A rough road on the streets of Detroit


IndyCar’s return to Detroit’s Belle Isle last weekend was rather messy as the rough track began to come apart in the middle of the race resulting in a two-hour red flag.

After the long delay the race was cut short by 30 laps as Scott Dixon scored a dominant win, leading all the way from pole. It was Dixon’s first win of the year after a trio of second places and the second one-two in as many weeks for Chip Ganassi’s Honda-powered team as Indy 500 winner Dario Franchitti drove another remarkable race from a midfield starting position to finish second.

Dixon has been very competitive in every race this year, more so than Franchitti in fact. He came within a car length of scoring his second win at Indianapolis the week before and was the man to beat all weekend in Detroit, which he won in 2008.

“That was sweet – a one-two,” Dixon grinned. “I can’t believe Dario came from 14th on this track and raced his way up there. Another one-two for the team two weeks in a row, which is fantastic and a big day for points which helps us immensely.”

Franchitti was held up badly in qualifying by Ed Carpenter thus starting from the seventh row of the grid. As well as being very bumpy the Belle Isle track is also a typical street circuit with few places to pass, yet Dario was able to work his way through the field, eventually making up five places on the final two restarts after the red flag.

“I had to make up for the poor show in qualifying,” Dario remarked, “because Scott did an awesome job all weekend – fastest in qualifying and just running away with the race. Scott was just too good today. Hats off to him.”

Championship leader Will Power qualified second to Dixon and chased him most of the way. But on the last two restarts Power was passed by Franchitti and Simon Pagenaud, the latter taking third place ahead of Power.

So after six of 16 races Power continues to lead the IZOD IndyCar Series with 232 points. Dixon is second, 26 points behind, followed by Helio Castroneves (-55) with Franchitti moving into a tie for fourth with James Hinchcliffe just one point behind Castroneves. The impressive Pagenaud, in his first full IndyCar season with Sam Schmidt’s little team is sixth in points, is five behind Franchitti and Hinchcliffe.

CART raced on Belle Isle from 1992-2001 and the race was revived by Roger Penske in 2007 and ‘08. The bad economy meant that race didn’t happen the past two years but Penske revived the race again this year. Penske and his team did a great job of cleaning up the park and improving the presentation of the event, but inexplicably Roger failed to put in the effort required to produce a serviceable race track.

Belle Isle has always been notoriously bumpy. It’s also true that most of IndyCar’s street circuits are bumpy and crudely presented, but that’s no reason for Penske to lower his legendary high standards. The city of Detroit is renowned for its crumbling infrastructure, rough roads and potholes and if that image is to be dispelled it should start with a properly prepared race track on Belle Isle.

“The people of the city of Detroit have really come behind this race,” Penske commented. “We’ve got the media, the corporate community, the Mayor’s office and the city council that’s really been one big team. To me, this is a bump in the road that we didn’t expect.”

Added Franchitti: “There’s got to be some big work for next year. The amount of work that Roger Penske and his whole organisation has put into bringing this place back, hats off to them. They’ll continue to work at it. We need to be racing here in the Motor City.”

If IndyCar is to regain the respect it once commanded in the international racing community it must raise its standards and Roger Penske must lead the way.

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