After a wild and disjointed first race on Saturday, the NTT IndyCar Series put on one heck of a show on Sunday. Pato O’Ward dazzled everyone in a sensational battle with Josef Newgarden in the closing laps of the second race at Belle Isle. The Arrow McLaren SP driver took the lead with less than three laps remaining and went on to become the first repeat winner of the 2021 season.
It was deja vu for Team Penske, as Newgarden dominated the race but was unable to seal the deal. Newgarden led the first 67 laps on Sunday but had his hands full with both O’Ward and Colton Herta in the race’s closing stages. Newgarden had to settle for 2nd place, which is his third runner-up finish this season. Team Penske remains winless, eight races into the season. Alex Palou stayed up front most of the afternoon and recorded his fourth podium finish of the season.
Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix Race 2 Box Score
Coming into the weekend, Team Penske’s four drivers had combined to lead 34 out of a possible 935 laps this season. Power led a race-high 37 laps yesterday and Newgarden led 67 more today. Neither of them managed to come away with the checkered flag in Chevrolet’s backyard. The team has seven podium results this season but after winning five of the final six races last year, they are still seeking their first victory in 2021.
“It’s hard not to be disappointed,” Newgarden said. “I think we had the car to beat. Cautions at the end, wrong tires at the end. He was coming like a freight train. What are you going to do? I just couldn’t do anything. I had so much wheelspin. My rear tires were just shot to death on the last 10 laps. Just trying to be aggressive, and the restarts don’t help you. None of it played into our favor, especially the first caution.” Despite the letdown at the end, Newgarden did earn pole position for the race earlier this morning.
Herta was chasing down Newgarden in the last half of the race, but the final caution flag for a spinning Jimmie Johnson allowed O’Ward and Palou to enter the mix for the lead. Herta still managed a 4th place result but was capable of much more. Graham Rahal quietly may have had the best weekend of any driver. The second-generation driver recorded back-to-back 5th place finishes in Detroit.
After bitter disappointment and anger on Saturday, Power rebounded nicely to earn a 6th place finish after starting in 20th after a poor qualifying result. Scott Dixon stayed in the picture and had a solid weekend to keep his hopes for a seventh championship alive with a 7th place finish. Simon Pagenaud finished just behind him in 8th, as they are the only two drivers that have completed all 1,075 laps this season.
Marcus Ericsson won Saturday’s race and followed it up with another top-ten finish today. It was another impressive drive for the Ganassi driver, who started 22nd. Another driver that rebounded nicely after qualifying was Santino Ferrucci. The RLL Racing driver had a brutal crash at the end of qualifying and barely made it to the grid when the race started. He rounded out the top ten on Sunday, capping a brilliant weekend for the RLL team, who finished 4th, 5th, and 6th the day before.
O’Ward dedicated his win to teammate Felix Rosenqvist, who missed the race after his incident on Saturday, and longtime McLaren Racing shareholder Mansour Ojjeh, who passed away last week. “I talked to Felix this morning, and the important thing is that he’s okay, but I told him, ‘I’m going to win it for you,’” O’Ward said. “So, this is for him and for Mansour.”
The victory also puts O’Ward into the championship lead as he is now one point ahead of Palou. Dixon is 36 points behind in third, with Newgarden 51 points back in fourth, and Rinus VeeKay in 5th just 56 points out of the lead.
The next race on the schedule is the REV Group Grand Prix at Road America on June 20. NBC Sports Network will provide coverage for the event, which begins at Noon ET on Sunday.
Photos courtesy of IndyCar