Marcus Ericsson Wins First IndyCar Race in Chaotic First Race of Detroit Grand Prix

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(Photo Credit: Chris Owens / Courtesy of IndyCar)

Chip Ganassi Racing‘s Marcus Ericsson became the seventh different race winner in as many races in the 2021 NTT IndyCar Series, eclipsing his previous career best finish of second at the same track with a victory today in the first race of the Chevrolet Grand Prix of Detroit doubleheader at Belle Isle.

Ericsson ran second to Will Power near the end of the race, but after a late red flag caused by Romain Grosjean with five laps to go, Power’s engine would not re-fire, handing a golden opportunity to the thirty-year-old Swede. The race resumed with three laps to go, Ericsson got a great launch and would not look back, scoring his first career IndyCar win.

Takuma Sato took the restart in second place, but was quickly swallowed up by Rinus Veekay and Patricio O’Ward, who finished second and third respectively to round out the podium.

O’Ward was the polesitter for the race and led the field to green, escaping with the lead. Alexander Rossi, who started second, was close behind and the two began to gap the field. Many of the drivers that started the race on the alternate red-wall tyre saw extremely quick degradation and thus pit stops began as early as lap two with the likes of Veekay, Jack Harvey and Scott McLaughlin.

O’Ward pit from the lead on lap three, while Rossi came in on lap five and was able to perform the overcut and put himself in provisional first place. Josef Newgarden, who also pit on lap five, had his left rear tyre come off his car in the runoff area of the backstretch, reminiscent of Graham Rahal‘s scary crash at the Indianapolis 500 two weeks ago. Dale Coyne Racing w/ Vasser-Sullivan driver Ed Jones inherited the lead during this cycle, trying to stretch the red tyres as long as he could, but soon he found himself slipping down the order as the likes of Power, Scott Dixon and Sato took to the front of the field.

(Photo Credit: Joe Skibinski / Courtesy of IndyCar)

Dixon started the race on the primary black-wall tyre and soon took the lead from Power, passing him and his used red tyres on the backstretch on lap twelve. From here, Dixon seemed like he was going to coast out front to his first pit stop as the cycle continued until the first caution of the day came out on lap twenty five.

Arrow McLaren SP‘s Felix Rosenqvist was having a solid run inside the top ten before making his pit stop, but while downshifting into turn six his throttle stuck and sent him careening into the barriers in a terrifying crash. Rosenqvist’s car was launched onto the tyre barriers, which damaged the catchfence and concrete barriers of the track confines. After a few caution laps the red flag was displayed as Rosenqvist was extracted from the car and the barriers were repaired.

Fortunately, Rosenqvist was responsive through the entire recovery process and had full use of his extremities as he was placed on a stretcher and taken to the infield care center. The Swede was cleared of any serious injury, but was taken to a hospital in downtown Detroit for advanced imaging on his lower body. After a one hour and eighteen minute red flag, the race was resumed and Dixon was the leader.

Much like at the Indy 500, the seven-time series champion was caught out before his pit stop by a caution and needed to get to pit lane for fuel as soon as possible. He, along with many other drivers, hit the pits on lap twenty-eight to make it on one last pit stop to the finish. This cycled Power to the lead of the race with Ericsson, Sato, Simon Pagenaud and Veekay making up the top five. Power led the field to the restart on lap thirty-two and dominated the stint as those that pit charged through the field.

Dixon was on the red tyres, forcing his way through the pack before they wore off, with O’Ward not far behind. Dixon tried to stretch his tyres as far as he could, making it to lap forty-three before making his final pit stop. Dixon was the first to hit pit road, and many others soon followed to cover themselves in case of another caution. This cycled Power back to the lead of the race with Ericsson, Veekay and Sato in tow.

With five laps to go, Grosjean smashed the wall in turn eight. After starting third, the Swiss-born Frenchman had some issues with flat tyres and other potential damage, finishing the race in twenty-third. This incident set up the red flag that gave Ericsson his breakthrough win that his team knew he had in him.

