Dre’s Race Review: IndyCar’s 2024 Grand Prix of Detroit

Scott Dixon wins a race with half the race under caution, 12 penalties, and one Santino Ferrucci. Dre makes sense of a chaotic Detroit race, and why it made him £100 lighter…

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Dre Harrison Reviews



Read time: 10 mins

“Oh dear, it’s happened again.”

Well, folks. It’s happened again. IndyCar finally remembered that there’s a season after the Indy 500 is over. The series headed over to Michigan for its second running of the Chevrolet Grand Prix of Detroit. And somehow this race was even crazier than last year. Six different leaders. 12 penalties handed out. There were 47 laps of caution in a 100-lap race. In the end, Scott Dixon triumphs amongst the chaos. There’s a LOT to break down here, so let’s get into it… kind of, you’ll see.

Before we get into the race, a couple of things I need to address. After his embarrassing Lap 1 crash at the Indy 500, Mike Shank moved on from Tom Blomqvist at Meyer Shank Racing, with Helio Castroneves taking the #60 car for the next two race weekends. It initially seemed like a benching, but on race day it was confirmed that Tom won’t be returning. Helio, now part owner of the team, revealed during the Detroit weekend that they wanted to stop the bleeding given the #60 car is currently sitting outside the Leader’s Circle places. But it’s a bit rich to say that and then replace Blomqvist with Helio himself. Why? Well, here’s a quick comparison:

Average Finish of Castroneves’ Road and Street Course finishes in 2023: 18 
Average Finish of Blomqvist’s Road and Street Course finishes in 2024: 19.8

And Helio has 20 years more experience in the series than Blomqvist does, it’s hardly a fair fight. Now spoiler alert, Helio was taken out by Santino Ferrucci during the race which put him several laps down, but he qualified in 26th in Detroit. Is this going to stop the bleeding?

It’s like the team didn’t want to say the quiet part out loud – That Blomqvist’s mistake cost the team potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars in prize money from the nearly $18.5 million prize pool. If they’d said that, I’d be much more understanding. There’s no doubt that Blomqvist has struggled in IndyCar to date, but ending the experiment after half a season feels incredibly harsh and like Shank was somehow unaware of the risk he was taking. And I feel horrible because Tom was all in on this adventure, skipping Le Mans, to which it’s now too late for him to race in. After all, Action Express have given his seat to 2022 F2 Champion, Felipe Drugovich. It’s a horrendously raw deal. 

So who does Shank put in now? The easy temptation will be David Malukas now his wrist is on the mend. Will they scoop Juri Vips out of RLL’s reserve role? Do they borrow someone from F2? In any case, the #60 needs help and fast, or else Shank will be out of a LOT of money come season’s end. If you ask me, why the heck are we not giving Indy NXT’s Louis Foster a call?

Some ugly scenes after Qualifying also need to be addressed here. Santino Ferrucci got into it during the session with Colton Herta and Kyle Kirkwood with accusations of turning in and blocking made. When Kirkwood went to the Foyt garage to address what happened, Ferrucci shoved him and got into a heated argument. Colton held little back, saying he only had beef with one person in Foyt’s team while saying Ferrucci was driving a Penske to P20 every weekend. Romain Grosjean also complained and went full Karen energy, talking straight with Larry Foyt himself. The message didn’t seem to land because when Grosjean spoke on pitlane about it, you could see a member of the Foyt team pretending to cry in the background.

What got me was Ferrucci being interviewed and using the term: “Little boyfriend teammate” to describe the Andretti drivers he got tangled up with. For me, it’s a classic case of homophobia, but the more flippant, casual kind of comment you chuck in there thinking it’s not that serious and hope no one picks you up on. I know a lot of people came at me on Elon Musk’s failed business investment to tell me exactly that. But let me tell you, if you’re using who someone may/may not love to belittle them in a derogatory manner, it’s homophobia. It is that simple, and it’s completely unacceptable. 

Even worse, Ferrucci made these comments the same day IndyCar announced its participation in Pride Month. The comments on social media went about as well as you’d expect for a series that has only recently embraced that tradition and at a time when the LGBTQ+ community is going through horrendous levels of prejudice, hate crimes, and potentially even losing their basic human rights. Of course, a flippant remark from a driver with a shitty reputation isn’t on that level, but it does give off the message that the series isn’t as welcoming towards people who aren’t heterosexual. In a straight-white male-dominated industry. Even more so when the series essentially gave Santino a slap on the wrist and a “Don’t do it again.” 

