• 8:09 pm
  • Wednesday
  • September 22, 2021

O’Ward Takes Series Lead with Long Drive to Victory in Detroit Thriller

DETROIT (INM) – Pato O’Ward took the NTT INDYCAR SERIES points lead with a drive full of championship-caliber mettle, passing Josef Newgarden with three laps remaining to win the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit Race 2 on Sunday at Belle Isle Park.

O’Ward, 22, became the first two-time winner this season in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES after the first seven races opened with different winners. He also won the XPEL 375 on May 2 at Texas Motor Speedway.

Mexican driver O’Ward, who started 16th, powered away from two-time series champion Newgarden’s No. 2 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet after the decisive pass in his No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet and drove to victory by 6.7595 seconds. He leads the championship by one point over Alex Palou, who finished third in the No. 10 The American Legion Honda.

O’Ward dedicated his win to teammate Felix Rosenqvist, forced to sit out this race due to a heavy crash in Race 1 Saturday, and longtime McLaren Racing shareholder Mansour Ojjeh, who died June 6.

“I talked to Felix this morning, and the important thing is that he’s OK, but I told him, ‘I’m going to win it for you,’” O’Ward said. “So, this is for him and for Mansour.”

Colton Herta finished fourth in the No. 26 Gainbridge Honda. Graham Rahal placed fifth in the No. 15 United Rentals Honda – identical to his finish Saturday in Race 1.

Detroit Race 1 winner Marcus Ericsson finished ninth in the No. 8 Huski Chocolate Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, slowed by contact with Rinus VeeKay’s No. 21 Sonax/Autogeek Chevrolet in a duel for position on Lap 15.

O’Ward’s charge to the front was breathtaking from the 16th starting position. He passed six cars and jumped to 10th in the opening five laps while racing on the Firestone alternate “red” tires.

But the charismatic O’Ward saved his best maneuvers for last.

Romain Grosjean stopped on course with a small fire in his left front brake on Lap 59, triggering the last of three full-course cautions in the race. On the restart on Lap 63, O’Ward was fifth behind Newgarden, Herta, Palou and Rahal.

But O’Ward dove under Rahal in Turn 1 for fourth and then devoured Palou and Herta for second place with defiant, but clean, maneuvers on the same lap.

Then O’Ward set sail for Newgarden while keeping his eye on his mirrors for Herta’s pressure from behind. Herta locked up trying to pass O’Ward for second with three laps to go, effectively ending his chances for victory.

O’Ward then dove under Newgarden in Turn 7 on Lap 68 for the lead and drove away to glory. Newgarden led 67 of the first 70 laps, with O’Ward pacing the final three trips around the 14-turn, 2.35-mile temporary street circuit.

“He was coming like a freight train,” Newgarden said. “What are you going to do? I just couldn’t do anything. I had so much wheelspin. My rear tires were just shot to death on the last 10 laps. Just trying to be aggressive, and the restarts don’t help you. None of it played into our favor, especially the first caution.”

The race began with NTT P1 Award winner Newgarden as just one of three drivers in the 25-car field to start on Firestone primary “black” tires, joining teammate Will Power in the No. 12 Verizon 5G Team Penske Chevrolet and James Hinchcliffe in the No. 29 Genesys Honda.

That strategy choice forced Newgarden to stretch his first stint on the harder, more durable primary tires as long as possible, while most of the drivers who started on the Firestone alternate “red” tires pitted during the caution created on Lap 1 when Max Chilton’s No. 59 Carlin Chevrolet collided with the back of Hinchcliffe’s car in tight traffic.

Newgarden’s lead built to more than 12 seconds before he pitted on Lap 20 for another set of primary tires. He wanted to run longer to reduce the number of laps on the grippier but less-durable alternate tires late in the race. INDYCAR rules mandate that every driver uses the primary and alternate tires in road and street-course races.

But it was uncertain whether the stalled No. 4 K-Line Insulators/AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet of Dalton Kellett could be removed from the track without a full-course caution, and Newgarden didn’t want to lose track position pitting under yellow. So, he pitted even though Kellett’s car later was cleared without a full-course caution.

