If an IndyCar driver wasn’t involved in a rear end collision Sunday at Detroit, he probably won.
NBC’s rather amateurish broadcast was delayed this time by tennis from France, which after the Indy 500 was appropriate enough. While the weather proved much better than Saturday, the perfunctory Pagenaud platitudes didn’t. Qualifying was also missed due to a water delay – not from rain, but from a tire barrier – even though the recording was set for an extra half hour in case of such eventualities. Nevertheless we did get to hear “O’Canada” sung out loud as well as STP’s new front man do the US national anthem, which was superlative. Scott Dixon said he felt “very, very, very lucky” to be recognized by the Queen with an Order of Merit listing for his racing skills. Certainly no rear ending there.
Josef Newgarden and Alex Rossi made up the first row, and Colton “Joaquin” Herta and Zach “Son of Dracula” Veach the second with Conor Daly driving . . . the two seater. The green flag saw the front of the field hold position and Hinch moving forward before a major pileup and caution involving Simon Pagenaud, Tony “time to call it quits” Kanaan, Pato O’Ward and others. Felix Rosenqvist and Power made contact too, with multiple cars ass-ending one another, one spinning and getting collected head on by Kanaan. His AJ Foyt Racing teammate Matt Leist and Marco were also among the seven total cars involved in the incident. The two most recent Indy 500 winners were taken out of contention in one fell swoop, at least momentarily.
All but six of the remaining cars in the field pitted under caution, as Whinin’ Will Power parked it in the middle of the racetrack and his teammate Pags said other than a gear sensor issue – due to getting rear ended – he had little damage, vowing to continue. He did, as did Power who overcame numerous obstacles to finish on the podium. At that point Dixon led Spencer Pigot, Santino Ferrucci, Graham Rahal and Max Chilton, none of whom had pitted yet. The lap 8 restart had Newkid getting around Chilton in an inspired drive that was, nevertheless, destined to fail.
Cars quickly went single file by lap 9, except for Marco who oddly went on a momentary tear, passing both his teammates Ryan Hunter-Reay and Veach. True to form, after a while he was still languishing in fourteenth and complaining vociferously to his crew about his car’s “understeer.” In a sign of things to come, Dixon jumped out to over a second and a half lead on Pigot by lap 11.
Newkid first got around Rossi, then Ferrucci to take the lead as Dixon faded rapidly on old red tires and soon pitted. Pigot rode on similarly blown tires and attempted to pit before he was rudely rear ended by Frenchman Sebastien Bourdais, who popped a wheelie as he ran directly over the American pilot’s car, forcing it violently into the wall. Dixon was fortunately already in the pits when the caution flew, saving his race by that much. Bourdais’ car suffered a heavily damaged front wing, with the entire nose broken off and lodged underneath the front wheels. Unlike poor Pigot, he somehow managed to continue.
As pit stops commenced under caution, Bourdais got a new front wing and stayed on the lead lap, remarkably bringing it home for a top ten finish. The restart on lap 21 had the rookie Ferrucci on point over Rahal, Newkid, Rossi and Hinch. On new red tires, Power careened through the field, up to thirteenth before pitting for blacks. Ferrucci soon was out to a sizable advantage over Ragin’ Rahal – over 1.6 seconds – with Hinch in third on a different strategy.
In a crucial sequence of events, Hinch pitted and then came out in front of Newgarden – “cutting him off!” as the boys in the booth put it – before a battling Newkid and Rossi went low looking to pass him on the inside. Newkid lost control and Rossi did too, contacting Hinch and sending Newgarden into the tire barrier. Rossi impressively spun ’round after managing to keep his car going, continuing unscathed. Both points leader Newgarden and Hinch’s cars were seriously damaged in the three car incident. Newgarden took the blame later, saying “it’s my fault” and citing the low side “marbles – it’s too slick,” before calling it “a mistake.”
Photo from indycar.com
From a sixth place start, Dixon retook the lead as yet another caution period dragged out endlessly, beyond the mid-race point. The lap 40 restart had Dixie over Ericsson and Sato. Rossi charged all the way up to fourth as Dixon pitted and handed Power the lead – temporarily. Sato was passed in quick succession by Power and then RHR, who boldly went down the inside before Rossi too went around him – all three passes in the span of three corners! Now Dixon led Ericsson, Jones, Power and RHR, with Power quickly getting around Jones for third.
Taking it in the rear, Hinch’s car came to a stop on track at lap 54, his dead Honda bringing out the fourth of five cautions on the day. He was eventually towed into the pits, his day kaput. Yet another restart with 11 laps to go saw Dixon pull away from Ericsson, Power, RHR and Rossi when the NBC satellite feed apparently got rear ended and run clear into a commercial. After that, we all knew how Pigot must have felt.
Back from technical difficulties – what, was it Detroit rats chewing the cable?! – with less than ten laps to go and the order up front remained unchanged, only with Dixon’s lead increasing. Suddenly his Swedish (and possibly soon to be former) teammate Rosenqvist crashed in turn 1 with only 5 to go. He brought out a much despised red flag, utterly stopping the proceedings. Felix had lost it and spun rear end first into the wall. Seems steering had already become a problem for him due to an earlier brush with the wall, bending his toe link. A closely following Rahal had to lock ’em up to narrowly avoid rear ending him. The cars were soon refired after about a ten minute delay for an anti-climactic, contrived three lap sprint to the finish. Dixon, Ericsson, Power, RHR and Rossi all held positions after the totally unnecessary red flag.
It was Dixon’s third win at Detroit, bouncing back after a terrible showing yesterday following his own audience with the wall. It was his second win there in as many years and the forty fifth of his career. Following the race, reportedly his rear end was just fine.