The word of the day in Detroit this afternoon was strategy. The first of two races at Belle Isle was a whirlwind of a guessing game. The weather was causing engineers to pull their hair out, and it had the drivers on edge. In the end though, it was Carlos Munoz who was declared the winner after the race was halted after 47 laps due to lightning.
This is the first career win for Munoz, and the first for Andretti Autosport since July 7 of last year. It’s the first win for the team by someone other than Ryan Hunter-Reay since June 23, 2013. Munoz also becomes the second driver to earn his first career win this season, after Josef Newgarden earned his at Barber.
Marco Andretti finished second, but could have just as easily won the race. Carlos was able to stay out a few laps longer than Marco on slick tires, allowing him to make a lot of ground up before pitting for rain tires. Simon Pagenaud joined the Andretti Autosport drivers on the podium, while pole sitter Will Power and Scott Dixon rounded out the top five on Saturday.
The race began with a lot of water on the track, making for tricky conditions for the drivers as they had limited visibility. The first major incident was caused with Stefano Coletti made a bold move in turn 1, going three wide. He made contact with James Jakes, who then slammed into Tony Kanaan. Trailing Graham Rahal had nowhere to go, and collided with the rear end of Kanaan’s car.
Conor Daly had been running in the top five for most of the day, but was hit from behind coming to the green flag on a restart, which ruined his day. Jack Hawksworth had a solid day, moving up from 14th position to finish in seventh. Newgarden finished just behind him after finishing back in 18th. Sage Karam finished in 16th after receiving a blocking penalty for a move he put on Takuma Sato.
It was another win for Honda in a rain shortened race. The situation was rather eerie.
There have now been six different winners in the seven races this season. Juan Montoya, winner of last year’s Indianapolis 500, finished tenth on Saturday. His lead in the championship was trimmed by Power, who is now just 11 points behind his Penske teammate heading into tomorrow’s race.
Teams and drivers will now try to regroup and do it all again tomorrow. Qualifying for Race 2 will begin tomorrow at 11:25 AM ET. Coverage of the race will air at 3:30 PM on ABC.
Will Power: “Obviously, the rain throws your strategy off quite a bit. As one of the front-running cars we didn’t want to give up the track position to put on primary or ‘red’ Firestone tires once the track began to dry. After other teams started to do that we had to do it too. That’s what put us back in the pack a bit, but we were able to work our way back through the field for a top-five finish. The rain actually helped us because we were about to pit in a couple of laps. But I’m proud of my Verizon Chevy guys. They worked their tails off today.”
Juan Montoya: “It is what it is. As a driver you really like to have consistency with the weather. Unfortunately today we didn’t have it and that makes the race a bit of an unknown. We didn’t want to see the rain come back because we had already made our stop. We needed it to stay green so that we would get our track position back when the leaders pitted. That’s racing though. We know we have a good Verizon Chevy for tomorrow.”
Helio Castroneves: “Man, we had everything thrown at the Hitachi Chevrolet today. You never like to see that much rain at a racetrack. I hate it for Roger (Penske), Bud (Denker) and everyone that puts on this great race. They control everything they can, but the weather has a mind of its own. Our goal now is to come back tomorrow and make sure the trophy for the second race comes back to Team Penske.”
Conor Daly: “We made a great call at the beginning of the race to jump a few guys on strategy. Then we ran really competitively with those guys at the front in the top eight and honestly, we were just the victim of a restart bunch-up. There were a couple cars that were going and stopping, going and stopping. Sadly, the accordion effect got us. I don’t think it’s really anyone’s fault, but we were just the victim. I think the No. 5 Arrow Electronics car was great and we had great pit stops. I was super happy to be running at the front, but we just have to go get ’em tomorrow.”
James Jakes: “It was just frustrating, really, but nice to finish twelfth after being two laps down. We were involved in an incident that wasn’t our fault, which was a shame because the No. 7 SPM MediaTech Honda was running in the top ten. We made a couple of good decisions early on and it felt like we were going to be in for a good day. It just wasn’t meant to be but there are some positives we can take away and there’s always tomorrow.”
Sage Karam: “I’m not sure what to make of it all today really. We had a good car but the weather kept changing and we were just honestly trying to predict what the track conditions would be like. It’s tough for the series and the fans in conditions like that but we tried our best today and we’ll put the same effort forth again tomorrow in the second dual.”
