Hunter-Reay prevails in late lead battle to take victory in Detroit’s second race

5 Mins read
Credit: Andy Clary / Spacesuit Media

Ryan Hunter-Reay has taken his first Verizon IndyCar Series win in almost three years in yesterday’s second race of the 2018 Chevrolet Duel in Detroit. Hunter-Reay took the lead away from his team-mate Alexander Rossi after the former race leader was forced to take to an escape road after a massive tyre lock-up. A puncture soon after would then relegate Rossi to a twelfth place finish.

The start of the race was delayed by half an hour after a bizarre incident on the first of two formation laps. As the field came around turn two of the circuit, the pace car driver lost control of the Chevrolet Corvette and hit the wall. The front bumper of the car was torn up, but both passengers were, thankfully, unhurt in the incident.

With the debris cleared and a backup pace car ready to go, the stage was set for the start of the second race of the weekend. Rossi managed to hold off Wickens for the lead of the race, with Power, Jones and Hinchcliffe getting aggressive early in the battle for third place. Jones briefly popped up into third, but a bold move by Power to take the position away, followed by a mistake soon after, saw Ed fall back to sixth by the end of lap one. A caution would soon follow after Spencer Pigot spun around and stalled his car.

For much of the race, the pole-sitter looked to en-route to replicate his dominant win at Long Beach back in April. However, pit strategy would play a massive role in the outcome of the race. Rossi committed to the two-stop strategy that Saturday’s race winner, Scott Dixon, used effectively. However, in a race affected less by cautions, the three-stop strategy was a massive threat.

After starting down in tenth after a mistake in qualifying, Ryan Hunter-Reay was one of the first to commit early to the three-stop strategy. Every time he exited the pits, he would put in a string of stunningly fast laps. He utilized every second of clear-track running and found himself exiting the pits after his last stop in second place to team-mate Rossi. Hunter-Reay had eighteen laps to try and use his speed and his fresher tyres to bridge the eight-second gap to the leader.

As expected, Hunter-Reay pushed hard. With ten laps to go, Rossi’s lead had been slashed to just two seconds, with Hunter-Reay running close to two seconds a lap faster than his team-mate. The gap continued to come down, at the end of the next lap, the gap was just six-tenths of a second, with Hunter-Reay now all over the gearbox of Rossi.

The pressure from behind and the ever-fading life of his Firestone tyres started to get the better of race-leader Rossi. He had a massive lock-up on his left-front tyre into turn two with eight laps to go. He just about managed to make it around the corner, but he was not so lucky the next time around.

With just seven laps remaining, Rossi suffered another massive lock-up at the same turn. This time, he was not able to make the turn, as he was forced to take to the run-off area. Rossi would be forced to tentatively reverse back out onto the track to get back going. To add insult to injury, the left-front punctured later in the lap; with Alexander being forced to crawl back to the pits. His race, that had looked so promising, was ruined.

Rossi’s off-track excursion and puncture would give Hunter-Reay the lead; a massive lead at that. He had a sixteen-second advantage over the nearest car and was left to run the final six laps unchallenged en-route to a seventeenth-career Verizon IndyCar Series victory.

Credit: Andy Clary / Spacesuit Media

The win for Hunter-Reay was a huge moment. The result snapped an almost three-year winless streak, with his last win coming back at Pocono in 2015. His team were quick to congratulate him on the team radio, with his engineer hailing the effort as one of his best performances ever.

In a weekend when Chevrolet had really been on the back foot compared to Honda, Team Penske‘s Will Power put in a fantastic drive to take second place. The result, coupled with his seventh place in the Saturday race and his Indianapolis 500 victory the week before, means that he has now jumped to the lead of the championship; a sensational turn around after a tough start to the season.

A strong run in the Saturday race foreshadowed a potential great result in yesterday’s race for Ed Jones. After qualifying a superb fourth place, he ran a faultless race to take his third-career podium in the Verizon IndyCar Series. His team-mate, Saturday’s race winner Scott Dixon would run not far behind him all race long to take fourth place.

Graham Rahal bounced back from his disappointing race on Saturday to take fifth place in Sunday’s second race, with Robert Wickens slipping back from second on the grid to sixth place by the end of the race.

After a tough weekend, Tony Kanaan took seventh place for A.J. Foyt Enterprises. Just behind him was Charlie Kimball, who came back from his controversial incident with Santino Ferrucci on Saturday to take Carlin‘s best-ever finish in IndyCar to date. It was a fantastic run for Kimball, coming through from twenty-first on the grid to take a superb eighth place finish.

Saturday’s pole-sitter Marco Andretti would take ninth place in Sunday’s race, with Penske’s Simon Pagenaud completing the top ten. Max Chilton would finish just outside of the top ten in eleventh place, further underlining the great performance by Carlin in the second race of the weekend.

After his late-race lock-up and puncture, Alexander Rossi would come home in a lowly twelfth place. Had he finished in the top three, he would have maintained his championship lead. Now, he sits third, twelve points off of championship-leader Power.

Further back, it was a quiet and unassuming race for reigning champion Josef Newgarden. He came home in fifteenth place to cap off a disappointing weekend. James Hinchcliffe was just behind in seventeenth. He was the last car on the lead lap after having been in the battle for the podium in the early stages of the race.

It was a dramatic race for both Dale Coyne Racing drivers. Both would spin at turn two during the course of the race. Santino Ferrucci, who made his IndyCar debut this weekend, spun on cold tyres whilst exiting the pits. He hit the wall in the process and had to crawl back to the pits. He would finish one lap down on the leaders in twentieth.

For Ferrucci’s team-mate, Sebastien Bourdais, his race went sour right from the start. The Frenchman picked up a puncture on lap one, but he started to fight his way back through the field on the longer-lasting Firestone tyres. However, a rear-suspension failure on lap thirty-eight pitched him into a high-speed spin at turn two, with Sebastien being lucky to avoid being collected by the cars behind him. He would eventually finish three laps down in twenty-first.

Spencer Pigot was the sole driver not to be running at the end of the race. The #21 Ed Carpenter Racing driver’s aforementioned lap one spin and stall saw him drop three laps down, with a puncture later on being the final nail in the coffin for his race. The team would elect to retire the car after the puncture.

The Verizon IndyCar Series heads back to an oval for next weekend’s race. The 2018 DXC Technology 600 at Texas Motor Speedway will take place in the evening on Saturday, June 9.

Credit: Andy Clary / Spacesuit Media

2018 Verizon IndyCar Series – Duel in Detroit – Race two results:

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Reporter from the East of England. Covering the NTT IndyCar Series for The Checkered Flag. Also an eSports racing driver on iRacing.
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