Is it another race weekend already? This one went pretty fast because 1) I didn't make it back to work until Wednesday and 2) I think I am still floating a bit mentally from the 500. Between watching highlights and rehashing with folks on Twitter, it's been nice to keep talking about it for a while longer. And outside of just the thrill of the race I had a great time, and creating lasting memories is part of the 500 as well.
Big doings in Detroit this weekend. Before I get into racing mode I want to give a shout out to Detroit Tigers pitcher Casey Crosby, who will be making his big league debut against CC Sabathia and the Yankees tonight. Casey is a 23-year-old left-hander who played his high school ball in my area and is someone I have gotten to know over the last few years.
Casey is just a good guy and I am so happy for this opportunity for him, especially because he has missed close to two pro seasons with arm injuries, including Tommy John surgery on his left elbow. He was added to the 40-man roster over the winter and when I spoke to him before Christmas he was excited to finally have the chance to get to the big leagues. He is 6-foot-5, 225 pounds and throws 97 mph, and if he can throw strikes, something he struggles with a bit at times, I think he will be around for a while.
Anyway, back to IndyCar. Everyone had to get over their post-Indy hangover pretty quickly as they tested in Milwaukee on Tuesday before getting set to head to Detroit. I guess I should mention here that the official name of the race is the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix. We'll just call it Belle Isle from here on out.
Plus I like that idea since that is also the name of the palatial Louisiana plantation Irwin M. Fletcher (Chevy Chase) inherits from his aunt in the movie Fletch Lives. Although it is nowhere close to being as funny as the original Fletch, it's not bad viewing late at night.
Anyway, the series last competed here in 2008 in a race won by Justin Wilson, who certainly has some good mojo coming with him from Indy. I will admit up front that Belle Isle is not one of my favorite tracks, but the DW12 has added excitement to every stop so far, and I don't see this as being an exception.
There are lots of storylines out there for the weekend: is Dario Franchitti back? Will Takuma Sato rebound from his disappointment? Does Will Power return to dominance?
I think the answer is "yes" to all of the above, but my eye this weekend is going to be on Sebastien Bourdais. Seb's been waiting for a weekend like this for a long, long time. After busting his tail to keep his Lotus competitive on the first four road/street courses (and for the most part succeeding) he's now on a lot more of a level playing field for the first time in a while. At worst, I see a podium out of this for him, and now that he will focus on the road courses only for the time being (with Katherine Legge driving the ovals) he is going to become more and more of a factor every time out.
Another guy to watch will be Oriol Servia. Now also driving a Chevy, he was very fast near the end of the 500 on his way to a hard-earned fouth-place finish, and if you remember last year he was more than racy on the road and street courses. Heck, he was racy everywhere while finishing fourth in points. We haven't seen the benefits of the Dreyer & Reinbold/Panther Racing sharing of secrets, but perhaps with a quality motor Servia can live up to his end.
On the other end of the grid, Simona de Silvestro and Graham Rahal each get detentions -- otherwise known as 10-grid penalties -- for engine issues at Indy. I thought it was a great idea to defer penalties until Belle Isle, although Simona probably wishes she could have gotten it out of the way at the Brickyard since she has done a commendable job on the twisties, but Rahal will once again be on an uphill climb on a race weekend. Is he ever going to catch a break?
On with a few predictions:
Pole -- Will Power. I have to go with WP until someone knocks him off this perch. By the way, is that new artwork he is sporting on his left arm real? First that is completely out of character given his buttoned-up nature (unless he is a bit different away from the track) and second, how in the world did he get the Captain to sign off on that? I figured Roger would let things go if you deliver him a championship or a 500, but otherwise, wow.
Race winner -- Sebastien Bourdais. As with my James Hinchcliffe pick from a week ago, I'm going out on a bit of a limb, but it's only the Internet so I can do that sort of thing. Can you imagine Bourdais and Power going at it down the stretch of a road or street race while laying down pole-worthy laptimes? Have some popcorn ready.
Podium contenders -- Takuma Sato, James Hinchcliffe, Scott Dixon, Simon Pagenaud, Justin Wilson. Power and Bourdais are givens, these four will battle for the third spot. Taku is rolling (he just needs to consistently get to the checkered flag), Hinch has been in the top 6 all year, Dixon is, well, Dixon, and Pagenaud has been racy too. Wilson was great at Indy, has won here before and was fast today. The talent pool in IndyCar is so deep right now, I just think a lot of races from here on in will be shootouts with lots of drivers in play.
Darkhorse -- Tony Kanaan. I badly want to get TK out of this category, but he is sort of stuck here for now until he breaks through and wins in 2012. His Indy run was epic, and he was fast in practice today, so you wonder if the 2007 winner of this event is bringing some great vibes along with him as well.
Qualifying is Saturday morning, with the race set for 3:30 p.m. EDT. Get through this one, and then it is on to more ovals! I see a lot of big changes in people's seasons and point standings between now and the Iowa race in three weeks.