“None of this played into our favor, especially the first caution,” Newgarden said. “We had to pit because we weren’t sure if they were going to go full-course caution, and if we don’t pit, we get completely hosed. So, we had to put an extra seven, eight 10 laps on the (alternate) tires that we didn’t want to. It would have been a lot easier if we kept it cleaner, and that was our plan. But it just didn’t work our way.”

Newgarden built a lead of nearly 10 seconds over Herta during his second stint, also on Firestone primary tires, before pitting for slightly used Firestone alternate tires on his last stop, on Lap 46.

That lead was reduced to 4.3 seconds after Newgarden’s final pit stop, and Herta sliced that gap to .364 of a second on Lap 52 before Jimmie Johnson slid through Turn 1 in his No. 48 Carvana Chip Ganassi Racing Honda on Lap 54, triggering the second full-course caution and packing the field behind Newgarden for a restart.

“It’s hard not to be disappointed,” Newgarden said. “I think we had the car to beat. Cautions at the end, wrong tires at the end. It was a fun strategy. I think we were doing well. It was just the caution that killed us. My rears were shot, and I didn’t really need that. We tried.”

The next race is the REV Group Grand Prix presented by AMR on Sunday, June 20 at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, with live coverage starting at noon (ET) on NBCSN and the INDYCAR Radio Network. On-track action starts with practice at 5:15 p.m. Friday, June 18, streamed live on Peacock.

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Chevrolet Dual in Detroit Race 2 Results

DETROIT (INM) – Results Sunday of the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit Race 2 NTT INDYCAR SERIES event on the 2.35-mile Raceway at Belle Isle Park, with order of finish, starting position in parentheses, driver, chassis-engine, laps completed and reason out (if any):

Race Statistics
Winner’s average speed: 97.227 mph
Time of race: 1:41:30.8814
Margin of victory: 6.7595 seconds
Cautions: 3 for 11 laps
Lead changes: 1 among 2 drivers

Lap Leaders:
Newgarden 1 – 67
O’Ward 68 – 70

NTT INDYCAR SERIES point standings:
O’Ward 299
Palou 298
Dixon 263
Newgarden 248
Pagenaud 243
VeeKay 243
Ericsson 211
Rahal 209
Herta 202
Sato 181

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Chevrolet Dual in Detroit Race 2 Qualifying Results

DETROIT (INM) – Qualifying Sunday for the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit Race 2 NTT INDYCAR SERIES event on the 2.35-mile Raceway at Belle Isle Park, with qualifying position, car number in parentheses, driver, chassis-engine, time and speed in parentheses:

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Ericsson Earns First Career Victory in Wild Race 1 of Chevrolet Dual in Detroit

DETROIT (INM) – In one of the most unpredictable NTT INDYCAR SERIES seasons ever, Marcus Ericsson pulled off one of the more improbable victories in recent memory in Race 1 of the Chevrolet Dual at Detroit to earn his first career series victory.

Ericsson held off Rinus VeeKay and Pato O’Ward in a three-lap dash to the checkered flag after the second red flag of the event. Ericsson was in second place in the No. 8 Huski Chocolate Chip Ganassi Racing Honda when cars entered pit road for the red-flag period caused when Romain Grosjean crashed in the No. 51 NURTEC ODT Honda with six laps to go.

But Ericsson took the lead on pit lane when the No. 12 Verizon 5G Team Penske Chevrolet of leader Will Power would not restart after the red flag period on a humid, sunny day with an air temperature of 80 degrees. That apparent electrical control unit malfunction completed Ericsson’s charge from a disappointing 15th starting position, as the last five laps of the race – including two under caution – were the only circuits Ericsson led all day.

Swedish driver Ericsson pulled away from VeeKay’s No. 21 Sonax/Autogeek Chevrolet over the closing three laps under green of the 70-lap race, winning by 1.7290 seconds at an average speed of 93.509 mph. NTT P1 Award winner O’Ward was third in the No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet, 1.9105 seconds behind Ericsson.

