Peacock). Three hours later, Race No. 1 of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix will unfold live on NBC. The race consists 70 laps.