While Ferrucci did apologise for his comments, the sad thing is, it’s the first time he’s shown any kind of contrition for anything untoward he’s done in or out of a car, which makes it hard to believe he’s truly sincere. That sincerity is even harder to find when it’s clear he’s in a working environment that endorses and enables that activity, like the aforementioned Foyt mechanics taking shots on TV, to Townsend Bell in the commentary, and the worst kept secret in the series that the man doesn’t objectively cover Ferrucci as he would for other drivers. It’s like watching Triple H and Stephanie McMahon dating in the early 2000s WWE. Listening to IndyCar’s otherwise excellent commentary box sometimes feels like you’re watching damage control PR in real-time. 

And once again, I’m on my knees begging and asking the question – Why is the series so protective of him? What are they so desperate to defend? It can’t be the fact he’s American and they want hometown promotion, they have Josef Newgarden who’s American, won everything you can win in the series multiple times over and is a marketing genius1. They’ve had other North American stars they could have also promoted to the moon like Graham Rahal, James Hinchcliffe and Alexander Rossi. It can’t over his results, his body of work isn’t great. He’s only just starting to figure this out now in his fourth full-time season and drivers with brighter prospects didn’t get that kind of leash or a Penske technical alliance they could lean on. 

So what is it? Is the series this desperate for the sport to come off like NASCAR, where drivers feel like they’re cutting Wrestling Promos? I was half expecting John Cena to come out and make the save when Ferrucci started shoving people. I’ve joked about the #IndyRivals hashtag the series used to use to promote itself but to borrow another Wrasslin term, this feels like cheap heat. It feels like the series desperately wants a heel figure for fans to hate. 

To a degree, I understand that it’s a dirty secret that this is the way sports broadcasts are leaning2, but you can do that without defending for someone making homophobic remarks. 

IndyCar doesn’t have the luxury of alienating parts of its audience because it wrongly believes Santino Ferrucci is him. I truly hope they understand that because right now, he’s becoming the reason the series is coming off as unserious. 

If you’re a long-time fan of this blog, you may remember when I wrote about Laguna Seca at the end of last season, a chaotic race with eight cautions, 30+ laps of yellow running, and some pretty shambolic driving standards. So, I thought I’d bring this style of running diary back because it fit so well last time. So let’s pull up the box score and see how we got through this hot mess.

Caution 1 (Lap 1): The opening run down to Turn 3 at the end of Chambers Street will come up a lot in this report, and at the first attempt there’s a bottleneck as Will Power gets clipped by Theo Pourchaire in the middle as Christian Lundgaard makes it three-wide at corner entry, Power goes spinning into the outside wall and causes a six-car stack up with Ferrucci, O’Ward, Vautier3, Rossi, Harvey and Lundqvist. 

Caution 2 (Lap 16): Santino Ferrucci misses his braking point down the hill towards Turn 5, spins Helio Castroneves around at the apex, and Kyffin Simpson drives straight into the front of Helio’s stricken car. 

Caution 3 (Lap 33): Scott McLaughlin locks his tyres braking for Turn 1 and hits the outside wall between the corner and the escape road. 

At this point, it rains pretty hard and the majority of the field switches to wet tyres… but the shower is just a passing one, and the field is caught between what compound to be on. Some are still on slicks, many are still on wet tyres as the rain ends and the race restarts… briefly. 

Caution 4 (Lap 41): Immediately on the restart, there’s another three-car bottleneck as Will Power goes around the inside of Romain Grosjean, but then hits Rinus Veekay trying to sweep around the outside. Power and Veekay collide, Veekay’s in the wall, caution comes out, and everyone switches back to slicks. 

During those stops by the way, Josef Newgarden drove over his wheel gun and hit one of the team members of Christian Lundgaard’s team. Thankfully, no serious harm, but a drive-through penalty for an unsafe release. 

Caution 5 (Lap 46): Immediately, Colton Herta misses his braking point so badly for Turn 5 half the audience think he has a brake failure as he ends up down the escape road and in the wall, alongside Tristan Vautier. The poor man didn’t ask for this shit as a stand-in. 

At this point, for the second time I can remember in IndyCar, the pace car had been run so much that it had to be refueled. We have reached Laguna Seca 2023 levels of unseriousness.

Caution 6 (Lap 53): We go again and immediately another three-wide bottleneck with Lundgaard, Armstrong and Grosjean, Lundgaard sends it down the inside and clatters into Grosjean as Armstrong backs out of it, hitting each other, and having Lundgaard enact Rule 34 on the Juncos car. 

