Scott Dixon led flag-to-flag to score his first win of the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series season Sunday in Detroit, on a day that struggled to match the interest or excitement levels of a week ago in Indianapolis. The race was shortened from its original duration of 90 laps to 60 at the flag.
The New Zealander stayed out front through the race's first 45 laps before a red flag when parts of the track started coming up, and then held off challenges from his surging Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammate, Dario Franchitti, and others on several restarts in a final 15-lap period. The result marks the first set of consecutive races where TCGR has finished 1-2 in the team's history.
“It feels great, as we got the short end of the stick last time (here) in '08,” Dixon said. “I thought we'd have more issues. I was hoping it would get called, but we didn't want to do that for the fans. I can't believe Dario got up here – I was worried about him. He'd come from sixth place and ran his way up to second.”
Franchitti was the only one of the top-five drivers on Firestone's red alternate tires for the final series of restarts, so was able to advance up the field even more than he had already in the early stages of the race. The Indianapolis 500 and defending series champion had started 14th on the day.
“It was great to see Scotty win – he was fastest in qualifying and running away from everyone in the race,” he said.
Simon Pagenaud secured his second podium finish of the season in third, with Will Power and Oriol Servia rounding out the top five. Pagenaud was pleased with the result but frustrated over the series' decision to where all teams could change tires, but only onto their current code – drivers with blacks could stay on blacks, and reds on reds.
“First, I congratulate Honda, they believed in me, and I'm pleased to bring a 1-2-3,” he admitted. “But the frustration is simple. The restarts and changing tires, why can't we all be on the same types? Dario started on reds.”
The race was devoid of much passing or interest before the red flag period, with the lone real engaging bit E.J. Viso holding up a train of cars in the first 25 laps before his first stop. Viso, in fourth place, fell some 22 seconds behind third-placed Pagenaud in 22 laps, and that largely broke up the field.
Where things got interesting was when Hinchcliffe got taken out by a piece of the track that he hit in Turn 6 – which caused a colorful outburst on his radio. At the same time, Indy 500 star Takuma Sato launched over the curbs in Turn 12 and into the tire barriers there, after also hitting a portion of the track.
The race was red flagged to repair the damage and determined the race would restart with 15 laps remaining (see separate story). A pair of back-to-back yellows, including one spin where Marco Andretti punted Viso and another where several drivers – Helio Castroneves, Ed Carpenter, Ryan Briscoe, Simona de Silvestro and Josef Newgarden – all had various spins and stalls between Turns 6 and 7. All recovered to midpack finishing positions, and Newgarden did well to make some sterling passes although he was a lap down.
Fifth-placed Servia's torrid passing streak this year continued as his result (from 17th on the grid) meant his total number of positions gained increased to 74. Tony Kanaan, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Charlie Kimball, Andretti and Alex Tagliani completed the top 10 on the day. Tagliani's drive was particularly stout as his car didn't start on the initial grid – he had qualified third – but he worked his way from the back of the field to his first top 10 result of the year. In 14th, de Silvestro posted her best result of the season and the fourth best for a Lotus this year.
Power now leads Dixon by 26 in the championship standings, with Castroneves third (55 behind) and Franchitti and Hinchcliffe (56 back) tied for fourth. The series moves on to the lone 1.5-mile oval on the schedule at Texas Motor Speedway on Saturday night.
Results - 60 laps:
Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap
1. Scott Dixon Ganassi DW12-Honda 1h27m39.5053s
2. Dario Franchitti Ganassi DW12-Honda + 1.9628s
3. Simon Pagenaud Schmidt DW12-Honda + 2.4773s
4. Will Power Penske DW12-Chevy + 3.5435s
5. Oriol Servia Panther/DRR DW12-Chevy + 9.6619s
6. Tony Kanaan KV DW12-Chevy + 10.1676s
7. Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti DW12-Chevy + 10.6455s
8. Charlie Kimball Ganassi DW12-Honda + 11.1048s
9. Mike Conway Foyt DW12-Honda + 11.5315s
10. Alex Tagliani Herta DW12-Honda + 12.5688s
11. Marco Andretti Andretti DW12-Chevy + 24.5855s
12. Ed Carpenter Carpenter DW12-Chevy + 26.6600s
13. Simona de Silvestro HVM DW12-Lotus + 28.4369s
14. JR Hildebrand Panther DW12-Chevy + 1 lap
15. Josef Newgarden Fisher DW12-Honda + 1 lap
16. Ryan Briscoe Penske DW12-Chevy + 1 lap
17. Helio Castroneves Penske DW12-Chevy + 1 lap
18. EJ Viso KV DW12-Chevy + 1 lap
19. Graham Rahal Ganassi DW12-Honda + 2 laps
Takuma Sato Rahal DW12-Honda 38 laps
James Hinchcliffe Andretti DW12-Chevy 38 laps
Justin Wilson Dale Coyne DW12-Honda 28 laps
James Jakes Dale Coyne DW12-Honda 26 laps
Sebastien Bourdais Dragon DW12-Chevy 24 laps
Rubens Barrichello KV DW12-Chevy 11 laps