Pruett’s cooldown lap: Detroit

Well, that was embarrassing. It’s time for Penske Entertainment, the promoter of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix, to accept the fact that it has a terrible race on its hands.

And there’s no need to beat them up over it. They tried to do something bigger and better than where the race was previously held just down the road at Belle Isle, and it just hasn’t worked on the competition side.

I’m sure there are marketing and promotional benefits to running it in its new downtown location, but do those things matter if the main purpose for the event — the racing itself — is mostly terrible?

If Penske Entertainment is set on staying where it is, reconfigure the track to create more passing opportunities so Turn 3 isn’t the world’s longest fun-time alley where half of the cars serve as bowling balls and the other half play the role of pins. Or go back to Belle Isle at the earliest opportunity, which most drivers love and miss.


The first IndyCar race on the new layout in 2023 generated seven cautions and 32 laps behind the pace car, or 32 percent of the 100-lap race. On its return, the cautions were just upped to eight and 47 percent of the race was spent trailing the Corvette pace car — 47 of the 100 laps — and, no joke, the hot rod kept so busy, it required a pit stop of its own for refueling.

IMSA’s WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race on Saturday had five cautions as 21 of its 75 laps were run under yellow; that’s a measly 28 percent. Its first appearance in 2023, albeit with the second-tier Michelin Pilot Challenge series, was downright clean as only 12 of its 71 laps were spent behind a pace car, all from the lone caution after one sedan vaulted another in Turn 3 and made headlines for the incident that consumed 17 percent of the race.

On average across its Saturday-Sunday headliners with IndyCar and IMSA over the last two downtown Detroit events, 31 percent of the racing has been held under caution. For IndyCar alone, its average is 39.5 percent.

For the sake of comparison, the season-opening street race at St. Petersburg had three cautions and nine of its 100 laps (9 percent) were under yellow. Long Beach’s street race had one caution for four of the 85 laps (4.7 percent). Barber was busier with four cautions across 15 of the 90 laps (16.6 percent) and the Indy GP featured one caution for two of its 85 laps (2.4 percent).
Even the Indy 500, which can be a yellow-fest at times, was tame when positioned next to Detroit. It matched the number of cautions with eight, and put up 47 laps behind the pace car, but that only equated to 23.5 percent of the 200-lap race.

Detroit is the new Nashville Grand Prix — ‘Crashville,’ as it was dubbed — since its street race has been shifted to Nashville Speedway, and that’s not a good thing.

Again, there’s no need to hammer Penske Entertainment over something that’s obvious for all to see. If you like watching cars get torn up from start to finish, it’s perfect as is. And if that’s not your motivation for watching or attending motor races, serious changes to the layout are needed before we return to Motown.


Auto manufacturers love taking wins from each other at their respective home races, and that’s precisely what Acura did on Saturday as the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing with Andretti hybrid ARX-06 pulled off a masterful pass late in the 100-minute contest with Ricky Taylor behind the wheel. It was looking like another Porsche Penske Motorsport victory until Taylor’s lunge for the lead; Cadillac Racing was third with the Chip Ganassi Racing-run hybrid V-Series.R, so all was not lost for General Motors.

The other side of Honda Racing Corporation US took the spoils on Sunday as Ganassi’s Scott Dixon won and was trailed by three more Honda-powered drivers to lock out the podium. For all of Honda’s troubles at the Indy 500, it has quietly matched Chevy with three wins from six championship races in 2024.

Chevy’s next chance to seek event-sponsor revenge is at the July 5-7 Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio when the series goes racing with hybrid powerplants for the first time.


Alex Palou entered Detroit with a 20-point margin over teammate Scott Dixon atop the championship, and that flipped after Palou had a rare race where luck wasn’t on his side.

It wasn’t a total disaster, but his 16th-place result, which was the worst for the Spaniard in 31 races dating back to Road America in 2022 – when he was 27th after breaking his suspension in a clash with former teammate Marcus Ericsson – did manage to drop him to second (-18 points) heading back to Road America this weekend.

Alex Palou almost never has bad weekends, but even his race went off the rails in Detroit. Josh Tons/Motorsport Images

Elsewhere in the top 10, Will Power (-31) and Pato O’Ward (-56) held station in third and fourth, and thanks to his leading performance for Arrow McLaren, Alexander Rossi was a big mover from eighth to fifth in the standings (-66). The same goes for Kyle Kirkwood who jumped four spots from 10th to sixth (-68). His Andretti teammate Colton Herta’s terrible day dropped him two places to seventh (-69), and Penske’s McLaughlin also went rearwards by two spots to eighth (-75). Felix Rosenqvist stayed in ninth (-76) and Newgarden, on the heels of a dreadful race, retreated from seventh after his Indy win to 10th (-88).