“For once, things fell my way,” Ericsson said. “It feels really good. For Will, I feel really bad for him with the way it ended for him. He did a tremendous job today. But it was my day today, and it was about time.”

Live coverage of Race 2 of this doubleheader weekend, another 70-lap event, starts at noon (ET) Sunday on NBC and the INDYCAR Radio Network. NTT P1 Award qualifying for Race 2 is set for 9 a.m. and will be broadcast on NBCSN, Peacock and the INDYCAR Radio Network.

Ericsson’s first career win came in his 37th career start over three seasons. His previous best finish was second at this same 14-turn, 2.35-mile temporary street circuit in 2019.

Formula One veteran Ericsson also became the seventh different winner in the first seven races this season, a feat last achieved in 2017 and a milestone reached only in five prior seasons in the series’ century-long history. He is the fourth first-time career winner in 2021, joining Alex Palou, O’Ward and VeeKay.

Takuma Sato finished fourth in the No. 30 Panasonic/Mi-Jack Honda, while Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing teammate Graham Rahal rounded out the top five in the No. 15 Fifth Third Bank Honda.

Power and Ericsson were the dominant drivers in the closing stages of the race. Less than a second separated them once Power took the top spot on Lap 54 when leaders Rahal and RLL teammate Santino Ferrucci – on a different pit stop cycle – pitted on Lap 53.

A hotly anticipated closing duel between 2014 series champion and 39-time INDYCAR SERIES race winner Power and Ericsson vanished when Grosjean hit the wall in Turn 9 on Lap 64. Series officials decided to halt the race under red-flag conditions, with all cars entering the pits. After a break of seven minutes, 29 seconds, the race resumed – without Power at the front of the field.

His ECU apparently malfunctioned, and his Team Penske crew could not start the car. The crew quickly installed a new ECU, and a dejected Power returned to the track and finished 20th, three laps down.

Before the late-race drama, the event quickly unfolded into a strategic duel with two clear paths.

One group of drivers pitted within the first five laps to shed the grippy Firestone alternate “red” tires for the increased durability of the Firestone primary “black” tires, choosing a three-stop strategy. O’Ward and VeeKay were among the drivers to choose this option.

The other group of drivers elected to start and stay on the Firestone reds for as long as possible before switching to their primary tires. Ericsson, Power and Sato were among the drivers who chose this option.

Then there was reigning and six-time series champion Scott Dixon and James Hinchcliffe. They were among just four of the 25 drivers who elected to start on primary tires, and they stayed out as long as possible to stretch fuel and tire wear into a two-stop race.

But that strategy – and those of the drivers who pitted early to make this a three-stop race — sailed into the Detroit River when Felix Rosenqvist crashed heavily in Turn 6 on Lap 25. The throttle on Rosenqvist’s No. 7 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet appeared to stick open, and he made heavy contact with the tire barrier and concrete barrier.

Rosenqvist’s No. 7 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet speared nose-first into the tire wall and concrete barrier in Turn 6, with an apparent stuck throttle. Rosenqvist was removed from the car by the AMR INDYCAR Safety Team, and he was transported to the infield care center for preliminary evaluation and then transported to a local hospital for more detailed evaluation, according to INDYCAR Medical Director Dr. Geoffrey Billows. Rosenqvist was conscious, alert and talking throughout, Billows said.

The heavy impact forced the race to be stopped with a red flag while Rosenqvist was removed from his car and the concrete barrier and tire wall were rebuilt.

Racing resumed after a red-flag delay of one hour, 18 minutes. Dixon and Hinchcliffe had to make their first pit stops for fuel immediately, and many drivers who pitted early to switch to primary tires also dove into the pits under yellow for fuel and tires.

That reshuffling placed Power, Ericsson and Sato into the top three on the restart on Lap 30 after the red flag. VeeKay quickly passed Sato for third and joined Power and Ericsson in a three-way joust for the lead by Lap 36.

