By: Spencer Neff
May 31, 2019 | 8:12 AM
This weekend, the NTT IndyCar Series heads to Belle Isle for its annual doubleheader. Since 1992, the temporary street course near Detroit has played host to 25 races. For this week’s IndyCar Flashback, we take a look at the 2007 revival of the race.
Although one of the sport’s marquee owners played the major role in IndyCar’s return, it would be a different team on top by day’s end.
Kanaan leads Andretti Green 1-2 in Belle Isle Return
For the first time since 2001, IndyCar racing arrived at the Belle Isle street circuit just outside Detroit, Michigan.
It was legendary car owner Roger Penske, whose teams had won three times at the track, spearheading the return.
On September 2, Penske’s efforts came to fruition and the Detroit Indy Grand Prix was on. Starting on the pole for the event was Helio Castroneves, who had won the previous two times open-wheel cars raced at Belle Isle in 2000 and 2001.
After a collision with teammate Marco Andretti a week earlier, Dario Franchitti lost the points lead to Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon. This week, Franchitti started one spot ahead of Dixon in second.
From the start of the race, Castroneves took command. On Lap 1, Franchitti’s Andretti-Green teammates Tony Kanaan and Marco Andretti each moved up a spot to third and fifth respectively.
Soon after Castroneves’ initial stop on Lap 26, the caution flag flew for the first time. While Franchitti assumed the lead of the race, Vision Racing’s Ed Carpenter stalled in Turn 8. On pit road, Andretti dropped out of the race with a shifter cable issue.
Although Franchitti held the top spot for the next 23 laps after Castroneves’ stint, the carnage on track was far from over.
Just as the race went back under green, Team Penske’s Sam Hornish Jr. collided with Sarah Fisher and the Dreyer & Reinbold Racing driver spun in Turn 1. Also collected were Danica Patrick and Panther Racing’s Vitor Meira.
When the issues ended, only Patrick was able to continue on in the race. Due to the incident, the race continued under the caution for another six laps. After a 10-lap stint under green, Turn 8 became the scene for another accident.
This time, Patrick collided with Scott Sharp, sending Sharp into the inside retaining wall. During the Lap 49 pit stops, Kanaan was able to beat Franchitti and Dixon out of pit lane. However, Kanaan had a fuel pickup issue during his stop.
As Fisher’s teammate Buddy Rice relinquished the lead to Patrick, Carpenter had more issues. This time, the Vision Racing driver spun between Turns 13 and 14, prompting the fourth yellow flag of the day.
On Lap 66, Patrick’s first career lead on a road course ended when she made her final pit stop. With Franchitti back in the lead, the caution flag waved again two laps later when Castroneves made contact with Tomas Scheckter.
As the Vision Racing driver spun into the Turn 1 barrier, Castroneves went nose-first into the tires and the day ended for both competitors.
A day after winning the American LeMans Series event at Belle Isle, Penske’s chances at the IndyCar win were dashed.
On Lap 80. the 90-lap scheduled distance was abandoned as the race became timed (10 minutes remaining). With less than 30 seconds remaining, Dixon made contact with Rice, sending the latter into the Turn 13 barrier. Dixon spun moments later and Franchitti was collected as well.
At the front of the field, Kanaan took yellow and white flags. Behind, Patrick snuck by for her best career finish and an AGR 1-2. Dixon’s teammate Dan Wheldon rounded out the podium. ‘
Due to the late-race incident, Franchitti would retain the points lead by three headed to the September 9 finale.
A week later, Dixon looked to have the win and season title wrapped up. On the last lap, the 2003 champion ran out of fuel, handing the win and championship to Franchitti. From 2009 to 2013, Dixon and Franchitti were teammates, and now, Franchitti works as an advisor for Chip Ganassi Racing.
2007 would be the start of a historic run for the Scotsman. Aside from a 2008 run in NASCAR, Franchitti won the IndyCar title in each season from 2007 through 2011.
After another running in 2008, The Raceway at Belle Isle departed the calendar until a 2012 return. In 2013, the track began to host a doubleheader weekend, and since 2015, is the only IndyCar track to do so.
Additionally, the 2007 Detroit Indy Grand Prix was the last street course race in North America before the 2008 ChampCar/IRL reunification.
Note: Thank you as always to everyone who participated in our poll on Twitter to select this week’s IndyCar Flashback.
There will continue to be a poll on our Twitter page (@Open_Wheels) to determine the race profiled for IndyCar Flashback prior to each race weekend. Keep an eye out each race week for the poll to cast your vote.
Header image By Steve Snoddy/INDYCAR.
Open-Wheels coverage of the 2019 month of May at Indianapolis is presented by Driven 2 Save Lives. Driven 2 Save Lives, an entity of the Indiana Donor Network, is a program that utilizes motorsports as a platform to encourage race fans to become organ donors. Currently, there are 114,000 individuals that are waiting for a life-saving organ transplant. Register as an organ, tissue, and eye donor at Driven2SaveLives.org/register and follow Driven2SaveLives on Facebook and Twitter.