Josef Newgarden retook the title lead, despite crashing in Race 2, as Scott Dixon bounced back from a mistake in Race 1.
Race 1 – Qualifying
Alex Rossi took pole position with Newgarden starting second, despite not setting the second quickest time, due to a unique qualifying format used at Detroit. The drivers are split into two groups as normal, then have twelve minutes to set their fastest time. Unlike usual qualifying however, that’s it. There’s no shootout for pole or anything, you get twelve minutes and for some reason IndyCar didn’t set the grid based on the fastest times. Newgarden was fastest out of the first group of drivers but Rossi and Scott Dixon were faster than him in Group 2, yet Newgarden started ahead of Dixie. Because, reasons.
Anyway, Felix Rosenqvist shared the second row with his teammate, ahead of Colton Herta, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Pato O’Ward, Zach Veach, Takuma Sato and James Hinchcliffe. Graham Rahal was 11th with the other two Penskes of Will Power and Indy winner Simon Pagenaud 12th and 13th.
Race 1 – Race
The track was deluged in the wet stuff pre-race, meaning a delay while everyone waited for the rain to stop and for the workers to sweep the puddles off the track prior to putting on some wellies and jumping in them. As a result of the delay the race was scheduled for 75 minutes with a single-file start. Even before the start drivers were caught out, with Veach committed ultimate racing driver suicide by spinning on the warm-up laps.
When it did start, Rossi got away cleanly, but then Mat Leist lost it coming out of turn 2 and spun, bringing out the first yellow. Further up, Sato slid into Pato trying to go side-by-side, causing the rookie to drop to 15th.
With just over an hour left came the restart and immediately Felix passed Newgarden for third, meaning the order was now Rossi, Dixie, Felix, Newgarden, Sato, Colton, Power, RHR, Hinch and Pagenaud.
The Penske dancing duo were making up lost ground, with Power passing Colton and Sato in quick succession to move into the top five, while Pagenaud got inside Hinch at turn 3.
Marco Andretti was the first to stop for slicks and was promptly 20 seconds off the pace as he slithered around in a car handling like a hand use to open glass doorknob with grease on it. Even so, others came in with the track was starting to dry so Newgarden took advantage. He thanked his lucky stars at this point, for Ed Jones had skidded into the barriers, causing the second yellow.
In this caution, everyone who hadn’t pitted did so. Power in particular was desperate to get out first and did so… with three wheels out of four attached. As his right-front decided it didn’t like being on the vehicle, Rossi and Dixon, who were right behind the Aussie, jostled for position with the Ganassi man gaining. With the mayhem briefly over, the order was Newgarden, Rossi, Dixie, Felix, RHR, Sato, Pagenaud, Hinch, Rahal and Pigot.
33 minutes remained as they took another restart, with Rahal jumping Hinch at turn 1. A few moments later though the camera cut to find the orange and blue car of Dixon in the barriers. He’d clipped the inside wall leading onto the back straight and bent the toe link, sending him into the outside for his first retirement since Texas 2017.
Yet another restart with 22 minutes left then, with Newgarden leading Rossi, Felix, Sato, RHR, Pagenaud, Rahal, Hinch, Pigot and Veach. Sato managed to muscle passed Felix for third, right before Leist became the race director for the second time and crashed into the wall, bringing out the fourth and final yellow.
With 13 minutes left came yet anothernother restart and everything was clean with Sato and Felix really fighting hard for third, Taku nearly chopping the Swede’s nose off at turn 4. But at the front it was Newgarden vs. Rossi, with the Californian chasing as hard as he could as they ran together like Little Al and Michael. Meanwhile, Sato was now backing Felix into the chasing pack, with RHR right and Pagenaud climbing all over them.
Despite his best efforts, Rossi couldn’t pass Newgarden. Sato held onto third ahead of Felix, for his best finish since St. Pete, Captain America, Pagenaud, Rahal, Veach, Hinch and Pigot.
Race 2 – qualifying
The same two drivers started on the front row, with Newgarden this time on pole. Behind them were Veach, Colton, Hinch, Dixie, Felix, Pato, Sebastien Bourdais and Pigot. The Penske dancing duo were once again behind, with Power 11th and Pagenaud 14th. Cap was only 15th and Rahal dead last.
