Doubleheader weekend events typically consist of a mild first race and a wild second race. In a bizarre twist, Saturday’s NTT IndyCar Series race at Belle Isle was about as wild as they come, from start to finish. There were wheels coming off, two red flags, contact on pit lane, late-race drama, and an angry Will Power following a final three-lap shootout. In the end, it was Marcus Ericsson getting his first career win and the third victory for Chip Ganassi this season, all with different drivers.
Rinus VeeKay earned himself another podium finish and Pato O’Ward stood on the podium for the third time this season after starting the race in pole position after taking the top spot in the morning qualifying session. It was a banner day for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, as Takuma Sato and Graham Rahal rounded out the top five on Saturday and Santino Ferruci finished sixth in his RLL Honda.
Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix Race 1 Box Score
Alexander Rossi qualified well and started alongside O’Ward on the front row, but was not able to break his winless streak on Saturday. He still managed to finish one spot ahead of Scott Dixon in 7th place. Ed Jones and Josef Newgarden rounded out the top five, as the struggles continued for Team Penske as Josef lost a wheel early in the race.
The race was paused after Felix Rosenqvist had a scary incident on Lap 25 that nearly resulted in disaster. The Arrow McLaren SP driver was heading into Turn 6 when the throttle appeared to stick, sending him full speed into the tires. The impact moved the fencing and knocked over the concrete wall barrier.
It was a frightening moment for everyone, but the good news is that Rosenqvist has escaped serious injury. “Felix was conscious the entire time, talking the entire time and he’s having some soreness,” said Dr. Geoffrey Billows, IndyCar’s director of medical services. “He had no loss of sensation anywhere or loss of function and we were able to get him out of the car.” Billows added that IndyCar’s preliminary evaluation did not reveal any “muscular or skeletal damage.”
Hours after the race concluded, the Arrow McLaren SP team announced that Oliver Askew will be back in the familiar No. 7 machine tomorrow for Race 2, filling in for Felix.
The race was red-flagged for 1 hour, 18 minutes, and 36 seconds. In a related note, NBC missed the start of the race as a lacrosse game was going on, and did not have a post-race show that was full of emotion and drama.
The drama came after a second red flag ended following a crash by Romain Grosjean. When the cars were restarted with just seven laps remaining, race leader Will Power was not able to get his engine fired. The end result was Ericsson inheriting the lead, and Power was absolutely furious. Power’s ECU malfunctioned, and while his Penske crew quickly installed a new one, a dejected Power returned to the track and finished 20th, three laps down.
Ericsson became the fourth first-time winner this season and is the seventh different winner through seven races. “For once, things fell my way,” Ericsson said. “It feels really good. For Will, I feel really bad for him with the way it ended for him. He did a tremendous job today. But it was my day today, and it was about time.”
While Power was in position to win the race, and Newgarden posted the fastest lap of the race, Team Penske still has not looked like Team Penske. They are winless through seven races and finished 10th, 12th, 19th, and 20th after a disastrous month of May at Indianapolis. They are hoping for a different result on Sunday.
Teams and drivers will rest up tonight and prepare to do it all over again tomorrow. Qualifying for Race 2 begins at 9:15 tomorrow morning, setting the field for another 70-lap race. NBC coverage begins at Noon with a 12:50 PM green flag start for the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix Race 2 on Sunday.
Photos courtesy of IndyCar