Detroit Grand Prix provides IndyCar drivers with fresh start after Indy 500
DETROIT (AP) — The Detroit Grand Prix, coming off Josef Newgarden’s win at the Indianapolis 500, provides drivers and teams with a chance for a fresh start for the rest of the season.
Jack Harvey is thankful for that.
The Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing driver is ranked No. 22, and, with 11 races remaining, he’s fighting to keep his job and salvage a sputtering IndyCar career.
The Detroit Grand Prix is returning to a downtown street course for the first time since 1991 after running up the river on Belle Isle, perhaps giving Harvey a better chance to earn desperately needed points on Sunday.
“We’re probably the most grateful for an equal opportunity,” Harvey said. “It’s a completely new track and no one really knows what to expect.”
Harvey acknowledged he had a humbling experience in Indianapolis.
The 30-year-old British driver was bumped off the starting grid. He bounced back in last-chance qualifying to earn a spot by barely edging teammate Graham Rahal, the team owner’s son, out of the signature race.
Harvey said the emotional experience in the leadup to the race made him feel as if he was in “Hunger Games,” before finishing 18th on Sunday.
“We weren’t competitive,” Harvey said. “We have to define quickly what the problems were and how we’re going to put solutions in place.”
The Detroit Grand Prix will present 27 drivers, and their teams, with a potential problem that will force each of them to search for a solution on the fly.
Instead of having the cars in one line along pit lane, race organizers set up a split pit that will create compelling moments as highly competitive drivers merge to enter the track from the right and left.
The unique setup may also give some feuding drivers a place to settle scores.
Pato O’Ward was in position to possibly win the Indy 500 until Newgarden surged to the front of the pack following a late restart, leading to O’Ward and Marcus Ericsson touching wheels and sending O’Ward into a wall.
O’Ward vowed after the race that he wouldn’t forget what Ericsson did. Five days later, the Arrow McLaren driver chose not to add much more fuel to the feud with another Chip Ganassi Racing driver.
“He’s also going for the win, just like I am,” O’Ward said. “But I do think I deserve the respect I’ve always given him and I didn’t get it.”
In last year’s Indy 500 won by Ericsson, O’Ward drew some criticism for not making a more aggressive move to finish first instead of seemingly settling for second.
Entering the seventh race of this season, Ericsson trails only teammate Alex Palou in points and is just ahead of O’Ward.
Ericsson said O’Ward hitting a wall was an unfortunate result of a 50-50 situation with two drivers competing to win the coveted race.
“I don’t have a beef with him,” Ericsson said. “He seems to have a beef with me, but he hasn’t come up and spoke to me. Comments he’s made — he’s going to crash me out, he’s going to push me into the wall — that’s up to him.”
It isn’t O’Ward’s first dispute with a Chip Ganassi Racing driver this season.
At Long Beach, O’Ward and Scott Dixon got tangled up heading into a turn and Dixon later had to drop out of the race.
The 42-year-old Dixon, a six-time IndyCar champion, said he thinks the drama among drivers helps the sport grab headlines.
“But it seems like it’s mostly one guy at the moment,” Dixon said with a grin.
O’Ward, meanwhile, doesn’t mind being the main source.
“It seem like everybody is a little afraid of a drama,” said 24-year-old Mexican, whose Chevrolet had the fastest average lap Friday at 93.885 mph in a practice session. “I think it’s great. I think it’s great for IndyCar.”
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