Dixon rebounds from disaster to win chaotic second race at Detroit

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Credit: Joe Skibinski / Courtesy of IndyCar

Chip Ganassi Racing‘s Scott Dixon has taken victory in the second race of the weekend at the 2019 Detroit Grand Prix. The win is Scott’s first of the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series, coming off of the back of retirement from the first race on Saturday.

Dixon utilized a great strategy given to him by his crew on the pit-wall to move up into the lead of the race after a chaotic opening half of the seventy-lap race. The previous race-leaders, pole-sitter Josef Newgarden and Alexander Rossi, were bought caught up in an incident mid-race with James Hinchcliffe, which further benefitted Dixon in lead.

Despite showing great pace compared to those around him, the closing stages were not exactly a cake-walk for Dixon. He would have to negotiate a number of race restarts after multiple cautions. Scott was on course for a virtually unopposed run to the finish in the final ten laps, only for the race to be neutralized yet again after a crash for his team-mate, Felix Rosenqvist.

Felix was running solidly inside the top ten when he grazed the wall on the exit of turn eleven. The contact appeared to break the left-front steering arm, causing the car’s steering to be off centre. With only a handful of laps remaining, Felix opted to keep driving, only for his #10 Honda to spin out at the high-speed first turn. He would make heavy contact with the outside wall, with the race organisers being forced to red flag the race in order to clear the wreckage for a green flag finish to the race.

The race would be restarted for the final time with just three laps remaining. At the drop of the green flag, Dixon made a fantastic getaway on the pack behind, outlasting the pressure of the late-race shoot-out to navigate the final laps with ease. He would cross the line to take his first win of the season, a fantastic rebound from his first race retirement in over two years in the first race of the weekend on Saturday.

The win for Dixon came at the exact site of his first win of the 2018 season twelve months ago. His win last year was very much the start of his turnaround that would see him go on to claim the championship. Although he is still quite a number of points away from the championship lead, Scott will be hoping that he can build on the momentum gained today to challenge for the next few races and get himself firmly back in the hunt.

Credit: Joe Skibinski / Courtesy of IndyCar

Whilst the race win would be taken by one of the most experienced drivers in the field, the second spot on the podium would be taken by one of the newest names on the grid. Arrow Schmidt Peterson‘s rookie, Marcus Ericsson, would sensationally secure his first podium in the NTT IndyCar Series after a fantastic performance saw him avoid the chaos around him and deal with all of the pressure of racing some of the best the series has to offer.

The result would be the first time that Ericsson has finished a race on the podium since he raced in the GP2 Series in 2013 at Abu Dhabi. Whilst he was not able to keep on terms with the race leader in the closing laps, he was comfortably able to pull away from those behind him.

The final spot on the podium, miraculously, went the way of Team Penske‘s Will Power. The Australian looked as though he was set for yet another horrible race after being caught up in an opening lap pile-up at the third corner. The incident was sparked when his team-mate, Simon Pagenaud, made a bold move up the inside of Ericsson. Power ahead had checked up for slowing cars and would be rear-ended by Pagenaud; with both drivers seemingly suffering gearbox issues as a result. Pagenaud would retire on the spot, whilst Power would grind to a halt under the ensuing caution period before getting back under-way at the back of the pack.

Despite being forced onto a totally unique strategy from those around him, Power would find himself in the lead ahead of his final pit-stop in the closing stages. After this, he would emerge in fourth-place, soon passing Ed Jones to move into the podium places. Power did not quite have the pace to challenge Ericsson for second, but Will would be delighted with his result post-race, hailing the result as the potential turnaround in his fortunes going forward to the next race at Texas Motor Speedway next weekend.

Andretti Autosport‘s team-mates, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Alexander Rossi, would miss out on the podium in positions four and five respectively. Hunter-Reay would hold-off the hard-charging Rossi as the laps ticked away, with Rossi relatively pleased to have salvaged fifth-place after surviving his incident with Newgarden and Hinchcliffe earlier on.