(Photo Credit: Chris Owens / Courtesy of IndyCar)

Veekay continues his stellar season with yet another podium finish to add to his growing resume in only his second season in IndyCar. With his podium finish, O’Ward clawed back a large chunk of points to championship leader Alex Palou, who started last after a poor qualifying and six place grid penalty and finished fifteenth. The margin now between the two young phenoms is only fifteen points with plenty more on offer in tomorrow’s race.

After all three of the team’s cars started outside the top fifteen, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing finished in an impressive fourth, fifth and sixth for Sato, Rahal and Santino Ferrucci respectively. Adding Belle Isle to his Indy 500 program with RLLR, Ferrucci made some daring moves on the final restart to bring himself up the order with his teammates.

Rossi was set back after pitting after the red flag, but was able to fight through the field again to match his season’s best finish of seventh. After so many weeks of heartbreaking luck, including this race, Rossi can be happy that his race didn’t end in retirement.

Dixon was another driver that started outside the top ten and worked his way up to an eighth place finish. Sitting third in the championship, he too gained points on his teammate Palou, helped by his first stint on the primary tyre and impressive overtaking ability on the reds.

Jones recovered nicely from his woes at the beginning of the race, salvaging a strong top ten performance for a struggling team. His ninth place finish is his best so far this season.

Rounding out the top ten was Newgarden, the highest-placing car of the Team Penske camp. Newgarden recovered from his lost wheel issue, taking the free pass under caution following the red flag for Rosenqvist, and he navigated the melee that was the final restart as his teammate Pagenaud fell to twelfth. The team hoped for more after qualfiying fifth, but this was a recovery drive the team will be pleased with.

Race two of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix is set for tomorrow, 13 June, at 1200 EST / 1700 BST. Qualifying for that race will be at 0900 EST / 1400 BST.

Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix Race 1 Official Results

18Marcus EricssonSWEChip Ganassi Racing01:45:33.112
221Rinus VeeKayNEDEd Carpenter Racing+ 1.729 sec
35Pato O’WardMEXArrow McLaren SP+ 1.910 sec
430Takuma SatoJPNRahal Letterman Lanigan Racing+ 8.168 sec
515Graham RahalUSARahal Letterman Lanigan Racing+ 9.464 sec
645Santino FerrucciUSARahal Letterman Lanigan Racing+ 9.567 sec
727Alexander RossiUSAAndretti Autosport+ 10.340 sec
89Scott DixonNZLChip Ganassi Racing+ 10.895 sec
918Ed JonesUAEDale Coyne Racing w/ Vasser-Sullivan+ 11.942 sec
102Josef NewgardenUSATeam Penske+ 12.506 sec
1114Sebastien BourdaisFRAA.J. Foyt Enterprises+ 13.579 sec
1222Simon PagenaudFRATeam Penske+ 13.827 sec
1320Conor DalyUSAEd Carpenter Racing+ 14.792 sec
1426Colton HertaUSAAndretti Autosport+ 16.088 sec
1510Alex PalouESPChip Ganassi Racing+ 17.253 sec
1660Jack HarveyGBRMeyer Shank Racing+ 18.289 sec
1729James HinchcliffeCANAndretti Steinbrenner Autosport+ 19.011 sec
184Dalton KellettCANA.J. Foyt Enterprises+ 1 lap
193Scott McLaughlin (R)NZLTeam Penske+ 3 laps
2012Will PowerAUSTeam Penske+ 3 laps
2128Ryan Hunter-ReayUSAAndretti Autosport+ 5 laps
2259Max ChiltonGBRCarlin+ 5 laps
2351Romain Grosjean (R)FRADale Coyne Racing w/ Rick Ware RacingCrash
2448Jimmie Johnson (R)USAChip Ganassi RacingMechanical
257Felix RosenqvistSWEArrow McLaren SPCrash
(R) – Rookie
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Lifelong sports junkie, currently studying Broadcast Journalism at Hofstra University. Lead writer for Indycar at The Checkered Flag.
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