A Detroit Grand Prix 2-Fer Benefits Penske Racing’s Verizon Champ Bid
One week after Andretti Autosport served notice that it intends to capture the Verizon IndyCar Series (VICS) championship with its win utilizing a “Flood The Zone” 5-car strategy in the INDY500, Penske Racing answered back in their own 2-race Grand Prix on their own track at the Chevrolet Indy Dual in Detroit doubleheader at Belle Isle.
Andretti Autosport rolled into Detroit on a high created by winning one of motor culture’s biggest prizes ($2.5 million winner’s share) with the highest single race championship points payouts (double) for all the cars that finished – the 98th Indianapolis 500. Andretti Autosport 2012 IndyCar champion Ryan Hunter-Reay beat Penske Racing’s 3-time INDY500 champion Helio Castroneves by the second smallest margin (0.06 seconds/about 3 feet separating the end of the DHL DW12 from the trailing Pennzoil DW12) with three additional Andretti Autosport cars landing at P3-Marco Andretti (so, that’s two on the podium), P4-Carlos Munoz, and P6-Kurt Busch.
Up until about Lap 175 of 200 laps, Andretti Autosport was in contention to place all five cars fielded in the top 10 positions … that is until a wild restart crash that saw Ed Carpenter in P3, Townsend Bell P4 and James Hinchcliffe at P5 – that had Bell passing, and ahead of Carpenter, who touched Bell, while Hinchcliffe trailed into an inside position setting up an impossible 3-wide competition through Turn-1 – sending Carpenter and Hinchcliffe careening into the wall.
Ryan Hunter-Reay came to the Chevrolet Indy Dual in Detroit doubleheader at Belle Isle with a 40 point lead over his closest rival, Will Power. If this weekend were just a single race weekend event, the ability to erase this type of deficit would be nearly impossible. In fact, after the two practice sessions, the lap times the two drivers were logging (Power at P4 with a 1:17.8966 and RHR at P5 with a 1:18.1674 fastest lap) would have one guess that even with two races and double the points being awarded, this would still be a nearly impossible task.
Chevrolet Indy Dual in Detroit doubleheader at Belle Isle RACE 1:
This excerpted and edited from Crash.net –
Power overcomes poor qualifying to win
Being mired down in 16th place on the grid in Detroit proved no obstacle to Will Power in his pursuit of a second Verizon IndyCar Series race win in 2014
By crash.net – 31 May 2014
It had not been the best build-up to the first race of the Chevrolet Indy Dual in Detroit doubleheader at Belle Isle for Will Power, with Penske president Tim Cindric earlier admitting that the team was struggling to find pace in the #12 car this weekend as they qualified in a lowly 16th position.
A few hours later and the car – and driver – were transformed, thanks to tapping Power’s team mate and polewinner Helio Castroneves for set-up tips and then by adopting a race strategy that gave them a fighting chance, thanks to a healthy amount of good fortune along the way.
Castroneves held the early lead of the race despite struggling to get off the grid for the formation laps, while fellow front row man James Hinchcliffe lost an early duel with Jack Hawksworth down into turn 1. There was an early yellow on lap 5 when Power made contact with Simon Pagenaud: the Australian was distracted by a simultaneous threat to the right from Marco Andretti and ended up pinching Pagenaud into the wall which left the #77 Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsport car in the turn 4 run-off with broken suspension.
A few of the cars toward the back of the field – Power among them – opted to pit under the caution, but the leaders stayed out and the race resumed on lap 8. However there was another early caution on lap 15 when Mike Conway understeered into the wall at turn 12 – meaning that both of the 2013 race winners were early retirements this time – and the leaders found it hard to pass up the opportunity to pit under yellow a second time.
The two drivers who stayed out were Graham Rahal and Marco Andretti, who duly resumed in the lead ahead of Power and the rest of the cars that had pitted on lap 6 that included Mikhail Aleshin, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Charlie Kimball, while Castroneves found himself down to eighth just ahead of Hinchcliffe.