Credit: Joe Skibinski / Courtesy of IndyCar

Hunter-Reay and Rossi’s team-mates, Marco Andretti and Zach Veach, would also take strong results inside the top ten. Andretti would take a solid sixth place after starting way down in nineteenth place. By contrast, Veach had started on the second-row in third-place but fell back after a slow pit-stop. He would rebound to finish in eighth place, with Graham Rahal storming through the field from last on the grid to separate the pair in seventh place.

The miraculous comebacks did not stop there, however. Sebastien Bourdais would take ninth-place despite having been involved in a scary incident with Spencer Pigot in the early stages. Bourdais was running on the gearbox of Pigot, who was trying to make his way into the pit-lane. Bourdais was caught out by Pigot, who slowed to make it into the pits, with Bourdais making contact with the rear of Pigot’s car, launching the front-end of Sebastien’s #18 Honda into the air.

Despite the hard landing back onto the racing surface and then a slow crawl back to the pits for repairs, Bourdais would capitalize on later cautions to work his way back into the top ten. His rookie team-mate, Santino Ferrucci, would finish just behind him in tenth place, with the American rookie having led the race early-on after being put on to an alternate pit-strategy.

Further back, it was another difficult race for Harding Steinbrenner Racing‘s Colton Herta. Just like yesterday, Herta would fall back from his strong grid spot to finish in twelfth place for the second day in a row.

Takuma Sato had been on course to score another strong top ten finish as the race entered its closing laps. However, an opportunistic overtaking attempt on Rossi around the outside of turn three saw the Japanese driver come under attack from Rosenqvist. Like yesterday, the pair would make contact at turn four, but this time Sato came off worse. He would be squeezed into the wall and would suffer a puncture, forcing him to an eventual race finish of thirteenth-place.

Credit: Chris Owens / Courtesy of IndyCar

Ed Jones and Max Chilton would be the final two drivers to finish on the lead lap of the race; with the remaining seven drivers either finishing numerous laps down on the leaders or not finishing at all. Rosenqvist was the first of the non-finishers after his late crash. He had also survived the lap one melee, which had seen him briefly launched into the air after making contact with Power.

The Sunday race in Detroit was disastrous for the Indianapolis 500 winner, Simon Pagenaud. After the damage sustained in the lap one pile-up, Penske was able to make repairs and get him back into the race. He would ultimately finish twelve laps down in seventeenth place.

James Hinchcliffe and Josef Newgarden were the next two drivers to finish off of the lead lap. Both had their races ruined whilst battling for position. Hinchcliffe had just emerged from the pit-lane right in front of Newgarden and Rossi. Heading into turn three, Newgarden made a move to the inside of Hinchcliffe but would lose control and spin into the tyre barriers.

Hinchcliffe would collect Josef and would then be hit from behind by the spinning Rossi, who lost control on his own. Rossi was able to continue on the lead-lap with no repairs needed, which Hinchcliffe and Newgarden both sought repairs in the pits. Hinchcliffe would go on to rejoin the race, albeit suffering another stoppage after losing power later on. He would finish the race in eighteenth place, with Newgarden, too, rejoining the race to take nineteenth place.

The final three drivers in the race were unfortunately eliminated before its conclusion. Matheus Leist retired due to mechanical issues early on, joining his A.J. Foyt Enterprises team-mate, Tony Kanaan, on the sidelines after the veteran was eliminated in the lap one pile-up. Spencer Pigot was the remaining retiree, with the damage sustained in his incident with Sebastien Bourdais too much for him to continue.

As a result of his nineteenth place finish in today’s race, Josef Newgarden’s championship lead has been reduced. Nevertheless, he holds an advantage of fifteen points over second-placed Alexander Rossi heading into the ninth round of the season, which takes place this Saturday, June 8, at Texas Motor Speedway.

Credit: Chris Owens / Courtesy of IndyCar

2019 NTT IndyCar Series – Detroit Grand Prix – 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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