IndyCar: Looking back at the last five Belle Isle races

DETROIT, MI - JUNE 01: Takuma Sato of Japan, driver of the #14 A. J. Foyt Enterprises Dallara Honda (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)
DETROIT, MI - JUNE 01: Takuma Sato of Japan, driver of the #14 A. J. Foyt Enterprises Dallara Honda (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images) /

Which IndyCar driver can recover best from a month at Indianapolis Motor Speedway to attempt to sweep the Dual in Detroit?

The doubleheader in Detroit is as exciting as it is tiring for IndyCar fans and drivers. Set one week after the Indianapolis 500, the Dual in Detroit around Belle Isle Park tests the mental and physical limits of teams and drivers. Teams and drivers spend a month in Indianapolis and then immediately turn around and head north to Michigan for back to back races.

The two 70-lap races around Detroit’s Belle Isle Park’s 2.35-mile (3.78-kilometer) temporary street course following 500 miles around the 2.5-mile (4.02-kilometer) Indianapolis Motor Speedway put such a strain on drivers since IndyCar opted for a “doubleheader weekend” in Detroit in 2013.

No driver had swept the weekend until Graham Rahal did so in 2017. As we prepare for the 2018 Dual in Detroit, take a look back at the last five races around Belle Isle and remind yourself of the dual rounds of yesteryear.

2015 (Race 2)

Belle Isle is unique to the IndyCar road course schedule in that it is tougher to win from up front than other circuits. This was no more evident than in 2015’s Race 2. The final top 10 finishing order for Race 2 featured only four drivers who started in the top 10.

This was partially due to weather, as the race was shortened by two laps because of a red flag for lightning, causing the race to go beyond the two-hour limit. Several of the frontrunners crashed out, resulting in seven caution flag periods. Ultimately the race was won by Sebastien Bourdais after he starting in ninth. However, the driver of the day was Tristan Vautier, who started last (23rd) and finished in fourth.

2016 (Race 1)

Race 1 in 2016 was another case where starting at or near the front in Belle Isle was far from a guarantee of winning. Two of the podium finishers were drivers who started outside the top 10, including race winner Bourdais, who started 13th. Dale Coyne Racing’s Conor Daly’s drove to a career-high second from 16th and was worthy of being considered the driver of the day. The first race of the weekend would be the “cleaner” race of the weekend with only two cautions flag periods and four retirements, with only one of those retirements taking place due to an accident.

2016 (Race 2)

Race 2 saw Team Penske’s Will Power hold off his teammate Simon Pagenaud by 0.920 seconds for the victory in a race with one of the closest finishes at Belle Isle. Power’s charge into the lead with 10 laps to go gave  the 2014 IndyCar champion a much-needed morale boost after finishing Race 1 in 20th place due to a loose wheel. Of course, Pagenaud wouldn’t just give his teammate the victory, as the Frenchman closed the gap to Power quickly due to having more push-to-pass left. The race also included a spirited charge from future Team Penske driver Josef Newgarden, who battled to the front after starting in 17th to finish fourth.

2017 (Race 1)

Race 1 at Belle Isle saw the first polesitter win the race since 2012 when Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon won it, as Rahal pulled it off. Apart from an 11-lap stint of leading by Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves, Rahal was in control of Race 1 from the green flag, leading 55 of the race’s 70 laps over three different stints. Race 1 also featured seven of the top 10 qualifiers finishing in the top 10. Mikhail Aleshin, Ed Jones and Spencer Pigot all drove from toward the back of the field to finish in the top 10.

2017 (Race 2)

More from IndyCar

Race 2 saw Takuma Sato on pole fresh off of his Indy 500 win. However, he would falter after the first round of pit stops and struggle to secure a fourth place finish. Rahal starting in third, took advantage of Sato’s struggles and never looked back, leading a race-high 41 laps en route to becoming the first driver to sweep the Dual in its history.

Chevrolet had dominated the race in both 2014 and 2016 and taken one of the two victories in 2015, so Honda sweeping the weekend was not something that anyone was accustomed to seeing and, in fact, had not seen since 2013 when the first doubleheader was held at the track. Newgarden and Power would salvage the weekend for Team Penske and Chevrolet, as they finished in second and third place, respectively, in the second race.

Next: Top 10 Indianapolis 500 drivers of all-time

The Dual in Detroit has seen its share of incredible drives, particularly by those who have started outside of the top 10. Will that trend continue for this weekend’s doubleheader, or will the new universal aero kit make the two races at Belle Isle more predictable? Find out on Saturday, June 2 and Sunday, June 3 on ABC at 3:30 p.m. ET on both dates.