IndyCar’s race officials handed out 12 penalties on Sunday. Twelve.
Remarkably, four of those belonged to Team Penske’s Will Power, which should have torpedoed his day, but he survived restarting at the back of the field for receiving emergency service in closed pits on lap three, yielding three positions on lap 39 for failing to pack up under caution, restarting at the back of the field a second time on lap 44 for avoidable contact, and a drive-through on lap 60 for another service in a closed pit, and finished sixth!

With teammates Newgarden and McLaughlin added in, Team Penske accounted for six of the penalties, as Newgarden got a drive-through on lap 60 for hitting a Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing crew member and McLaughlin received the team’s third back-of-the-field-restart demand on lap 68 for avoidable contact.

McLaughlin (20th) and Newgarden (26th) weren’t as fortunate as Power at the finish line. The highs and lows of racing were on full display in the seven days spanning the Indy 500 and Detroit GP. Power was miserable after a solo crash at the 500 while Newgarden celebrated his second win and McLaughlin, while disappointed after earning pole, claimed sixth.
Fast-forward to the GP and Power was the only Penske driver to emerge mostly unscathed while McLaughlin and Newgarden had days to forget.

“It is crazy how races in this series can turn on a dime,” Newgarden said. “We were in a great position to capitalize on some of the drama going on around us to possibly win today. Unfortunately, Scott (McLaughlin) had his incident just before halfway and that helped us into second before we hit pit road.

“That’s kind of where our day went south when the fuel probe valve wouldn’t open initially, costing us a ton of track position. After restarting 19th, it just seemed our day went downhill. Definitely a wild afternoon for not just the (our) team, but for most of the field.”


If you focus less on angry words spoken into microphones and more on the race-day side of Santino Ferrucci’s presence in IndyCar, it’s hard to ignore pace and consistency the young American is delivering for the A.J. Foyt Racing team.

In the first full season of its technical alliance with Team Penske, Ferrucci has hauled the No. 14 Chevy to 12th in the standings and, more impressively, produced four top 10 results from six championship races. Detroit was the latest, with a recovery to ninth after being one of a dozen-plus drivers who spent most of the race being knocked around or knocking others around.
He’s just five points back from the heralded Christian Lundgaard, which is remarkable for a team operating with a fraction of the budget and resources of RLL.


Picking up where he left off as the top rookie finisher at the Indy 500, Ed Carpenter Racing’s Christian Rasmussen led the team on Saturday at Detroit by qualifying 13th to teammate Rinus VeeKay’s 18th. The reigning Indy NXT champ was leading the proceedings for ECR on Sunday as well, running eighth when his motor expired on lap 23. It looks like the Dane is starting to turn the page and show his true potential.

Rassmussen looked like the real deal before his engine expired. Brett Farmer/Motorsport Images


* RLL pit crew member Chris Adams, who was struck by the flying wheel gun and air hose assembly Newgarden hit while leaving is pit box, received three stitches but is otherwise fine.

* Great first podium for Angela Ashmore as a race engineer. She and Marcus Armstrong have made for an effective duo with the No. 11 Honda, which has three top fives starting at The Thermal Club, the Indy GP, and at Detroit with the Kiwi’s run to third.

* If it could go wrong for polesitter Colton Herta in Detroit, it did go wrong once the green flag waved. Exactly how he ended up 19th should be studied by racing scholars.

* Felipe Nasr’s double pass around the outside at Turn 3 in his Porsche Penske Motorsport hybrid 963 GTP car was breathtaking.

* The Indy NXT race was really good and featured another sterling performance by polesitter and race winner Louis Foster. Rookie Myles Rowe charged from the rear of the field to fourth, and prior to the arrival of adversity, Jamie Chadwick was flying again — showing her great year-to-year growth once more. Michael d’Orlando put in the comeback drive of the race after mid-race contact while chasing third tipped him into a spin and a penalty for the clash that sent him to the back of the running order. He fired through the field to take 10th.

* Including the non-points event at Thermal, Alexander Rossi has been Arrow McLaren’s top finisher at four of seven events so far. Teammate Pato O’Ward has the other three, including a win and a second at the 500. If O’Ward’s ups-and-downs continue, Rossi could be the team’s main contender in the title fight.

* Big nod to rookie Theo Pourchaire, who impressed everyone within the team yet again with all aspects of his debut in Detroit. Things didn’t go his way in the second half of the race, which included using the No. 6 Chevy as a battering ram on occasion, but the fact that he out-qualified O’Ward and Rossi and led the team in the race for a good while has filled the team with optimism for the rest of the season.

* With Tristan Vautier unavailable to drive for Dale Coyne this weekend in Wisconsin, who will get the nod in the No. 51? Colin Braun? Katherine Legge? Someone else?

Story originally appeared on Racer