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What started out as another Pagenaud pass-out worthy Penske parade suddenly turned into an interesting race in the second half. Frenchman Sebastien Bourdais won his thirty fifth IndyCar race Saturday – from thirteenth – his second in as many years at Detroit.
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The start was anything but bumpy for pole sitter Pags, who checked out from the field. The first caution of the race came when – as we predicted – CGR’s rookie Max Chilton smacked the wall and exited the race. Apparently a suspension piece broke, as he swerved into the wall on a straightaway. The Englishman then proceeded to drop the F-bomb live on national television. That’s hot!
Pags and Helio ran one-two on the Cap’n’s home track, thanks – according to ABC’s booth geniuses – to Penske’s special shocks and springs made especially for bumpy Detroit. Extremely bumpy commentary characterized the day’s coverage. At one point Bestwicke mentioned their clothes and hotel rooms for some unknown reason. When sprinkles are the most exciting element of a race broadcast, you know there’s a problem. There was one early on.
Englishman Jack Hawksworth’s rotten luck continued with AJ Foyt Racing, failing to start with the field and then retiring after only a couple laps. CGR’s Scott Dixon suffered a seriously slow pit stop, as did his teammate Charlie Kimball in a bumpy day for Chip’s crews. Much of the hardest racing was in the pits and usually between the Penskes. Talk of track bumpiness typified the chatter in a ho-hum race.
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Spencer Pigot in his first race for ECR sent his air gun flying on pit exit, drawing a rare penalty from race control, which surprisingly stirred from its slumber. The aging Tony Kanaan also drew a penalty for blocking, a fact that went completely unmentioned during the race. Chip’s team experienced too many bumps in the road Saturday.
That’s when things got interesting. Canuck James Hinchcliffe ran wide through a turn and into the tire barrier, ruining a nice run and bringing out the second and final caution. The camera caught him animatedly banging SPM’s forty thousand dollar steering wheel with his fists in frustration. Pit stops occurred under yellow as light rain continued and the caution period dragged on, as is typical.
Still under yellow, Power went off course with a reported “gear box issue,” even though he clearly had no right rear tire and “probably no nut,” as Penske’s Tim Cindric said. The wheel nut in question was shown sitting on track in a rare mistake by the team. The Cap’n couldn’t have been happy.
The lap forty seven restart had Montoya and Rahal out front, as Dixon aggressively banged into the back of Graham coming out of a corner. A decent battle for eleventh unfolded between Mikhail Aleshin and Ryan Hunter-Reay, with RHR and then Kimball getting around the oft off-track Russian.
Maddeningly, Team Penske and Power were allowed to use the runoff area as a personal pit box, changing the rear tire and nut. Only at the Cap’n’s track, folks. Dixon briefly took the lead after Rahal and Montoya pitted, but then experienced actual gear box issues, unable to get up to speed. Almost killing it on track, Dixon dropped from first to fifteenth within a lap before heading back to pit lane.
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In perhaps the drive of the race Conor Daly led as laps wound down, followed by Bourdais thanks to a fortunate pit stop strategy. After pitting the young Hoosier, who started sixteenth, cycled back into second place. Despite a valiant effort, Daly couldn’t catch the veteran Frenchman. Bourdais took forever to get his glasses and helmet off in victory lane, giving a thumbs up before exiting the car. He’s now tied with Bobby Unser for sixth on the all time IndyCar wins list, so he should have known what to expect.
Jon Beekhuis said due to pit strategy and an “all out” – as opposed to conservation mode – approach, the KV Racing driver prevailed. See Bourdais’ reaction below. Bestwicke blunderingly mentioned “the split era” and Bourdais’ dominance in CART, while Goodyear’s mastery of the obvious continued, pointing out that “Coyne‘s one of the smaller teams.” It was another bumpy day for the booth.
After the race, aged owner Kevin Kalkhoven hilariously lept off off the stand in celebration, effecting what looked like a rather bumpy landing. Co-owner Jimmy Vasser looked relatively sober, at least for the time being. “What’s wrong with” Juan Montoya rounded out the podium, salvaging something of Penske’s day. Pags ran out of fuel and ended up thirteenth, while Power finished twentieth and Helio took fifth.
Post Race Quotes
SeBass: “Came back after pretty average qualifying. . . . For a long time I thought the strategy was a total mess.”
Daly: “Indy was such a punch in the gut. . . . There’s a lot for me to learn. Gosh, the guys on the stand called a terrific race. . . . It’s hard. It’s a hard place. I’m thankful.”
JPM: “You know, I think that, you know . . . [wipes nose] We had a boost problem at the end. I think we wouldn’t have won it anyway. He he he!”
Rahal: “Physical today. I think we ran the car too low . . . I couldn’t physically see until the tire pressures came up. . . . It’s frustrating, but I’m happy for Conor. . . . Had that yellow not been extended for a ridiculous amount of time – that none of us in the cars understood – . . . ”
Helio: “De Hitachi car was awesome. It was AWESOME! Great job for the entire Team Penske. Obviously a top five was not what we expected, but in the end of the day I’ll take it.”