By Ian Shalapata
(DETROIT, MI) – If you could survive the crashes and pile-ups, there was a good chance you would win. That seemed to be the order of the day at Belle Isle and the running of Dual2 in Detroit.
At 3:30 pm Sunday, the ambient temperature was 73 degrees but Firestone engineers recorded track level temperatures at 88. Under mostly clouded skies, Simon Pagenaud guided his #77 HP car through the wrecks to record his first IZOD IndyCar win. Quite an accomplishment considering the six yellow flags during the afternoon. Like Saturday’s win was the first for Dale Coyne Racing, likewise for Schmidt Hamilton Motorsports on Sunday as the France native was last man standing by the end of the day.
Still early season Pagenaud is the sixth different winner, representing six different countries, in seven races. Only Oakville’s James Hinchcliffe has been a repeat winner so far this year.
“There were a lot of things going on in the cockpit in the last two laps, I can tell you that,” Pagenaud beamed. “It’s unbelievable. I don’t know how we did it. The car was mega fast. I certainly had more horsepower than anyone else out there right now. Man, it’s a great feeling. One I hope of more to come.”
As with Saturday, the initial lap after the green flag found AJ Allmendinger out of the race. Obviously frustrated with his performance, the American driver will, no doubt, be discussing the weekend with team owner, Roger Penske.
“It was just a huge mistake by me again,” Allmendinger said. “Start of the race, trying to be aggressive, not kind of get sucked into everything and just made a mistake again. I don’t know what to say, I apologize to Roger, everybody at Team Penske, Quicken Loans, everybody that puts in the effort, all my guys, it’s embarrassing, honestly.”
With the stage set, 22 laps were run under yellow. It seemed as if once the green was shown, there would immediately be another full course caution when racing began. The frustration the drivers must have been feeling could be perceived amongst the fans in the stands.
In addition to Allmendinger, other drivers to have difficulties included de Silvestro, Tagliani, Newgarden, Carpenter, Viso, and Sato. Then, on lap 28 an eight car pile-up resulted in Turn 1, with #12 Will Power attempting to “talk” to Sebastien Bourdais.
“We got robbed and that is not right,” Bourdais complained. “Yesterday my teammate was taken out by Marco (Andretti) and there was no penalty given. We have had at least 15 contacts throughout the weekend and maybe 2 or 3 guys were penalized, including me today. I hardly touched Will Power at that restart and was penalized. This is just not right.”
After the smoke had settled, and the drivers got to the business of driving, Pagenaud found himself in 9th place. In fact, none of the podium occupants at the end of the race were running any higher than 8th as Saturday’s winner, Mike Conway, was in the thick of it again on Sunday. He ended in third position, finishing behind Pagenaud and James Jakes, and missing out on the $50,000 bonus were he to have swept both races at Belle Isle.
“I pushed really hard at the beginning and that may have taken a little bit out of the tires,” Conway explained. “But it was still good towards the end. I was catching James [Jakes], I could see he was on reds, so he started to pull away, but I couldn’t quite get close enough.”
IZOD now moves to Fort Worth, Texas, for the Firestone 550 on 8 June.