Rain wreaked havoc on today's IndyCar race on the streets of Detroit.
DETROIT - Honda likes it when it rains. So does Carlos Munoz. Together they won the first Chevrolet Dual in Detroit, a wet-dry-wet-dry-wet-thunderstorming debacle of a motorsport contest on the 2.35-mile, 14-corner Belle Isle street circuit.
Calling it with 23 to go
With thunderstorms in the area and caution flags flying, the Verizon IndyCar Series officials put this so-called race out of its misery with a red flag and announcements that there was severe weather incoming.
All cars went to pit road with Munoz leading, followed by Marco Andretti and Simon Pagenaud. Munoz’ first victory celebration took place in the media center but for him, it was still a wonderful day. And one in which his Andretti Autosport team’s strategy played huge dividends as conditions changed. “Racing is racing, which is what happened with the weather. It was a great call with the strategy and a great result for the team with a 1-2 (finish),” he said.
Bittersweet end for Marco
For Marco Andretti the second place result was bittersweet as he led more laps than anyone, 23, but the third-generation driver got caught out on pit strategy, even as his teammate benefited from pit side decisions. Pitting early in the race paid off for Andretti today but his final pit stop didn’t. “At the end I really didn’t want to come in (on lap 40) but we needed to get some fuel and I knew whoever stayed out would beat me,” the third-generation racer explained.
Simon Pagenaud was the first of the Team Penske Chevrolet drivers in third praising his “team effort and I can’t thank the 22 crew enough for good strategy and a great call at any time.” He was followed by teammate Will Power in fourth and Team Target’s Scott Dixon breaking up the Penske boys in fifth. Helio Castroneves’ Chevy, Hawksworth’s Honda, Newgarden’s Chevy, Filippi’s Chevy and the Chevy Montoya rounding out the top 10, nine of them completing 47 laps today.
The race fittingly began under caution (with the start waved off) and ended the same way, with seven yellow periods overall. The first true yellow came on the third lap when Rodolfo Gonzalez spun at the exit of Turn 2 from the rear of the field. By that point Takuma Sato, whose Honda started from fourth had passed all three cars in front of him (Power, Castroneves and Montoya) and would hold the point for 12 laps.
On the sixth lap Tony Kanaan spun his Taylor Swift-liveried Chevrolet after contact with James Jakes’ Honda in the first turn and collected the Honda of Graham Rahal in the process; Rahal would fail to finish; Kanaan was the final runner in 20th place. The field went green again on the 12th lap as skies and the track became dry and pit stops began on the 14th lap when Andretti would take the point, which he held for a total of 23 laps.
Caution flew once more on the 21st lap for debris between Turns 2 and 3; Sato sustained front wing damage after contact with the Chevy of Josef Newgarden, leaving Andretti, Jack Hawksworth, Luca Filippi, Stefano Coletti and Ryan Hunter-Reay as the leaders. No sooner did this contest go green on the 24th lap than it fell to yellow again on lap 26, again for debris on the front stretch. Green again on lap 29, caution two laps later, again for debris.
Andretti cars push it
There was no rhythm to this thing at all and, while there was a good green-flag run starting with lap 34, soon afterwards Andretti would slow on-course as reports of rain came though. As others pitted for wet tires, Andretti regained the lead on lap 37 but pitted three laps later for wets, handing the lead to Munoz on lap 42.
That would be that as caution flew for lightning in the area on the 46th lap. The race shortly afterwards went red when Luca Filippi slammed hard into the Turn 1 tire barrier. He was fine and retained ninth finishing spot.
And the Verizon IndyCar Series sure can’t catch a break at all, can it? The only guys that seem happy at this point are Munoz, who scored his first victory and Juan Pablo Montoya - both Colombians, by the way - who are the series’ two latest winners.
Perhaps some sunshine on Sunday might enable the Indy cars to put on a suitable contest.