After knocking on the door of Victory Lane so consistently often last season, the Friendly Frog – more formally known as Simon Pagenaud – today broke through the door to claim his, and Sam Schmidt’s first IndyCar Series victory as driver and team-owner respectively.
In doing so, Pagenaud survived what was an absolute smash-up festival of carnage throughout the field, with five individual caution periods covering the first 25 of the event’s 70 laps and a ten-car pile-up just for good measure.
After lasting just two corners of Race 1 yesterday, it would be difficult to imagine AJ Allmendinger managing to retire from the race any sooner, but that is exactly what he did. Rolling over the crest on the outside of Turn 2, Allmendinger put the power down sooner than he should have, the car became unbalanced, jerked to the right and into the wall, taking his total race presence for the weekend to a paltry four corners. Later, AJ was near inconsolable when interviewed, saying Roger Penske deserved better from him and that he was sorry he wasn’t able to deliver. Detroit was the final event Penske had signed him up for at the moment, but fans will hopefully see some more of AJ later in the season.
Further up the order, Will Power, starting on the outside of the front row alongside Saturday winner Mike Conway, managed to get around the Englishman before the caution period relating to Allmendinger’s accident was declared, meaning he did not have to cede the position back.
Soon after the restart, Simona De Silvestro suffered a broken steering column at Turn 8 and ploughed into the wall, bringing the caution back out and prompting a number of pit stops among the field.
The next restart saw Alex Tagliani soon become an unfortunate victim to Ed Carpenter going too hot into Turn 3, bumping the Canadian up the escape road; the Bryan Herta driver crawled back to pitlane for a new front wing.
Elsewhere, E.J. Viso also had to pit for a new wing after clipping Helio Castroneves. The debris was too much for safety crews to remove under a localised yellow flag and Pace Car was again called into action for a brief period.
After the cleanup and yet another restart, Ryan Hunter-Reay removed himself from immediate contention by crashing all by himself as he clipped the wall in Turns 8 and 9, the second hit being quite a bit harder than the first. His suspension was toast and the reigning series champ was out of the running for the time being.
Meanwhile, Race 1 winner Conway was running away with the race, which was being limited only by the ensuing carnage further back. The Dale Coyne pilot at one point opened up a 4-second lead over Will Power in the space of a couple of laps before another accident brought his rampage to a halt.
Much of the field took the chance to make pit stops, while Conway took the gamble and stayed out in the hope another caution period would soon follow. His prayers were answered soon after the next restart, with Takuma Sato sent into the wall at Turn 3 after being squeezed out by Tristan Vautier executing a passing manoeuvre up the inside of the corner. At this stage, it was the fifth caution period in the first 25 laps, proving the point that cautions can often breed more cautions.
As the rapidly dwindling field toured behind the Pace Car, Ryan Hunter-Reay was shown sitting in his car in the garage with his mechanics hastily fixing his suspension with a view to resuming his participation. The action had merit as an increasingly high haul of points towards the Drivers’ Championship was possible if he could finish the race, with many rivals falling around him.
The next restart brought yet another yellow almost immediately, with ten cars involved in a major crash at the next restart. Sebastien Bourdais tipped Will Power sideways as the field headed at speed through the narrow right-left complex at Turns 1 & 2, leading to utter carnage. Graham Rahal was also tipped into a spin, and in the ensuing mess, Ed Carpenter, Alex Tagliani, Justin Wilson and Ryan Briscoe were all caught up. James Hinchcliffe also damaged his front wing going through the mess, and Sebastian Saavedra also suffered rear suspension damage.
Power was livid as he extricated himself from his car, having to be restrained by marshals, although the Aussie still managed to throw his gloves at Bourdais as the Frenchman toured back through behind the pace car as part of a rapidly deteriorating field. Mike Conway pitted at this point and Hunter-Reay resumed with repaired suspension.
"He once was a champ, now he’s a chump," Power moaned to ESPN’s Jaime Little upon being found in the pit lane for an interview, subtly venting his frustration at the dramas of the day, blaming the double-file restarts. Elsewhere, Carpenter repaired his car and resumed in the field also.
