Since the second race of the Verizon IndyCar Series season, Team Penske has been en fuego. Josef Newgarden and Will Power have combined to win four of the last five races and them two combined with Simon Pagenaud are eyeing the teams’ fifth and sixth wins of the season this weekend in Belle Isle. They can do so too.
Penske drivers have led 315 laps this season. The next best is 155.
Power, has been the most dominant. He enters this weekend’s doubleheader on the streets of Detroit as the points leader mainly due to him sweeping both races in the Month of May at Indy. Power went from 10th in the standings heading into Indy and the points leader leaving.
Over the last three races, he has three top four finishes in his No. 12 Chevrolet. But, in Belle Isle, Power has three 18th place finishes or worse in the last five races. In that time frame though, he did win the second race of the doubleheader weekend in 2016 and finished third in the second race of the weekend last year. It’s just the first races of the weekend that he needs to improve on.
“This has been an amazing week so far,” said the Indy 500 champion, Power. “When you want something so much and it finally comes true, that your hard work has paid off, it is a great feeling. Now we have to focus on Detroit with the No. 12 Verizon team because I don’t want to experience a hangover from the win when we are leading the points. And this is such an important weekend for Roger (Penske) and Chevrolet. It’s great to come here as the Indy 500 Champion, but we want to win here too because this race means a lot to a lot of people. It’s such a tough circuit that you have to be in the game from the drop of the green flag or you can have a bad day pretty quick.”
Newgarden, has zero top five starts in Detroit, but did finish fourth and second respectively in Detroit last year. He finished seventh in both street course races this season. Meanwhile, Pagenaud finally got some luck in the Indy 500 and hopes that carries over to this weekend. he won the second duel in 2013 and has six top six finishes in 11 Belle Isle starts, including two top fives in the last three races.
“There are some years that you kind of wish the weekend after Indianapolis was off because it’s such a long time away from home, but this year is a bit different,” said Newgarden. “There seems to be a lot of buzz and excitement around Will’s Indy 500 win, so why not keep that going with a great weekend of racing in Detroit with the No. 1 Hitachi Chevrolet. The Indy 500 is a big deal to everyone in the field, but Detroit is a huge deal to Team Penske as well. You know the effort Roger (Penske) has put into this race and this city, with the help of Chevrolet. I’m really looking forward to seeing what new things have been done to the island since last year. It’s really a unique place.”
“After such a bad start to the season – through no fault of our own most of the time – it feels like we are turning a bit of a corner over the last three races,” said the Frenchman. “A lot of that has to do with our luck finally changing, but we’ve been fast as well. Detroit is a place that I’ve always enjoyed going to race. I actually got my first Verizon IndyCar Series win there in 2013, but that was prior to my time with Team Penske. I really want to win here for Roger (Penske), Chevrolet and DXC because of all the efforts that have gone into making this a very important stop on the schedule, especially coming after the Indy 500.”
But, through two practice sessions on Friday, it appears that if Penske is going to win, they’re going to need some luck. Honda looks to be the class of the field this weekend and that shouldn’t be too surprising. But, Penske and Chevrolet were a little bit off compared to the Honda teams.
Newgarden, led the charge in being ninth and fourth respectively in the two sessions. That made him the quickest Chevy driver in each. Pagenaud, was 11th and seventh respectively. Power, he was the slowest of them all in coming in 13th and 12th respectively himself.
Can they close the gap in qualifying is the question.