IndyCar Power Rankings: Detroit
Throughout the season, POPULAR OPEN WHEEL will rank the drivers and teams in the Verizon IndyCar Series. Feel free to comment on the story at the POPULAR OPEN WHEEL Facebook page.
After giving way to Honda at the Raceway at Belle Isle, Chevrolet should regain the favoritism role as Saturday’s DXC Technology 600 draws closer.
With Will Power’s dominant performance last month at the Indianapolis 500 in the rear-view mirror, the Team Penske chauffeur should be back to his old tricks in the Lone Star State. Fully recovered from the week-long Victory Tour, the Australian more than backed-up his billing as the Verizon IndyCar Series’ hottest competitor, taking runner-up honors in leg two of last weekend’s Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix.
Ryan Hunter-Reay and Scott Dixon will be looking to ride the momentum harnessed to each of their winner’s circle visits in Motown. With equally stout resumes on the high-speed ovals in years past, both could enjoy a chance to fire the victory pistols this time around.
Beyond the regular praise for the race winners, the Power Rankings feature a little bit of alteration since the conclusion of May festivities in the Hoosier State.
1) Will Power, Team Penske (+1 since Indianapolis 500): Team Penske’s current lead driver had an excuse for a seventh-place effort last Saturday. Meeting the demands of being the new Indianapolis 500 champion is not the easiest burden to deal with, yet he bounced back strongly in leg two by taking runner-up honors to Ryan Hunter-Reay. If General Motors muscle means as much as it did at the Brickyard, the Aussie ace will play a role in the Texas outcome.
2) Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing (+1): Crossing the finish line first on Saturday was coupled with a number four ranking the following afternoon. The Iceman will not necessarily dazzle you, but he can sneak away with a satisfactory result more than half the time. This tact has earned him four Verizon IndyCar Series crowns, and number five is well within range.
3) Alexander Rossi, Andretti Autosport (-2): It was a mixed bag in the Motor City for the 2016 Indy 500 titlist. Third on Saturday should have set the stage for a statement-making domination on Sunday, yet the ex-Formula One test pilot could not take advantage of his Verizon P1 Award, dropping to 12th at the climax. If Rossi can avoid another ugly time trial outing on Friday, the No. 27 NAPA Honda will be a challenger.
4) Robert Wickens, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (+1): A pair of top-ten placements keeps the Canadian as the lead story in the fight for Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors. Wickens, however, needs to make the finish at worst at Texas Motor Speedway and then rule the road races to re-join the Astor Cup hunt.
5) Josef Newgarden, Team Penske (-1): The pressure to defend the hard-earned 2017 championship may be becoming a bigger burden for the Tennessee-native than originally thought. His two early season triumphs seem like ages ago with three quiet outings in succession.
6) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Andretti Autosport (+2): The veteran could have matched Graham Rahal’s clean sweep of last year’s Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix with a little more time on Saturday, but left no doubt as far as who was the best wheelman last weekend in effort number two. Another stout showing at the Great American Speedway could vault the Floridian into the role of championship favorite.
7) Sebastien Bourdais, Dale Coyne Racing (-1): The Frenchman never got on track at Belle Isle, falling further down the points table. The Windy City runners have a win at Texas in recent history, but may need a result similar to the late Justin Wilson’s big score if Bourdais is to remain relevant in the title picture.
8) Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (-1): A top-five return Sunday was small consolation in comparison to his early bath suffered one day previous. The Ohioan has tasted success in Dallas-Fort Worth, but he may not have the equipment necessary to enjoy a second helping of the victory hat and six-shooters.
9) Marco Andretti, Andretti Autosport (+1): A surprise pole position, coupled with two more upper half race postings, ensures another week on the chart for the third-generation entrant. It appears as though whatever issues that held him back the past three campaigns have been put to rest.
10) Ed Jones, Chip Ganassi Racing (New Entry): It has been a 50-50 calendar year for the Dubai-based pilot in his sophomore season. Four solid runs, but also a quartet of awful ones. Motown was a profitable trip, but can he continue the positive vibes further down the road? The jury is still on the fence on whether his stay on the power rankings extends beyond Texas.
Dropped Out: Simon Pagenaud (Was No. 9 after Indy 500)
1) Andretti Autosport (+1): Two Verizon P1, plus a race winner’s trophy. While Zach Veach continues to languish in mid-pack, the remainder of the organization is more than deserving of the top spot.
2) Team Penske (-1): Another textbook outing from Will Power, but the head scratching runs courtesy of Josef Newgarden and Simon Pagenaud bring the Captain’s recent rule atop the Teams’ Chart to a halt.
3) Chip Ganassi Racing (+1): Scott Dixon has shown the desire to win a fifth series crown, while Ed Jones kept his nose clean in both legs of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix to move CGR up a rung this week.
4) Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (-1): A top-five from Takuma Sato and Graham Rahal was nice, but not so sweet when they occurred in separate rounds. While one found the key to success, the other suffered from the low-end of the finishing order in the same sitting.
5) Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (Unchanged): It was good to see James Hinchcliffe back in action following his unexpected DNQ at Indianapolis. His fellow countryman Robert Wickens has filled the Mayor’s racing boots well in each of the last three shows and should continue to mock his rookie tag Saturday.
6) A.J. Foyt Racing (+1): Tony Kanaan’s seventh-place last Sunday moves the Lone Star State’s home team into the first six. The presence of a Chevrolet engine could allow for a big boost in fortune at the challenging 1.5-mile quad-oval.
7) Ed Carpenter Racing (-1): Texas could not come fast enough for ECR, who once again found an empty hole on a road/street layout. Jordan King’s trial by fire season continued in Detroit, and a glimmer of hope in race one for Spencer Pigot was extinguished a day later. The team boss has unfinished business from Indy to deal with and should be among the pre-race picks this weekend.
8) Dale Coyne Racing (Unchanged): Sebastien Bourdais continued to find misfortune in Motown last weekend. Newcomer Santino Ferrucci was impressively fast in his IndyCar debut, but could not salvage a good finish in either race.
9) Carlin Racing (+1): Trevor Carlin’s men found some positive energy last Sunday, placing Charlie Kimball and Max Chilton among the first eleven. Revealed an inkling of pace last month at Indy, but may need more to catch more lightning in a bottle in their first trip to Dallas-Fort Worth as an IndyCar member.
10) Harding Racing (-1): Gabby Chaves and company were able to outlast their rivals to capture a big finish last year at Texas Motor Speedway, but will have to turn up the juice to claim another solid result after 600 kilometers in 2018.
FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @MattEmbury
The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularOpenWheel.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.