In a dominant display that was also full of drama both on and off track, Scott Dixon took another step in showing Target Chip Ganassi Racing has turned the corner in 2012 by going one step better than his result one week ago and taking victory in the Detroit IndyCar Grand Prix.
Racing his way through from a 14th place grid slot, taking advantage of clever pit strategy and some super brave passes on his rivals, Dario Franchitti gave Chip Ganassi his first ever consecutive 1-2 finishes. Keeping his nose clean all day when others did not was Simon Pagenaud who filled out the podium, with Will Power finishing fourth and finding his championship lead cut to 26 points.
Justin Wilson, the last man to win in Detroit prior to this weekend, was the first casualty of the race, getting offline on the first lap and getting his tyres dirty which led to a light crack on the wall which was enough to damage his right rear suspension. Wilson pitted and was later done for the day.
Within a couple of seconds of leader Scott Dixon was Will Power who in turn had Simon Pagenaud behind him. Next in the queue was EJ Viso who unfortunately was having difficulty keeping up and creating a major train of cars behind him. At one point there were about 15 cars nose-to-tail behind him but all unable to get past due to the narrow Belle Isle layout. The pressure was lifted on Lap 27 when Viso pitted, releasing the train of faster cars back into battle.
Ryan Hunter-Reay was quick to earn the ire of race stewards for some questionable blocking manoeuvres – one where he almost tipped Ryan Briscoe into the wall – however, he quickly cleaned up his game.
Approaching the halfway point of the race, James Hinchcliffe found himself buried in the tyre barriers on Lap 39 through no fault of his own. Following Graham Rahal, Hinch hit a loose piece of the race surface that had been worked loose and got caught in his suspension. Elsewhere on the circuit, Takuma Sato found himself the victim of the same problem and while a full-course caution was called, it was evident the problem was worse than first thought and chief steward Beaux Barfield elevated the level of concern to a red-flag at the end of Lap 45.
The Holmatro Safety Crew were busy removing loose pieces of rubber, which ended up being massive chunks of rubber which, when removed, created massive two-inch deep gaps in the road which would easily damage a car’s suspension should it run over or through it. Urgent repairs were commissioned, but the work resulted in a two-hour delay to the event. The drivers were unanimous in their desire to go racing again, merely to put a show on for fans who were starting to leave, thinking the problem was terminal.
Will Power and Tony Kanaan were dispatched in a Corvette road vehicle – driven by Power himself – to inspect the repaired parts of the circuit. Race control said the race would be shortened and would finish at Lap 60, a further 15 laps from when the race was stopped – which was enough to declare the event official and a full points-paying event.
At the restart, the next factor to rear its ugly head was rain, as the heavens opened and left the circuit slightly damp. It was not enough to warrant a switch to rain tyres but it was enough to cause multiple spins, with Helio Castroneves finding himself turned around and clipped by Ed Carpenter as he passed through.
Elsewhere, EJ Viso managed to run up a kerb and spin himself around, albeit with a bit of help via a tag from Marco Andretti and once all was said and done, Scott Dixon completed only the last four laps under green flag conditions to take a dominant victory.
There is no rest for the teams, as the next stop on the calendar is Texas Motor Speedway next Saturday night.
2012 IndyCars Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix – Final Classification (60 laps):
* Race distance reduced to 60 laps