Sebastien Bourdais managed to stretch his fuel and make the most of the circumstances and claim his 33rd Indy car win in the second race of the Chevrolet Duel in Detroit weekend.
Rain once again became a major factor as the Belle Isle circuit was drenched in the hours leading to the second race of the weekend.
Bourdais started in the 9th position and remained steadily in the top 5 while Juan Pablo Montoya dominated the early stint of the race. His only challenge came from teammate Will Power, but Power’s efforts became futile as water from the storm caused electrical problems and forced him to pit and change his steering wheel on lap 30.
As the track was drying out, teams then had to come up with different strategy on whether or not they were going to switch to the slick tires while Montoya continued to lead. The first full course caution flew on lap 37 and changed the course of the race as the track was still half wet and dry. Montoya pitted with much of the field while Conor Daly stayed out and inherited the lead.
Prior to the yellow flag, Daly was silently making a name for himself substituting for the injured James Hinchcliffe by going longer than the leaders on fuel and managing to be faster than them as well. He then jetted away on the two subsequent restarts ahead of Hunter-Reay and Power on rain tires while the rest of the field was on slicks. Pending no caution flags, Daly was one of only a couple of drivers that could make it to the end on one more stop.
That all changed when Josef Newgarden crashed on lap 51, which brought out the full course yellow after a majority of the field stopped. Daly pitted soon after, which then handed the lead over to Sebastien Bourdais, who stopped on lap 48.
The drama didn’t end there as Bourdais, along with the majority of the field couldn’t make it to the finish unless the yellow flags started flying. The Frenchman brought the field down cleanly on lap 55 for the restart while the racing got dicey behind him and his KV Racing teammate Stefano Coletti crashed with Jack Hawksworth and Sage Karam crashed in Turn 3 which brought out another yellow flag.
Bourdais’ hopes for more yellow flags came true as first Charlie Kimball swung wide into his Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Scott Dixon on lap 59, ending his day. The next restart didn’t get off any better as then Coletti, Karam and Hawksworth came together again on lap 62. Despite the two extra yellow flags, the #11 Mystic/Hydroxycut Chevrolet was still short on fuel and need just a few more yellow flags to stretch it.
AS the fuel lowered in the tank, so did the laps as he brought the field down for another restart on lap 65. His hopes got even brighter, but not completely bright as Team Penske teammates Helio Castroneves and Will Power crashed on the exit of Turn 2, which brought out the red flag.
With the TV window approaching, IndyCar officials then announced that once the cars rolled off pit road, that there would be 5 minutes and 30 seconds on the clock, shortening up the race by a few laps.
Bourdais then pulled off a perfect restart as Juan Pablo Montoya soon fell into the clutches of Takuma Sato and Graham Rahal. Sato was unable to get anywhere close to Bourdais and the fuel held up for Bourdais to take the win.
“It was just about as nerve wracking as it gets,” said Bourdais. “When we elected to stay out I was like, ‘Oh man – it’s all or nothing.’ All I could hope for was the same scenario as NOLA (with) complicated conditions and one yellow after another.”
“The difference is we obviously deserved it because the boys worked really hard and we were on the pace, we passed a bunch of cars and made the moves when it mattered.”
Sato led a chain of eight Hondas in the top ten, claiming his first podium since Sao Paulo in 2013 while Rahal claimed his 3rd podium in the last 5 races. Fourth place was a great run for Tristan Vautier driving for Dale Coyne Racing. Vautier has not driven on a street course in IndyCar since Houston in 2013 and passed several cars on the chain of restarts and overtook a fuel-shy Montoya to claim his first career top five finish.
Marco Andretti overcame falling a lap down early and a sputtering engine, as he did yesterday, to claim his second top 5 finish. Conor Daly arguably drove the best race of his very young IndyCar career, leading 12 laps and slicing and dicing his way through the field after pitting from the lead and claiming a sixth place finish.
Jack Hawksworth recovered from being involved in two incidents to finish seventh followed by Ryan Hunter-Reay in eighth Gabby Chaves in ninth and Juan Pablo Montoya coasted to 10th after running out of gas on the last lap.
Race 1 winner Carlos Munoz’s hopes for a repeat win were dashed early when the water pressure suddenly dropped on his #26 Cinsay Honda and took him out of the race.
Race results here: IndyCar Belle Isle Race 2 Results