Will Power and Hélio Castroneves have both brought home the bacon for Roger Penske in his eponymous team’s ‘home’ race, with both taking wins in the Chevrolet Indy Dual in Detroit double-header on the bumpy streets of Belle Isle Park.
In doing so, Power took a massive bite out of Ryan Hunter-Reay’s new championship lead following the high that was the American’s Indy 500 win one week earlier. The Florida native’s weekend was an absolute horror show, crashing in both qualifying sessions and in the first race, while the second saw him running out of fuel and then suffering further electrical gremlins with the ECU system. The result saw a 40-point lead in the Drivers’ Championship quickly turn into a 27-point deficit, bringing him back to earth with a rocking thud.
Race 1: Power fends off Rahal for victory
Power survived a late race duel with a resurgent Graham Rahal to claim the win. It is unclear whether Bobby’s young charge received a tap on the shoulder or not, however from the green flag, Rahal was hooked up, ready to pass plenty of cars and just showed a fire that has been missing in recent months, stretching back into last season.
The National Guard car and its driver looked racey, hungry and well set-up, and it showed as Rahal successfully executed a series of passes in the right place at the right time.
Right to the final corner, Power was kept honest by the Rahal Letterman Lanigan driver, who on more than one occasion looked set to make the most important overtake of his day, for the lead. Both had left Tony Kanaan, running in third place, in their wake and displayed their dominance. At times, Power pulled ahead by about half a second before seeing Rahal close right back up again.
The first two drivers to retire from the race were, incidentally, the two winners from last year’s double header. From the start, the friendship between Simon Pagenaud and Will Power – splintered in Long Beach – took another hit as the Aussie appeared to squeeze the Frenchman out at the start of the back straight. To Power’s credit, Pagenaud also showed an overambitious attitude with a move that could have been timed better, and the Frenchman suffered suspension damage as a result which ended his day and brought out the first full-course caution.
A few laps after the resumption, Mike Conway outbraked himself into Turn 12 and grazed the wall, ending a disappointing week for Ed Carpenter Racing. Up front early on was Castroneves, whose own progress was only stymied by his pit strategy and the timing of the yellow flag caution periods.
The same could be said for Ryan Briscoe, who took the final restart in the lead although didn’t have the fuel to make it to the end, forcing a late pit stop and eventually coming home in fifteenth place and a lesson learned to put right in Sunday’s race.
The racing was ferocious through the field, with every driver pushing their car across the surface changes that made up the Belle Isle layout. Onboard camera footage showed the bumpy track surface threaten to derail more than one afternoon, with plenty of sliding going on throughout the field. Mikhail Aleshin became the first Russian driver to lead a lap in the IndyCar Series as he opted not to pit with the rest of the field during one of the caution periods.
Luck was also on Rahal’s side in a rare change as he pitted just before a late race caution involving Josef Newgarden, who failed to negotiate Turn 8 and hit the wall.
Mikhail Aleshin, Jack Hawksworth and elsewhere, Ryan Hunter-Reay all got a little overzealous with overtaking efforts on the final lap and ended up in the tyre barriers, betting everything on the final spin of the day and losing the lot.
It allowed Power to maximise his points position and cut Hunter-Reay’s points lead down to three, heading into the second 70-lap event again the next day.
2014 IndyCar Series Dual in Detroit – Race 1 Result (70 laps):
|Driver||Team / Entry||Result|
|1.||Will Power||Team Penske Chevrolet||1:49:29.932|
|2.||Graham Rahal||Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda||+ 0.331|
|3.||Tony Kanaan||Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet||+ 5.510|
|4.||Justin Wilson||Dale Coyne Racing Honda||+ 8.595|
|5.||Hélio Castroneves||Team Penske Chevrolet||+ 10.737|
|6.||James Hinchcliffe||Andretti Autosport Honda||+ 11.507|
|7.||Carlos Muñoz||Andretti Autosport Honda||+ 14.881|
|8.||Carlos Huertas||Dale Coyne Racing Honda||+ 26.597|
|9.||Charlie Kimball||Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet||+ 32.585|
|10.||Marco Andretti||Andretti Autosport Honda||+ 33.182|
|11.||Scott Dixon||Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet||+ 33.352|
|12.||Juan Pablo Montoya||Team Penske Chevrolet||+ 34.009|
|13.||Sébastien Bourdais||KV Racing Technology Honda||+ 36.024|
|14.||Sebastián Saavedra||KV Racing Technology / AFS Racing Honda||+ 37.053|
|15.||Ryan Briscoe||Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet||+ 56.663|
|16.||Ryan Hunter-Reay||Andretti Autosport Honda||+ 1 lap|
|17.||Mikhail Aleshin||Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports Honda||+ 2 laps|
|18.||Takuma Sato||A.J. Foyt Enterprises Honda||+ 4 laps|
|19.||Jack Hawksworth||Bryan Herta Autosport Honda||+ 5 laps|
|DNF.||Josef Newgarden||Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Honda||36 laps|
|DNF.||Mike Conway||Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet||14 laps|
|DNF.||Simon Pagenaud||Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports Honda||4 laps|
Race 2: A 1-2 for Team Penske
Sunday morning saw Takuma Sato as the fastest man in the field in qualifying, lining up on the front row alongside James Hinchcliffe. Joining Hunter-Reay on the last row was Scott Dixon, who also made contact with the wall on his fast lap to give himself everything to do that afternoon.