After this, we had the first full green flag lap of running for over half an hour. 20 laps of either yellow flags, or an immediate caution after restarts. It didn’t help either that when the rain came down earlier, IndyCar got the running order wrong and that took extra time to clear up.

Caution 7 (Lap 63): Scott McLaughlin, who’s already a lap down by the way, clatters into the side of Sting Ray Robb and puts him in the Turn 5 wall. Not as egregious as some of the actions seen already, but still a clumsy move, even if Scott’s attempt was a lot less… optimistic than Colton’s.

(Photo by Joe Skibinski | IMS Photo)

Caution 8: (Lap 70): Immediately off the back of that restart, Josef Newgarden goes for a send at Turn 3, doesn’t make the corner and hits the side of Kyle Kirkwood’s car, blocking Alex Palou on the outside of the corner. 

Eventually, a race broke out at the start of Lap 74, with Scott Dixon, who came in after Caution 6 and then had another one of his masterful fuel saves to take the win, despite being caught up in Colton Herta unlapping himself and then trying to box Dixon in, with Marcus Ericsson pushing behind him to try and reel Dixon in. If Ericsson didn’t spend too long trying to pass Marcus Armstrong for second, we could have a grandstand finish. Still, a nice way to end a completely chaotic race that… yeah, I’ll save my points on that until the end. 

Lost amongst the chaos was Alex Palou’s 25-race streak of Top 10 finishes ending thanks to that Newgarden overtake attempt. The last time he didn’t finish in the Top 10? Portland. 2022. 

And just like that, we’ve given Scott Dixon a Championship lead, and there’s only four men within a weekend’s worth of points at the front. I think this is a collective failure from the series for failing to avoid the inevitable. Death. Taxes. Dixon. 

The stewarding is again, sketchy. Colton Herta clattered into the side of Santino Ferrucci’s car while under caution and didn’t receive a penalty. He arguably should have been parked for the day for it. 

What is it with Marcus Ericsson and doing best when races are complete mayhem?

Josef Newgarden’s signed a new multi-year deal with Penske to tie him down to the #2 for the rest of his prime years you’d feel. A no-brainer move for all parties unless McLaren was offering a boatload of cash. If Penske moves on from Power now, it almost certainly won’t be for performance reasons…

…Which reminds me to keep pushing the #FreeLundgaard campaign. He’d have had a Top 5 finish on the cards if it wasn’t for him running out of fuel on the final lap. Even after tall that chaos, team management finds a way. At this point, McLaren might be the one landing spot left for him. 

Will Power had four penalties on the day… he finished sixth. Not even he knew how he did it.

And for all those people who are screaming for a Belle Isle comeback… why? It’s not the track’s fault the drivers treated this circuit like a demolition derby. As much as I prefer Belle Isle as a racetrack, the layout is more conducive for better racing, blaming the track for poor driving standards is a classic racing driver copout. 

Also, the irony of a Honda 1-2-3-4 while in Chevrolet’s backyard isn’t lost on me. Especially when Scott Dixon’s about to fly to Le Mans to represent General Motors next week.

There was one saving grace here though. I joked on my Discord server that I knew that the driving standards were going to suck. So much so, I blabbed during practice that for every time a run-off was used, I’d donate £2 to Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders, who provide humanitarian aid in crisis zones, including the Gaza Strip at the moment. 

Across the practice sessions, qualifying, warm-up and the race, FORTY-SEVEN times, a run-off area was used. One of which was after the race was over and Rinus Veekay ran out of fuel. So I thought I’d round it up and call it a cool £100. It’s the most expensive joke I’ve ever made, but I’m glad it can go to a part of the world that desperately needs the help. Cheers, IndyCar drivers. And free Palestine. Goodnight. 

  1. And if anything, the push-to-pass scandal and the some of the fans turning on him make him far more interesting. At least to me anyway. ↩︎
  2. Constant debate shows, the rise of Stephen A Smith, big-name athletes doing podcasts, the WNBA struggling to deal with a newfound explosion in viewers and how it handles its new star rookie in Caitlin Clark… ↩︎
  3. Yes, that’s Tristan Vautier. Last seen in IndyCar in 2017. And he’ll be straight on the plane to Le Mans to be Cadillac’s reserve driver after this. ↩︎

About the Author:

Dre Harrison

Somehow can now call himself a Production Coordinator at the Motorsport Network, coming off the back of being part of the awkward Johto Era at WTF1. All off a University Project that went massively out of hand. Weird huh?

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