The pit stops cycling through had put Castroneves back out in front when a new caution materialised on lap 36 for Josef Newgarden getting into the tyre barrier and wall at turn 7. The clean-up proved longer than expected because of water that had spilled out of the tyres when they were hit, and that brought the fuel window to reach the finish tantalisingly close – several cars including Ryan Briscoe and Marco Andretti tried pitting under the yellow for fuel top-ups in case the rest of the race ended up with an excess of cautions to make an extreme fuel conservation strategy viable.
The leaders stayed off pit road under the caution only to come in shortly afterwards in accordance with their pre-arranged race strategies: Castroneves and Hinchcliffe came in on lap 46 and dropped to 15th and 16th respectively as a result, which ended up removing both from contention for the race win in the latter stages of the race.
Effectively the field was now split into three groups of differing strategies: Power led the race ahead of Tony Kanaan and Graham Rahal, all of whom needed to pit shortly and had no intention of easing off their fuel use. From sixth on down was the second group headed by Marco Andretti and Justin Wilson who were going to try and make it home on fumes; and then there were the former leaders Castroneves and Hinchcliffe who led the lack of cars who could make it to the finish but who now lacked track position.
Power came in for his final stop on lap 53 with 18 laps remaining, and a fast stop saw him re-emerge just ahead of Andretti.
The final ten laps saw Power on the ragged edge as he was forced to apply every bit of his talent to hold off Rahal to the chequered flag. Kanaan was well out of this battle and was five seconds off the pair as Power successfully clinched the win by just 0.3308s from Rahal.
“Just a great job by the team, putting me in a position to use our speed,” said Power. “It’s a massive win. It’s a massive win for me, massive win for the team and especially for Roger and for Chevy. They’ve been trying to win here for a long time and we finally did it with a Honda trying to charge by.”
“We’ve been fighting awfully hard to just finish where we have been finishing and so to finally get a result like this it means more than words,” said Rahal, who had been suffering a frustrating season up to now in 2014.
“That was hard work, very hard work,” admitted Power. “I’m very exhausted.”
Chevrolet Indy Dual in Detroit doubleheader at Belle Isle RACE 2:
This excerpted and edited from Racer –
IndyCar: Castroneves finds redemption in Belle Isle race 2
By: Robin Miller – Racer.com – Sunday, 01 June 2014
Helio Castroneves may have had the fastest car Saturday and, due to some untimely caution flags, he wound up finishing fifth while teammate Will Power came from 16th to first.
The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner definitely had the fastest car Sunday afternoon at Belle Isle and nothing could deter him from victory lane.
Starting third in the Hitachi Dallara-Chevrolet, Castroneves completed a Penske perfect weekend with a dominating drive in the second of the Chevrolet Dual at Detroit. The 39-year-old veteran took the lead on lap 35, stretched his advantage to 13 seconds and then overcame a couple of late restarts to score the 19th win of his career and tie Rick Mears for 11th on the all-time win list. He led the final 35 laps and was clearly in a class of his own.
Power, who made four pits stops and suffered a drive-through penalty for contact with Josef Newgarden on the opening lap, battled back to take second in the Verizon Dallara-Chevrolet.
Polesitter Takuma Sato led the first 10 laps in the AJ Foyt Racing Dallara-Honda but as his strategy went awry, he fell back in the pack, got spun by Ryan Briscoe, and eventually tagged the tire wall with five laps left to wind up 18th.
Mike Conway, with a first and a third at Detroit a year ago, crashed out of Saturday’s race but qualified his Ed Carpenter Racing car fourth Sunday morning. He looked like the only driver with the pace to give Castroneves fits but a long stint on fading optional tires was not the way to go, and he plummeted down the field. He finished 11th.
Indy winner Ryan Hunter-Reay suffered through a miserable weekend. He crashed in qualifying Saturday and finished 16th in the first race. He smacked the wall in almost the same place Sunday on his first flying lap, started 21st and dropped out in 19th place with ECU failure.
