Chip Ganassi Racing‘s Scott Dixon has taken his forty-second victory in the Verizon IndyCar Series after winning yesterday’s first race of the 2018 Chevrolet Duel in Detroit. The New Zealander and his team pulled off a fantastic drive to take the lead during a pit-stop phase, before going on to control the race from the front for the remaining laps.
Pole-sitter Marco Andretti led much of the opening stages of the race. The Andretti driver held his lead on the tricky first lap of the race, with Dixon having to settle for second as there was nowhere for him to get by. The strategy for the teams and drivers was split, with some opting for three pit-stops during the seventy lap race, with others choosing to go for just two stops.
The lead group – comprising of Andretti, Dixon and Alexander Rossi – were hoping to pull off a two-stop strategy. They were hoping to extend their first stint of the race as long as they can, which was difficult as they were all running on the higher-wearing alternate tyre. Last year’s winner of both races in Detroit, Graham Rahal was also hoping to go as long into the race as he could. He was running fourth toward the end of the first stint, having been the only driver to start on the longer-lasting primary tyre.
Andretti led every lap of the opening stint of the race, but he had not managed to shake second-placed Dixon and third-placed Rossi. On lap twenty-three, Rossi became the first of the leaders to pit, with Andretti pitting a lap later to cover off any potential undercut. Dixon would pit a lap after Andretti, with a superb stop by the Chip Ganassi Racing mechanics vaulting Scott ahead of the former-leader when he rejoined the race track. Dixon’s stop was almost two seconds faster than Andretti’s, a gap that would prove crucial for the eventual race result.
From there, it was a clinic for Dixon. He managed to stretch his legs over the cars behind him on the same strategy, with any potential threat from the other strategies being nullified by two caution periods toward the end of the race. The final pit-stops, which would have been key for how the end of the race would play out, all took place during these caution periods, with Dixon able to rebuild a comfortable advantage on each subsequent race restart.
After a final ten-lap sprint to the finish, Dixon would come home just under a two-second lead to take his first win of the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series. The victory was Scott’s forty-second of his career, putting him in a tie for third on the all-time wins list with Michael Andretti.
“I’m super proud of everybody at Chip Ganassi Racing, and obviously PNC Bank’s first victory,” said Dixon after climbing from the cockpit of his car, “Finishing third in Indy is nice, but really people only care about who wins at that place, so it’s always tough leaving Indianapolis unless you’ve won. But it’s always nice to rebound strongly in Detroit.
“Honda has done a superb job, Top six for them here in the Motor City is a pretty big deal and congratulations to them. We’re going to come back and do it all again tomorrow. Would have been nice to celebrate a bit tonight.”
Second place would go to Ryan Hunter-Reay, with the American’s three-stop strategy, along with a few well-timed cautions, working out well enough to jump him ahead of his team-mates in the late stages of the race. The #28 Honda driver was pleased with the result, but he had been hoping that he could snap an almost three-year winless streak.
Alexander Rossi’s late and brave pass on team-mate Marco Andretti earned him third place and the lead in the championship standings. Rossi went around the outside of Andretti at turns three and four to prise the position away, with slight contact being made between the two in the process. Andretti, the pole-sitter and former race-leader, would have to settle for fourth.
A strong race for both Takuma Sato and Ed Jones earned the pair a solid finish. Sato would take fifth place ahead of Jones in sixth; with both happy to have bounced back from a disappointing Indianapolis 500 a week ago to finish in the top six. Last weekend’s race winner, Will Power, was just behind in seventh place for Team Penske.
Rookie Robert Wickens had started the race on the second row of the grid in third place. However, he slid down the order in the opening stages and never really recovered. He would take eighth place for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, with Josef Newgarden and Spencer Pigot rounding out the top ten. Wickens’ team-mate James Hinchcliffe finished in eleventh place after having rallied back from a drive-through penalty for a pit-lane exit violation.
The first forty-six laps of the seventy lap race distance ran uninterrupted. The first of two cautions came on lap forty-seven, when Graham Rahal, who had been running in second place at the time, crashed hard at the exit of turn fourteen. The #15 Honda clipped the inside kerb, which unsettled the car and pitched it straight into the outside wall. The impact was enough to briefly lift the rear of the car off the ground, but Rahal was thankfully able to climb from his car unaided and uninjured. However, his hopes of replicating his double Detroit race wins from a year ago were well and truly dashed.
The second and final caution of the race came with fifteen laps to go. American teenager Santino Ferrucci‘s debut Verizon IndyCar Series race ended with a bang after contact from behind sent him into a high-speed spin into the barriers. Ferrucci was running in a solid thirteenth place when Charlie Kimball appeared to run into the back of his #19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda in the braking zone for turn seven.
The contact was enough to send Ferrucci into the tyre barrier. He luckily avoided being collected by other cars in the incident and walked away uninjured.
Kimball was later awarded a penalty for causing the avoidable contact. The Carlin driver would finish down in nineteenth place, just ahead of team-mate Max Chilton; who was unable to convert his fantastic tenth place grid spot into a strong race finish.
The teams and drivers will be back out on the track at Belle Isle later today for the second qualifying session and race of the 2018 Duel in Detroit. Scott Dixon will be hoping for a second win of the weekend, a win that would put him in the lead of the championship.
2018 Verizon IndyCar Series – Duel in Detroit – Race one results:
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