Race 2 – race
This time the weather was fine and the full 70 laps were run. The field got away clean until turn 3, then all hell broke loose. Power tried to go down the inside of Feix and Pato. The Penske and Carlin squeezed Felix who jumped up in the air, testing the strength of the Swede’s tailbone, while Pato spun. Right behind his teammate, Pagenaud also tried to go down the inside of Marcus Ericsson, ran into the back of Power and the spinning Pato. Then Tony Kanaan decided to add the to crash bill for Foyt and flew over the inside kerb because his people needed him, only to slam into Pagenaud and Pato.
Caution time! Also time for everyone except Dixon, Pigot, Power, Ferrucci, Rahal and Max Chilton to pit. Of the pitters, Newgarden came out first ahead of Rossi, Hinch, Colton and Seabass.
The restart followed on lap 8 and Dixon got away well, with Newgarden dispatching of Chilton at turn 3. Five laps later the Carlin driver was being passed by everyone and the top two from Race 1 were all over Rahal, who passed Pigot. Next lap, Ferrucci took the lead from Dixon as the drivers who started on the red tyres ran out of rubber, with the Kiwi losing three places in as many corners as he dropped 20 quid and picked up sixpence.
Barely a lap later Seabass and Pigot decided to test out how well these IndyCars can take off and land. Pigot had also lost his tyres and was going to come in. As they came to the pit entrance Seabass was all over the back of him. Pigot went inside, Seabass misunderstood what was going on and tried to pick up the slipstream and then Pigot got on the brakes to slow for the pit entrance. The inevitable happened and the caution came out just as Dixon pitted.
On the restart on lap 21 the order was Ferrucci, Rahal, Newgarden, Rossi, Hinch, Colton, Felix, Veach, Dixie and Ericsson. Not a lot happened until lap 28 when Rossi pitted, with Newgarden and Colton following a lap later. The Andretti and Penske drivers found themselves stuck behind Chilton, who should be nowhere near an IndyCar and appeared to be driving secretly for Roger, letting Newgarden passed relatively easily but not being so lenient to Rossi. Maybe some bad blood from their Marussia days? Let the conspiracy theorists take care of that one.
Rahal then pitted on lap 32 and came out ahead of Newgarden and Rossi. So did Hinch a lap later. Then it happened. Hinch came out just ahead and immediately defending from Newgarden down the straight towards turn 3. Rossi picked up a double tow and looked down the inside of Newgarden. The Penske driver, so focussed on Hinch, had no idea Rossi was coming and moved to the inside too, forcing Rossi to back off. Newgarden went deep on the brakes to get inside Hinch, a bit too deep as it turned out, for he lost the back end and crashed into the wall. Hinch backed off to avoid Newgarden, catching out Rossi who locked the rears and half spun, pushing Hinch into Newgarden’s stationary car in the process. The Andretti man got going again but for the others it was game over.
Ferrucci was rewarded for keeping in the lead with fresh fuel from the fridge and tyres, also from the fridge, during the caution, meaning the order was now Dixie, Ericsson, Sato, RHR, Andretti, Rahal, Seabass, Felix, Rossi and Chilton.
After the restart on lap 40, Colton and Seabass came in on lap 45 with Dixie and Cap following a lap later and Ericsson and Sato a lap after that. Power was in on lap 51 and cycled to third just ahead of the Japanese driver, who tried to take advantage of Power getting his tyres up to temperature in turn 3. This backfired however as he was passed by RHR and Rossi in successive corners. Four laps later, Hinch stopped on track causing another yellow.
Ten laps to go on the restart then, with Felix getting his elbows out against Sato, who got puncture in the process leaving him 13th at race end. Felix himself then made a mistake 5 laps from the end and clipped the wall coming out the hairpin. This bent the toe link on the rear and when Felix turned into turn 1 he lost the rear and shortened the length of his car by several feet.
Because there wasn’t enough time to clean up the mess before the laps ran out, IndyCar threw the red flag to give us a green finish. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite have the desired effect as Ericsson couldn’t challenge Dixon, who took the win to rectify for his mistake the previous take. Behind them, Power finished 3rd and hopefully will stop whinging about his luck, RHR was fourth, Rossi 5th, Andretti 6th ahead of Rahal, Veach, Seabass and Ferrucci rounding out the ten.
Despite finishing 19th in Race 2, Newgarden still heads the championship with 316 points, fifteen ahead of Rossi. Pagenaud is a further ten back, before a gap to Dixon on 264. Sato is 5th on 255 ahead of Power on 232, RHR 219 then Hinch and 179, Rahal on 175 and Seabass on 165 round of the top ten.
Next on this ridiculous workload for the teams is Texas in just 6 days time, after which they’ll get some well earned time off.