BY JIM MILLER WEEKLY INDYCAR WRITER
The Verizon IndyCar Series followed up on what has been touted as the single largest attended sporting event in the history of the world by running two races at the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit presented by Quicken Loans on the 2.35-mile temporary street course at Belle Isle Park just outside of downtown Detroit.
The first race on Saturday found Simon Pagenaud (No. 22 Hewlett Packard Enterprise Chevrolet, Team Penske) starting from the pole, and at the halfway mark Team Penske drivers had led every lap and were running in the top four positions with 35 laps to go. How could they lose? Don’t ask Sebastien Bourdais. Even though he won the race he couldn’t explain it.
“We just ran like stink most of the race and it worked out, so I couldn’t be any happier for Chevrolet and Hydroxycut today,” Bourdais said after the race.
Starting 13th in the No. 11 Team Hydroxycut – KVSH Racing Chevrolet, Bourdais fell as low as 19th after pitting early to change to the black-sidewall Firestone primary tires most drivers preferred in the race. He charged to fourth by Lap 32 but didn’t take the race lead until Lap 55 when reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet) made his final pit stop but had difficulties getting back up to speed.
Bourdais, the four-time Indy car season champion, won by 2.0401 seconds over Conor Daly (Dale Coyne Racing). Montoya finished third in the No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, his best result since winning the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in March.
It was Bourdais’s 35th career victory, tying him with Bobby Unser for sixth on the all-time list.
The second race of the weekend on Sunday again found Simon Pagenaud on the pole. This after Will Power, who had the pole winning times, was penalized for interference which moved him to a starting position of 8th.
It didn’t matter as Power claimed the win for his 26th Indy car victory. Driving the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet Power finished 0.9203 of a second ahead of teammate Simon Pagenaud after 70 laps on this difficult course.
Several drivers found the day frustrating from the start. On Lap 1 a chain-reaction set off by Charlie Kimball (No. 83 Tresiba Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing) seeking a line into Turn 1 forced Carlos Munoz (No. 26 Magneti Marelli Honda, Andretti Autosport) over squeezing James Hinchcliffe (No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Honda) into the wall, collecting Max Chilton (No. 8 Gallagher Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet). Neither would return, but the No. 14 of Takuma Sato (ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Honda) and the No. 27 of Marco Andretti (United Fiber & Data Andretti Autosport Honda) who were also involved managed to continue.
On Lap 23 in the annually problematic Turn 7 Juan Pablo Montoya (No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet), who had been climbing through the field, made contact with Scott Dixon cutting Dixon’s right rear tire and damaging his own front wing.
Montoya’s day ended after hitting the wall at the exit of Turn 8 following his second pit stop on Lap 34, continued on, only to spin into the barrier at Turn 10. Montoya wound up in 20th, while Dixon was able to climb to a fifth-place finish.
Power took the lead on late pit stops by the top four cars, and with Pagenaud chasing him down, he finished flawlessly for his first win since the 2015 Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis. Pagenaud finished runner-up, followed by the No. 28 DHL Honda of Ryan Hunter-Reay.
“Man, it’s been a long time, I needed this,” said Power, whose 26th career win ties Rodger Ward for 14th on the all-time win list in IndyCar.
Pagenaud retains his championship lead at the halfway mark of the Verizon IndyCar Series schedule. Unofficially, he has tallied 357 points and holds an 80-point advantage over Scott Dixon.
The Series now heads to Texas Motor Speedway for the Firestone 600. The race will be broadcast on NBCSN starting at 7 p.m. Central, Saturday, June 11.