Carlos Munoz took his first ever Verizon IndyCar Series win in race one and Sebastien Bourdais took his 33rd in race two as IndyCar hit the streets of Detroit for a double-header.
In the first race, Andretti Autosport’s Munoz became another of a growing list of race winners born in the 1990s and he is the second first time winner this season following a win for Josef Newgarden.
He may feel slightly cheated however, as the race – on the Belle Isle Street Circuit – was red flagged after just 47 laps of the 70 scheduled to run because of the extreme weather conditions which also affected the TUSCC race held on the same day.
He also may be quite fortunate that he made his decisive when he did – on lap 40 – after his team mate Marco Andretti pitted from first place for fuel and Firestone rain tyres, Munoz assumed the lead and built up a 26 second lead before he pitted two laps later.
“I wanted to win 100 percent and with all the laps,” said Munoz, who has joined a notable list including Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud as drivers who claimed their first IndyCar victory at Belle Isle. “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). I had the fuel to go laps longer. I wanted to get my first win by doing all the laps, but I’m really happy for my team.”
For Andretti he must be feeling slightly aggrieved at having to finish second having led 23 laps of the race. However, he did manage to achieve a 1-2 for the team – a second of the year for Honda – and gain vital points.
He said: “Strategy started very early in the race. We were running eighth and we had a bunch of strong guys in the front so it seemed like a no-brainer to pit for Firestone primary tires on Lap 9 as long as I could keep it off the fence, which we were able to do.
“At the end I really didn’t want to come in, but we needed to get some fuel, and I knew whoever stayed out would beat me. It was good for an Andretti Autosport 1-2.”
Rounding out the podium for the first time in his new Team Penske machine was Simon Pagenaud who timed his final pit stop for rain tyres perfectly and leaped up to third place.
Also in the mix as the race got red flagged were Will Power and Scott Dixon who finished fourth and fifth respectively.
The second race of the weekend at Belle Isle also got red flagged but this time with 65 laps run. Arguably it was a lot more annoying for the fans than the stoppage the day previous as eventual winner Bourdais was having a titanic battle with Takuma Sato for the lead.
What could have made the race even more exciting was the fact that most of the front runners were running low on fuel, and had the race not been declared as running to time – thanks to a number of full course cautions – and then being red flagged, we could have seen a very different podium.
Red flags were displayed around the circuit while the Holmatro Safety Team cleared debris from a turn two incident with Penske team mates Will Power and Helio Castroneves. Had the race not been stopped, it would have run over the series’ time limit for street races.
“It was just about as nerve-racking as it gets,” Bourdais said. “When we elected to stay out (instead of pitting late for fuel) I was like, ‘Oh, man, it’s all or nothing.’ All I could hope for was the same scenario as NOLA – complicated conditions and one yellow after another. It was the right call again today. The difference is we obviously deserved it because the boys worked really hard and we were on the pace, we passed a bunch of cars and made the moves when it mattered. We made it stick all the way to the end.”
One man who is carrying on a run of good form, but couldn’t quite challenge Sato (who finished 1.7 seconds behind the winner) was Graham Rahal whose third place secured a third podium in the last five races and a warning shot to the rest of the field that he means business.
Also having a good result in what was only his second event after replacing James Hinchcliffe was Conor Daly who led early stages of the race before fading towards the end and finishing a still respectable sixth place.
The next race for the Verizon IndyCar Series is back on the ovals as the field heads to the Texas Motor Speedway.