It was a tough day for the top two drivers in the standings entering this race, Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Palou and Dixon. Palou finished 15th after starting last in the 25-car field in the No. 10 The American Legion Honda, while Dixon ended up eighth in the No. 9 PNC Bank Grow Up Great Honda.

Palou led Dixon by 36 points entering this event, but that lead was sliced to just 15 over O’Ward, who leaped over Dixon into second. Palou has 263 points, O’Ward 248 and Dixon 237. VeeKay is fourth with 231.

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Chevrolet Dual in Detroit Race 1 Results

DETROIT (INM) – Results Saturday of the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit Race 1 NTT INDYCAR SERIES event on the 2.35 mile Streets of Belle Isle, with order of finish, starting position in parentheses, driver, chassis-engine, laps completed and reason out (if any):

NTT INDYCAR SERIES point standings:
Palou 263
O’Ward 248
Dixon 237
VeeKay 231
Pagenaud 219
Newgarden 204
Ericsson 189
Rahal 179
Herta 170
Sato 163

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Five Things To Watch at Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix

INDIANAPOLIS (INM) – The NTT INDYCAR SERIES gets back to the business of speed this week with the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit doubleheader Saturday and Sunday, the marquee races of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear at The Raceway at Belle Isle Park.

Twenty-five car-and-driver combinations will return to the 14-turn, 2.35-mile street course with Friday’s 75-minute practice (5 p.m. ET on NBC’s streaming service, Peacock Premium). The Chevrolet Dual in Detroit features 70-lap races Saturday (2 p.m. ET) and Sunday (noon), with NBC having the television broadcasts and the INDYCAR Radio Network feeding its affiliates, SiriusXM, INDYCAR.com and the INDYCAR Mobile App powered by NTT DATA.

Competitors certainly will be raring to go as it will have been 12 days since the 105th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Helio Castroneves, who won “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” on May 30 and is a three-time Detroit race winner, is not one of the competitors as this is not one of the six races he is scheduled to drive for Meyer Shank Racing this season. But this field is nonetheless stacked, with seven drivers who have won the event, including four with multiple wins. Reigning series champion Scott Dixon of Chip Ganassi Racing (No. 9 PNC Bank Grow Up Great Honda) has won three times, led by the most recent race in 2019. The 2020 event was not held amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fans will return en masse, and all tickets for Friday’s Comerica Bank Free Prix Day have been claimed. A limited number of reserved grandstand tickets are available for Saturday and Sunday. Indy Lights will stage 50-minute races each weekend day.

As is typically the case following the “500,” there are storylines aplenty. Consider these five:

Back to a Road-Racing Field

Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Carvana Chip Ganassi Racing Honda) and Formula One veteran Romain Grosjean (No. 51 NURTEC ODT Honda of Dale Coyne Racing with RWR) return after skipping Indy. Tony Kanaan of the Ganassi team and rookie Pietro Fittipaldi of the Coyne team drove their cars at IMS, finishing 10th and 25th, respectively.

Santino Ferrucci, who finished sixth in the “500” for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, gets the opportunity to continue his INDYCAR season by driving the team’s No. 45 Hy-Vee Honda. Ferrucci had a top-10 Detroit finish in one of the 2019 races as a series rookie.

The rest of this field is a continuation of the season-long entry list. Second-year driver Alex Palou (No. 10 The American Legion Honda of Chip Ganassi Racing) is the series leader by 36 points over Dixon, his teammate. However, Palou will be serving a six-position grid penalty in this weekend’s first race for an unapproved engine change following the Carb Day practice at IMS. This also will be Palou’s first race at the circuit, so he will need to get acclimated quickly.

“I’ve been preparing a lot on the sim – just for myself, not setup-related,” Palou said. “I’ve been doing it at home just because it’s super important on a street course to really know the bumps, to really get some references.”

Different Races, Different Winners

This remains one of the most balanced fields in history, with six drivers representing five teams winning the season’s first six races. The last time the series opened with seven different winners was in 2017, and before that it happened in 1958 and 2000.