Scott Dixon: “I wish the weather hadn’t affected the race like it did today. We made a call for rain tires before anyone else basically and just when it started raining they had to stop the race for lightning. I hope we get more running in tomorrow with the Target car.”
Tony Kanaan: “There’s not much to say about what happened today. We were only five laps in and we got put into the wall and then hit again right after. My rear wing was just gone and the guys weren’t going to be able to fix it in pit lane. I have to say though that my team did an excellent job getting the car back in the garage, repairing all of the damage, and then back out on-track. It might not seem like much, but we were able to make up another position by coming back out and finishing and in a championship this close, every point counts. Unfortunately we’ll have a lot to work on tonight to get ready to go back out and qualify and race tomorrow afternoon, but I know we can get it done and hopefully have a much better result in tomorrow’s race.”
Sebastien Bourdais: “It was obviously a very frustrating race. As usual we were racy in the beginning, in wet conditions and we seemed on pace, I passed Simon (Pagenaud) then there was a yellow that came out late and I got the call but lost a position to Dixon. Then it only went downhill from there. We tried to look at the tools we had weather wise and things did not go our way. So, we will just hit the reset button, wake up tomorrow and it will be a different day.”
Graham Rahal: “It’s unfortunate because the car was pretty good in the wet. When (Tony) Kanaan hit the tire wall he just bounced right out in front of me and there was no where I could go. That’s just the way these things go. It’s unfortunate but we’ve had a great season so far and the Steak ‘n Shake team will be back strong tomorrow.”
Luca Filippi: “We made the right call at the beginning of the race by going to slicks at the right time. We had a discussion between myself and the team, but that was the right decision. We were running for a solid podium position easily, but then the rain came back and the strategy changed. It worked out for other people that decided not to pit for wet tires when the rain first started. We made the right call at the beginning and got unlucky at the end. It was nice to get a top 10 position on a difficult day, but if it stayed dry I think we could have been on the podium.”
Simon Pagenaud: “Today was all about team effort and I can’t thank the No. 22 crew enough for a good strategy and a great call at any time. It was very dicey. We never knew when the rain was going to come. We could only look at the radar, but on the race track it wasn’t raining when they called me in so we had a few communications exchanges. We stayed out a bit longer and then made the call at the perfect time to jump to third and then get a first podium with Team Penske.”
Carlos Munoz: “It feels OK. I wanted to win 100 percent and with all the laps. I feel very happy for my crew, the AndrettiTV Cinsay crew. They were really hoping for this win. 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). (How difficult were the conditions): “We knew before the race it would be a hard race because of the weather. I had the fuel to go laps longer. I was lucky that god was with me. I pitted three laps later than my teammate and then it started to rain a lot, so we decided to wait. I wanted to get my first win by doing all the laps, but I’m really happy for my team.”
Marco Andretti: “(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 19) 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 (on Lap 40 pit) 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.”
Ryan Hunter-Reay: “Congratulations to Carlos (Muñoz) and Marco (Andretti) on the win and podium. The team did a great job with their strategy. Today just wasn’t our day though, we didn’t pick the right strategy and it bit us in the end. The plus side is we get to try again tomorrow.”
Jack Hawksworth: “Today was definitely a fun race. There was a lot of action going on. I was at the back, at the front, then the middle and finished seventh in the end. The ABC car was really good. It was one of those 50/50 decisions whether you come in for wets or stay out on the drys. At least we were in a pretty good position from that point. We came in a little too early as it turned out and got jumped by a few people. But the car was really good and the guys were good on the stops, and that all kind of bodes well for tomorrow so hopefully we can have a good qualifying. Nice to score some points today.”
Josef Newgarden: “It was a good test of our perseverance and ability to fight through. I saw the Hartman Oil guys more times than I wanted to in the pits, but they were always ready and did a great job getting me back out. When you walk away with a top 10 on a crazy day like this, it’s not too bad. It’s difficult to predict what’s going to be happening within those rain segments, but we made the best calls we could at the time. That’s all you can do as it’s a gamble every time. Some guys it worked out for, some guys it didn’t. We obviously want to win, but getting a top 10 is something we can be happy for today and go try and win a race tomorrow.”
Race Photos via IndyCar