Photo: Chris Jones/INDYCAR

Santoroski: Five Takeaways from Detroit Race Two

By Frank Santoroski, Staff Writer

The Verizon Indycar Series has concluded their action-packed weekend featuring two races on the Raceway at Belle Isle, with Team Penske’s Will Power coming home victorious in Race Two of the doubleheader. Here are five takeaways from the second half.

1 ) Are separate qualifying procedures necessary? 

Double-header weekends for the Verizon Indycar Series feature an abbreviated qualifying procedure for the second race of the weekend. With the dual-race format having disappeared at Toronto, and Houston leaving the schedule entirely, Race 2 at Detroit is the only race of the season using this format:

  • Qualifying shall consist of two 12-minute sessions with cars split into the same two groups from Race #1 with even numbered cars from the combined practice assigned to Group 1. The pole position will be awarded to the best overall lap time in the qualifying sessions. The remainder of the cars in that group will be ranked in the odd numbered positions, starting with position three (3). Even numbered starting positions will be determined from the other group, starting with position two (2).

In the takeaways from race one , I alluded to the fact that novice race fans may indeed find street and road races to be a bit confusing. Now, on top of that, qualifying is changed up, making it even harder for a newbie to keep up. This is not to mention the thought of disallowed lap times for various infractions during a session that already allows precious little time for a hot lap on a busy track, further confusing the result.

My only question is…. Why?

Yes, it is a time-compressed schedule with quals and racing on the same day, but is there not enough time in the day to put together a Fast Nine Shootout? What if qualifying for Race Two was scrapped all together, and the finish for Race One set the order for Race Two?

These are interesting points to ponder, but the bottom line is that featuring two different sets of qualifying rules for similar races does very little to on-board new fans.

2 ) Power back on top

Heading into Race Two of the Dual in Detroit, Will Power built an 18-race losing streak that dates back to May of 2015. Now, tell that to a guy like Marco Andretti, who is winless since 2011, and your not likely to get much sympathy. However, to see Power shut out of victory lane for that length of time is unusual, given the fact that he has won 25 races since 2007.

With Power adding that 26th win on Sunday, it suddenly seems that everything is right with the world again. Power’s 2016 season got off to a rocky start when he was forced to sit out of the season-opener in St. Pete, suffering from an inner ear infection.

In the meantime, his Penske teammate Simon Pagenaud has been on a tear dominating the point standings. Given the fact that Power dropped a textbook pass on Pagenaued that would lead to the race win must have made this win all that much more rewarding.

3 ) What might have been

Had it not been for Jack Hawksworth getting stranded on the course bringing out a yellow on lap 50, we may have seen a very different podium, and a tighter battle at the front. The teams were beginning routine pit stops for final service at this time. Power, Pagenaud and Ryan Hunter-Reay had all hit the pit lane as race leader, Helio-Castroneves, elected to stay out another lap for a clean pit-in.

Castroneves, who himself has a winless streak dating back to Detroit 2014, had taken the lead from teammate Pagenaud ten laps prior with an aggressive pass, and looked to have the fastest car on the track.

When the yellow flew, Castroneves was caught out, and forced to pit after the pace car had bunched the field, losing valuable track position. The Brazilian would finish an eventual 14th. Ganassi driver, Charlie Kimball, who seemed to be headed for a podium, was also caught out by the caution and finished his day in 16th.

4 )  The double header format

When Indycar introduced the double header format in 2013, I wasn’t sure what to think of it. It was certainly a nifty way to extend the schedule without adding additional travel and transportation costs. That season featured three double headers, and combined with the fact that the Grand Prix of Indianapolis kicks off the month of May, allowed for 19 races to be held at 15 venues.

In 2016, we have but one remaining double-header, and a schedule that is down to only 16 races. Now, I do realize that it makes for a hard weekend for the crews, but I have grown to like the format. Two races in one weekend allows for a number of interesting scenarios, such as Scott Dixon sweeping both Toronto races in 2013 en route to a Championship. It also allows for an extreme reversal of fortune, like we saw this weekend with Will Power finishing 20th on Saturday and winning on Sunday.

I would certainly be open to seeing one or two more double-headers make their way back onto the schedule. Toronto would be an obvious choice, and I believe that St. Petersburg could pull it off as well.

5 )   Hard Luck Hinch

Speaking of a reversal of fortune, Schmidt-Peterson driver, James Hinchcliffe is coming off of a Month of May that saw him take a podium at the Angie’s List Grand Prix, win the pole for the Indianapolis 500, and come home 7th in the race.

Entering June, the Month of May mojo has worn off for the popular Canadian driver, and he would like to just put Detroit behind him. He banged the wall in Race One Saturday and ended up 18th. Problems during Sunday qualifying relegated him to a 14th starting position.

He found his Arrow-Honda car pushed into the wall on the opening lap as a gaggle of cars tried to squeeze through turn 13. He blasted Andretti Autosport driver Carlos Munoz for not leaving room saying, “He’s not a bad kid, he’s just so stupid.”

After viewing the replay, it was revealed that the contact was initiated by Charlie Kimball, who was outside of Munoz, but wither way Hinch’s race was finished before it began.

“It’s just an unfortunate missed opportunity because the car was quick all weekend and we’ve got two races with very little to show for it,” said Hinchcliffe. “I’m gutted for the guys and everyone at Arrow but if we know how to do one thing, it’s come back, so we will be back at Texas next week stronger than ever.”

 

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A life-long racing enthusiast, Santoroski attended his first live race in 1978, the Formula One Grand Prix of the United States at Watkins Glen. Following graduation from Averett College, Santoroski covered the CART series through the 1990s and 2000s for CART Pages and Race Family Motorsports in addition to freelance writing for various print and web sources. He produces a variety of current and historical content for Motorsports Tribune and serves as the host for the weekly radio broadcast,Drafting the Circuits,

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