Detroit — The opening IndyCar race in the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix doubleheader proved to be packed with drama with the defending champions out of the race before it was a quarter of the way completed Saturday afternoon on Belle Isle.
Penske driver Will Power reached his goal of putting Chevrolet in the winner’s circle in the shadows of its world headquarters, ending Honda’s two-year run of bragging rights on the island.
After rookie Mikhail Aleshin and James Hinchcliffe collided, resulting in Aleshin slamming into the wall to force the final caution with 15 laps to go, Power went around Ryan Briscoe on the restart with 11 laps to go and held off Graham Rahal, in a Honda, for his second win of the season. Tony Kanaan also earned a podium spot, finishing third in a Chevrolet for Target/Chip Ganassi Racing.
"What a race," said Power, who had an ill-handling car in qualifying, leading to his 16th-place starting position. "It's awesome to win here since it's Roger's (Penske) track, Roger's backyard, Chevy's backyard. It's great and it couldn't be more fitting, a great race at a very tough place. It was hard-fought."
Rahal's second-place finish was his best of the year, competing for his father, former Indy 500 winner Bobby Rahal. His best prior finish this season was 13th at Long Beach.
"He's probably the best guy in pit lane on restarts and cold tires and I knew I had my work cut out," Power said of the final restart and holding off Rahal. "I knew I had my work cut out, and if I could just keep him back for a couple of laps, I'd be good to go."
Said Rahal: "My guys did a phenomenal job. On the last run we put on a charge. I had terrible grip on the reds (tires early), really struggling. The blacks were phenomenal today.
"It's a great day for us, especially with the year we've had, it was good to get things turned around finally, to get a good result."
Pole-sitter Helio Castroneves — Power’s Penske teammate — took the lead from the green flag, then separated himself from the pack in his Chevrolet-powered No. 3 Hitachi in the opening laps while Simon Pagenaud and Mike Conway slammed the wall in separate incidents.
Conway won Race No. 1 last year and Pagenaud, No. 2 in the series’ first doubleheader in series history, both with Honda power.
Pagenaud hit the wall on Lap 5 and Conway banged into the concrete 11 laps later, ending both of their chances for victory.
“I was trying to get around (Power) but I couldn’t find any room anywhere,” Pagenaud said of his mishap. “I should have known better.”
Rookie Jack Hawksworth, who qualified third, was also out of contention early, suffering from brake problems on Lap 17.
Castroneves finished fifth, one spot behind Justin Wilson.
Indianapolis 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay entered with the points lead, holding a 40-point led over Power.
Hunter-Reay had a tough day, starting from near the back of the field after an accident in qualifying. He was running for a top-10 finish on the final lap when he got loose and crashed, slipping from 11th to 16th place.
Now, Power is just three points behind Hunter-Reay (288-285) and could take over the top spot with another good run Sunday.
|12||6||Juan Pablo Montoya||Chevrolet||70|
|20||14||Josef Newgarden||Honda||36 (contact)|
|21||4||Mike Conway||Chevrolet||14 (contact)|
|22||17||Simon Pagenaud||Honda||4 (contact)|
Lap length: 2.346 miles
Winners average speed: 90.138.
Time of race: 1:49:29.9323.
Margin of victory: 10.0000 seconds.
Cautions: 4 for 17 laps.
Lead changes: 10 among 7 drivers.
Lap leaders: Castroneves 1-16, Rahal 17-25, Andretti 26, Power 27-29, Aleshin 30-31, Castroneves 32-45, Dixon 46, Power 47-53, Rahal 54, Briscoe 55-59, Power 60-70.
Points: Hunter-Reay 288, Power 285, Castroneves 254, Pagenaud 219, Andretti 213, Munoz 186, Montoya 170, Bourdais 160, Wilson 155, Dixon 152.