Naturally, with so much damage to clean up, the caution lasted a long time. After a shuffle of the order due to pit stops bringing drivers out in a different order, Tony Kanaan was identified as the new leader with Conway now in eighth place behind Scott Dixon, who were both resuming after making their scheduled pit stops. Bourdais however made an unscheduled visit to the pit lane as a result of receiving a drive through penalty for causing avoidable contact.
At the eventual restart and what was thankfully the final one, Tristan Vautier, running second at the time, passed Kanaan early on for the lead. Conway proceeded to slice through the field with unbelievable ease from eighth position and was running in second within a couple of laps behind Vautier. When the young Frenchman pitted, Conway found himself back in the lead.
That left Conway to duel for the lead with James Jakes and Simon Pagenaud. After Jakes and Conway made their final pitstops, Pagenaud, who had pitted earlier and reeled off a succession of blindingly quick laps to maximise his advantage, held on to win from Jakes and Conway and become the sixth different winner in the seven races to-date this year.
Pagenaud ended last season as the man voted by many IndyCar pundits as the best driver to have not won a race in 2012. That tagline will not be a consideration this year and justifiably marked the ascension of Sam Schmidt from dominant championship winner in the Firestone Indy Lights Series to deserving race-winning team owner in the top flight championship.
With the second race at Detroit, Sam Schmidt Motorsports added their name to the list of winners for the year, which now consisted of Andretti Autosports, AJ Foyt Enterprises and KV Racing. The completion of Round 6 also saw an unusual statistic equalled in that this was the furthest point of a US open-wheel racing season in which no Penske or Ganassi driver had won a race. The last time that happened was in the opening phase of the 1978 season!
So now, all of the teams scoop up the pieces – and there were many of them – and head to Texas Motor Speedway for next Saturday’s return to super-speedway action.
2013 IndyCar Series Chevrolet Indy Dual in Detroit – Race 2 Final Classification (70 laps):
|No.||Driver||Entry / Team||Laps||Result|
|1.||Simon Pagenaud||SPH – Honda09||70||1:56:14.7861|
|2.||James Jakes||Rahal Letterman Lanigan – Honda||70||+ 5.6274|
|3.||Mike Conway||Dale Coyne Racing – Honda||70||+ 6.0616|
|4.||Scott Dixon||Chip Ganassi Racing – Honda||70||+ 21.2953|
|5.||Dario Franchitti||Chip Ganassi Racing – Honda||70||+ 23.4917|
|6.||Marco Andretti||Andretti Autosport – Chevrolet||70||+ 29.0629|
|7.||Charlie Kimball||Chip Ganassi Racing – Honda||70||+ 29.6681|
|8.||Hélio Castroneves||Team Penske – Chevrolet||70||+ 37.6446|
|9.||Graham Rahal||Rahal Letterman Lanigan – Honda||70||+ 40.5396|
|10.||Sebastián Saavedra||Dragon Racing – Chevrolet||70||+ 51.4543|
|11.||Sébastien Bourdais||Dragon Racing – Chevrolet||70||+ 1:13.1052|
|12.||Tony Kanaan||KV Racing Technology – Chevrolet||70||+ 1:14.1353|
|13.||Ryan Briscoe||Panther Racing – Chevrolet||69||+ 1 lap|
|14.||Tristan Vautier||SPH – Honda||69||+ 1 lap|
|15.||Ed Carpenter||Ed Carpenter Racing – Chevrolet||66||+ 4 laps|
|16.||Josef Newgarden||Sarah Fisher Hartman – Honda||64||+ 6 laps|
|17.||E.J. Viso||Team Venzuela – Chevrolet||61||+ 9 laps|
|18.||Ryan Hunter-Reay||Andretti Autosport – Chevrolet||59||+ 11 laps|
|19.||James Hinchcliffe||Andretti Autosport – Chevrolet||57||+ 13 laps|
|20.||Will Power||Team Penske – Chevrolet||53||+ 17 laps|
|DNF.||Alex Tagliani||Barracuda Racing – Honda||27||Collision|
|DNF.||Justin Wilson||Dale Coyne Racing – Honda||27||Collision|
|DNF.||Takuma Sato||AJ Foyt Enterprises – Honda||23||Collision|
|DNF.||Simona de Silvestro||KV Racing Technology – Chevrolet||8||Accident|
|DNF.||AJ Allmendinger||Team Penske – Chevrolet||0||Accident|