Best descriptive Tweet:
— Edmund Jenks (@TheEDJE)
With Penske Racing holding down the top two positions in the championship points race over Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay in P3, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ Simon Pagenaud P4, and Andretti Autosport’s Marco Andretti P5, one has to get past Andretti’s Rookie Carlos Munoz and Penske’s Juan Montoya before reaching any Target Chip Ganassi driver. Last year’s IndyCar champion Scott Dixon sits behind seven other drivers after seven races with eleven races to go … just not the right direction for Scott or Chip.
Next weekend the Verizon IndyCar Series takes the show to the high banked tri-oval turns in Fort Worth, Texas, site of the most close finishes in IndyCar where Helio Castroneves grabbed onto, and held the championship points lead until the last race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana last year.
This excerpted and edited from NBC Sports –
IndyCar title chase may shape up as a battle of mental chess match
Tony DiZinno Jun 2, 2014, 1:30 PM EDT
This weekend saw Power take on the role of the villain, the masked avenger who made contact with Pagenaud on Saturday (no penalty, just as he also did not receive one in Long Beach) but did make contact with Josef Newgarden and Graham Rahal on Sunday (which did trigger a penalty).
Meanwhile Castroneves came out revitalized with arguably his best weekend in the series in years. He’s won races with the DW12 before, yes, but not with as much “he’s still got it” pace and gusto as he delivered both races this weekend, particularly Sunday. It was a seriously impressive mental bounce back after losing out in Indy.
Power’s mind has long been hard to decipher. He’s consistently been IndyCar’s out-and-out fastest driver since he joined Team Penske, but he’s never been fully able to keep it all together over the course of the season, and hasn’t yet captured an elusive championship. This year, he’s not making any friends, and he’s not focusing on points – only on driving the best he can every race. It remains to be seen whether that mindset will ultimately pay dividends.
Hunter-Reay is arguably IndyCar’s most versatile driver, as he excels on any of road courses, short ovals and big ovals. If he has even the tiniest of weak points, it’s on street courses, where he’s been plagued either by mechanical issues or slight mistakes the last year and a half. After Indy, RHR had a weekend nearly as bad as AJ Allmendinger’s last year in Detroit, and now must find a way to recover in Texas.
Pagenaud and Dixon are similar in that they both have a seriously steely resolve and exterior, and haven’t let issues get to them this year, at least publicly. Dixon’s Sunday drive from 22nd and last to fourth was one of those classic “don’t forget how good the Iceman/defending champion is” type-performances. Pagenaud, too, came back on Sunday following a rough Friday and Saturday.
What about Castroneves? He might have the best mindset going forward. At 39, he’s closer to the end of his career than the beginning. He nails the game outside of the cockpit; he’s still IndyCar’s most recognizable star on a national level and he’s won everything he’s ever needed to in IndyCar. Except, of course, that elusive first championship.
The Brazilian is basically IndyCar’s walking, talking version of Pharrell’s “Happy!” but there’s still a burning desire to be the best when he straps his helmet on. He’s driving so much calmer, cooler and consistently than he was three years ago.
If Power and/or Hunter-Reay self-destruct around him, Dixon can’t make up the 140-plus point deficit (he’s 142 back now, and we’ll know likely by Pocono whether he still has a shot) and Pagenaud isn’t consistent enough to match the “big teams,” Castroneves may well samba into this year’s title.
Marco Andretti’s the remaining driver in the top five still with a shot at the title, but he’s at the point where he has to win – particularly at Pocono, given double points there – before you can really begin to factor him into title contention. Given his results consistency level though, you can’t rule him out of it, either.
How drivers and teams manage this summer stretch, both on-track and in their heads, will be fascinating to watch.
The season now begins in earnest … no excuses. Tune in to Twitter, RaceControl.IndyCar.com and/or NBC Sports to catch the action and assess to see who wants this championship the most:
6 JUN Friday – Practice 1
11:00 AM – 12:15 PM ET
3:00 PM – 4:30 PM ET
7:45 PM – 8:15 PM ET
7 JUN Saturday – Race
8:30 PM – 10:45 PM ET
… notes from The EDJE