Detroit,Michigan(June 6,2023) — Coming into Sunday’s Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix, the prospects of the 100 lap race wasn’t met with high expectations. In two previous practice sessions, there were a total of 11 red flags on the 1.7 mile street course plus a magnitude of yellows that made it rare to see a lap turned without someone either spinning, getting into the run off or even crashing.
Many in the paddock were thinking that Sunday’s race would look a lot like the carnage that we’ve seen the last two years of the Music City Grand Prix where there were nine cautions in both races for a total of 33 laps in 2021 and 9 for 36 laps in 2022.
Many of the drivers were concerned, with a few voicing their concerns to anyone who would listen.
“I think it’s going to race similar to Nashville,” Scott McLaughlin, P2 on Sundays grid confessed.“Everyone says we crash a lot in Nashville. But I think Detroit is going to race very well. It’s just going to be up to us with the etiquette of the drivers and figure it out along the way.” Championship rival, Pato O’Ward agreed.“I think it’ll be about survival,” O’Ward said. “Is it going to be as crazy as Nashville, I don’t know. Does it have the potential to be as crazy as Nashville? Absolutely.”
“Honestly, I agree with all the drivers, or most of the drivers. It’s too tight for INDYCARs,” pole sitter Alex Palou admitted. “It’s too short for INDYCARs. There’s too much traffic. It’s too bumpy and should be 20 seconds a lap longer.”
For all the concerns displayed by the Championship contenders, it was all for naught as the 100 lap race had some of the tightest, close quarter racing in recent memory
Alex Palou started and finished first in the Detroit Grand Prix on Sunday, winning his second IndyCar race in less than a month and the sixth time of his career.
The Spaniard, who won the precursor to the Greatest Spectacle in Racing, the under rated Indianapolis Grand Prix, led 74 of 100 laps on Detroit’s new street course and went ahead for the last time on lap 77. He stayed in front after Will Power made a move that didn’t pan out as he made contact with Scott Dixon on lap 91.
After a seventh yellow flag, Palou pulled away in his Honda with five laps left and beat Power’s Chevrolet by 1.1843 seconds. Flex Rosenqvist finished third, followed by Scott Dixon and Alexander Rossi.
The race got off to a rough start, a day after Palou said there would be excessive traffic on a track too tight and short for IndyCar. The start was waved off because there wasn’t enough space between cars in the two by two grid. When the race finally got going on the second lap chaos reined. Going into Turn 3, Callum Ilott damaged Kyle Kirkwood’s wing by running up and over the back of his car in the middle of the 27-car pack, again bringing out a full course yellow to clear Ilotts damaged Chevrolet.
Palou, who won his second straight pole Saturday and the third of his career, said his plan was to stay in front with clean air ahead of the chaos as much as possible. It worked to perfection.The Chip Ganassi Racing driver led the race from the start until pitting on lap 29 and allowing Will Power to pull into the lead.
When Power pulled into the “unique to Detroit” split pit five laps later, Pato O’Ward took over the lead that didn’t last long. Just after leaving a pit stop, his Arrow-McLaren stalled due to a mechanical issue and his crew had to push him back to re-fire the car. Trying to make up ground, O’Ward made an aggressive move to get inside Santino Ferrucci on turn 9 and ran into a barrier wall ending his day, 41 laps into the 100-lap race.
Palou, meanwhile, was fast and steady enough to lead the race for most of the afternoon.
“The No. 10 Ridgeline Lubricants car was on point today,” Palou said post race. “Super proud of the job we did. It was tricky there at the end, man, with those (worn) tires couldn’t really get to temperature (on restarts).”
“I did everything I could to get Palou,” Power said. “He was just too quick, man. Too good today.”
Palou led 74 of the 100 laps on the 1.7 mile street circuit. Driving for Chip Ganassi Racing, it was Palou’s sixth career victory for 2021 season champion Palou and his second in the last three races this season, as he also won the GMR Grand Prix on May 13 on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.
The Detroit Grand Prix returned to its downtown home for the first time since 1991, when it was held on a 2.5-mile course in the same area, after running up the river at Belle Isle. While many of the racers complained about the short, tight and bumpy circuit, fans seemed to enjoy race and atmosphere and some watched for free. More than half of the race track was accessible without an admission charge and some had a view from boats and jet skis on the Detroit River that separates the U.S. from Canada.
Race winner Palou echoed the fans feelings by exclaiming “Detroit did a tremendous job.The fans were amazing.”