The first start was waved off due to an improper formation, which was interesting because when the field came around again for a second attempt, the field actually appeared to be lined up worse than the first time, but alas, the green flag was waved and we were underway.
Right from the start, it was clear Will Power was in a hurry, as he made a rather crazy lunge up the inside of as many people as he could into Turn 3. Rounding the corner, Power’s momentum saw him jump the kerb while trying to hold a tight line, which saw him punt the luckless Josef Newgarden, who was many positions ahead, into the tyre wall. Two more cars who were on the outside of the corner – Graham Rahal and Justin Wilson – had nowhere to go and were caught up in the chaos.
Charlie Kimball nearly got caught himself but managed to avoid it by running down the escape road, spinning around and resuming without contact. For his over-enthusiasm, Power was penalised with a slow drive down pit lane once the green flag flew once more following the clean-up.
The first round of pit stops came a little later after Sebastián Saavedra exited the race after damaging his suspension on exit of Turn 7.
Hélio Castroneves, running in second at the time, managed to leap Takuma Sato out of the pits to take the lead. Sato remained in the upper end of the field for much of the day until crashing near to the end by out-braking himself and hitting the tyres in Turn 6, perhaps with a little bit of assistance from Marco Andretti.
Mike Conway and Simon Pagenaud, two drivers who suffered early exits in Race 1, were out to make amends by running strongly. At one point, Conway was climbing all over the back of James Hinchcliffe, who was leading at the time, and eventually managed to get past. A few laps later, his progress was affected by a bad flat-spot on his left front tyre which forced a pit stop to replace it. As this was made under green flag conditions, it pushed him down the field, where he eventually finished in eleventh place.
After starting in last place, Scott Dixon was making inroads through the field through excellent strategy and slick pit stops from the Target Chip Ganassi crew, while also benefiting from the retirements of others. After a fantastic battle on the closing laps with Hinchcliffe, who was trying to claim a podium place from the Kiwi driver, Dixon was unfortunate to miss out courtesy of a super defensive move which allowed fifth-placed Charlie Kimball to sneak past both into third place, while ‘Hinch’ lightly grazed the tyre wall but continued unabated.
Up front however, Penske duo Hélio Castroneves and Will Power had maximised their day to see themselves running first and second once the caution caused by Sato’s adventure into the tyres had been cleared.
From the restart, Castroneves put his foot down in a big way, eager to dominate the final laps as he opened up a multi-second gap to Power, who was left almost in a cloud of dust floundering in second. Castroneves took the victory. It was his third at Belle Isle and the scene of his first career victory fourteen years prior – a win which saw the birth of his famous fence-climbing post-victory antics.
Along with his team, the three-time Indy 500 winner scaled the fencing once again to toast his win, praising his car and clearly overjoyed to be able to help deliver the double for ‘The Captain’ in Motor City.
There’s no rest for the teams and drivers for another week, as this coming weekend will see battle waged on the ultra-high speed 1.5-mile oval at Texas Motor Speedway. Ryan Hunter-Reay will be eager to make amends for his disastrous Detroit showing, while the reinvigorated Castroneves will be keen to ride the momentum to hopefully another win to kickstart his 2014 championship challenge into gear.
2014 IndyCar Series Dual in Detroit – Race 2 Result (70 laps):
|Driver||Team / Entry||Result|
|1.||Hélio Castroneves||Team Penske Chevrolet||1:45:53.341|
|2.||Will Power||Team Penske Chevrolet||+ 1.684|
|3.||Charlie Kimball||Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet||+ 2.975|
|4.||Scott Dixon||Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet||+ 3.429|
|5.||James Hinchcliffe||Andretti Autosport Honda||+ 4.653|
|6.||Simon Pagenaud||Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports Honda||+ 4.989|
|7.||Mikhail Aleshin||Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports Honda||+ 5.528|
|8.||Carlos Muñoz||Andretti Autosport Honda||+ 5.691|
|9.||Tony Kanaan||Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet||+ 6.250|
|10.||Ryan Briscoe||Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet||+ 6.592|
|11.||Mike Conway||Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet||+ 7.111|
|12.||Justin Wilson||Dale Coyne Racing Honda||+ 7.282|
|13.||Juan Pablo Montoya||Team Penske Chevrolet||+ 7.965|
|14.||Jack Hawksworth||Bryan Herta Autosport Honda||+ 8.772|
|15.||Carlos Huertas||Dale Coyne Racing Honda||+ 9.291|
|16.||Marco Andretti||Andretti Autosport Honda||+ 27.246|
|17.||Josef Newgarden||Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Honda||+ 1 lap|
|18.||Takuma Sato||A.J. Foyt Enterprises Honda||+ 1 lap|
|DNF.||Ryan Hunter-Reay||Andretti Autosport Honda||61 laps|
|DNF.||Sébastien Bourdais||KV Racing Technology Honda||58 laps|
|DNF.||Graham Rahal||Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda||43 laps|
|DNF.||Sebastián Saavedra||KV Racing Technology / AFS Racing Honda||9 laps|
Images via Motorsport.com