The final race at Belle Isle was certainly a memorable one.
After 30 races on the small island park outside of Detroit, the race will move back to downtown next season. Many drivers wanted to earn the final victory on the 14-turn, 2.35-mile temporary circuit but only one could jump into the water fountain at the end of the day.
That driver was Will Power, who is having arguably the best season of his career. The 2014 series champion outlasted a furious charge from Alexander Rossi to win by just 1.0027 seconds. Power and Rossi were on different strategies, and it was Power that came out the victor.
"Enjoyable to chop through the field," Power said. "I was waiting for something bad to happen those last ten laps. Just a very, very good performance for me mentally. That’s how I judge my performances. I got right in that sweet spot. There’s definitely been a mental shift, just getting older and learning how this thing rolls. If you don’t put it on pole, it’s not the end of everything. I just drove it as straight as I could at the end there. I know if I could keep a reasonable gap at the end, I’d be okay."
Team Penske’s three drivers have now all won a race this season. Power’s victory today also marks the 100th win for Chevrolet, who were able to celebrate in their own backyard. This was also the first time in the 30 races at Belle Isle that the event went without a caution.
It was an impressive performance from Power, after starting the race back in the 16th position. The win also vaults him into the lead of the championship standings. After seven races, Power takes a three-point lead over Indy 500 winner Marcus Ericsson heading into next weekend.
Rossi finished runner-up for the ninth time in his IndyCar career. Seven of those races were won by a Penske driver. Had the race been 71 laps instead of 70, the Andretti Autosport driver may have been able to get around Power, and snap his 42-race winless streak.
“I think one more lap would’ve been really interesting,” Rossi said after the race. “You’ve got to give credit to the No. 12 guys and Will. That’s hard to do at the end to hang on. Yet again, we come here with an amazing car and can’t quite get the win. We’re finally executing our potential. Two weeks in a row the team has executed in big moments. Now we go to Road America, where we’ve had some success.”
The mood remains positive with this team going forward. “We’re here to win,” Rossi proclaimed. In 11 starts at Belle Isle, Rossi has three podium finishes, a pair of 5th and 7th place finishes, and two poles. He also has two other front row starts and has led 67 laps on the street circuit.
After a brutal start to the season, Rossi has quietly turned his season around with solid finishes in the last four races, including a top-five in the Indianapolis 500 last weekend. Now he heads back to Elkhart Lake, the place where he scored his last win three years ago.
Joining Power and Rossi on the final Belle Isle podium was Scott Dixon, who desperately needed a great finish after his heartbreak at Indy last weekend. It is the first podium finish for the Ganassi driver this season, and something he hopes will kick start a run to a potential seventh series championship.
Rounding out the top five today were pole sitter Josef Newgarden and fellow Chevrolet driver Pato O'Ward. Newgarden was disappointed with how the race strategy played out, but was glad to see one of his teammates in victory lane.
“It’s hard to not get annoyed,” Newgarden said. “When we need a race to go all green, it doesn’t. The other way same thing. We ran a good race, it just wasn’t the race to run today. We chose the strategy we did to avoid yellows. There were no yellows today. That’s IndyCar racing, I guess, you can’t predict it.”
O'Ward continues his strong season with fourth top-five finish in the last five races, including his runner-up result at Indianapolis. The Arrow McLaren SP driver already has a win in the bank this season and currently sits third in the championship standings after seven races.
Ganassi teammates Alex Palou and Ericsson finished 6th and 7th today, with Colton Herta quietly finishing in 8th place for Andretti. Simon Pagenaud had a solid start to the race but wasn't able to get back to the front as the race strategies played out. Felix Rosenqvist rounded out the top-ten finishers on Sunday.
While there weren't any caution flags in the race, there was plenty of carnage around the track. It began with Graham Rahal finding the outside concrete barrier in Turn 2 in the opening laps. A bump pushed the rear of his car out on the exit of the turn and hard into the wall. His race was over, ending his impressive streak of finishes at Belle Isle.
Helio Castroneves was another victim on Sunday when his steering wheel began having electrical issues. The Meyer Shank Racing driver said at one point his entire wheel went dark, and he was having issues shifting. That ultimately ended the day for the four-time Indy 500 winner.
Scott McLaughlin took over Helio's No. 3 Penske machine last year and also had some trouble today. He lost grip on the front end of his car when he tried to out brake Jack Harvey going into Turn 5. He was eventually able to get his car turned around, but his hopes of a good finish went out the window.
Kyle Kirkwood had an eventful weekend. On Wednesday it was announced that the young driver would be moving back to Andretti next season. He then led the opening practice session on Friday, then scored pole position in his Lexus for the IMSA race. He crashed his AJ Foyt machine in Saturday morning practice, won the IMSA race in the afternoon, then had another meeting with the wall today, which resulted in a disappointing 24th place finish for the rookie.
There were many more drivers that simply didn't have the pace or the handling to make their way to the front of the field, regardless of race strategy. Romain Grosjean, Rinus VeeKay, Conor Daly, and Santino Ferrucci all had a day to forget.
The good news for those drivers is that there is another quick turnaround on the calendar. Teams will head to Wisconsin for one of the most exciting venues in North America next weekend. Coverage for Sunday’s Sonsio Grand Prix at Road America begins at 12:30 ET on NBC.