There is a reasonably good chance of there being a first-time season winner as Team Penske has not won yet. Will Power (No. 12 Verizon 5G Team Penske Chevrolet) has two Detroit wins while Simon Pagenaud (No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet) and Josef Newgarden (No. 2 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet) are also former Detroit race winners. Newgarden won the opening race of the 2019 weekend at Belle Isle Park while Pagenaud won for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports in 2013.

Four-time INDYCAR SERIES champion Sebastien Bourdais (No. 14 ROKiT AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet) is a two-time Detroit winner – both wins came with Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan – and Graham Rahal (No. 15 Fifth Third Bank Honda of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing) is the only INDYCAR driver to have swept a Detroit weekend (in 2017). Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay (No. 28 DHL Honda) is the other former Detroit winner in this field. He won in 2018.

Chevrolet wants to fare better on its home turf as Honda-powered cars have won five of the past six NTT P1 Awards and races. Bourdais said “Bowtie” teams put extra emphasis on this event.

“There’s Indy and there’s Detroit – that’s the list of priorities,” he said. “For sure, everybody gets the message.”

 

Who Most Needs a Win?

Quite simply, many drivers do, and the list begins with former series champions Power (2014) and Hunter-Reay (2012) who are 12th and 17th, respectively, in the standings.

“I know the potential is there, we just need to execute,” said Hunter-Reay, who has finished on the podium four times in the event. “We need to come out swinging right from the start, roll the car off the truck within the neighborhood on the setup that we think we like.”

Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi (No. 27 AutoNation/NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda) is another driver who had designs on winning the championship this season, and he stands a disappointing 15th in the standings as the season nears its midpoint.

Other former race winners who have not yet won this season: Newgarden, Felix Rosenqvist (No. 7 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet), Bourdais, Rahal, Pagenaud, James Hinchcliffe (No. 29 Genesys Honda of Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport) and Takuma Sato (No. 30 Panasonic/Mi-Jack Honda of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing).

A Twist to Qualifying Format

With this weekend being a street course doubleheader, slight modifications have been made to the NTT P1 Award qualifying procedures. In short, each day will feature an abbreviated knockout format.

In Segment One, the field will be divided into two groups based on Friday’s practice times, with the fastest driver choosing his groups with the “odds” joining him and the “evens” in the other group. Group 1 and Group 2 will each receive a 10-minute qualifying session, with the clock running during red-flag conditions. The fastest six cars from each group will advance to Segment Two, known as the Firestone Fast 12. Those not advancing determine starting positions 13 through 25 based on time.

In Segment Two, all 12 cars will have their first segment times voided. Qualifying will span 10 minutes, with a minimum of five minutes of guaranteed green-flag time. Drivers will start that day’s race ranked first through 12th based on their best lap time from this segment.

All cars will be impounded by INDYCAR after completing their final run.

“We have two races, but for all intents and purposes when you actually get on track to practice and qualify, it ends up being very, very rushed and very segmented,” Hunter-Reay said. “So, you need to make the most of every lap on track.”

Saturday’s qualifying session begins at 11 a.m. ET, with Sunday’s at 9:15 a.m. ET. Both sessions will air live on the NBC Sports Network and Peacock.

An ‘Exceptionally’ Physical Weekend

There isn’t a better way to say this: The physical demands on the drivers – and their crews, for that matter – are steep in an event with races on consecutive days in June.

Weekend temperatures on the island in the Detroit River are expected to be in the upper 80s with sunshine aplenty.

This street circuit is also one of the season’s most demanding with its bumps and turns. The relative shortness of the straightaways provides precious little time for these athletes to catch their breath.

“Yeah, it’s never really a fun last 10, 15 laps of those races, then doing it twice in a weekend,” Bourdais said. “I think that dehydration level is going to be tough.”

Said Rahal, “I do think it’s going to be an exceptionally physical weekend.”

Add in the fact both weekend days will have qualifying and 70-lap races within hours of each other, which creates a short turnaround for all involved. Damage from contact with the looming walls will not only lead to bruises, it could be a hindrance for the next day.

Teams must be on point. Those who fare the best in that regard likely will be the ones celebrating at the historic Scott Fountain.

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