Sometimes, you are either lucky or good, but Carlos Munoz was both on Saturday as he played the strategy game perfectly and won a rain shortened Race 1 of the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit weekend.
Andretti Autosport teammate Marco Andretti initially held the upper hand in strategy as he pitted on lap nine under caution for slick tires as the track was drying out while the majority of the field stayed out under yellow.
The race fell right into Andretti’s hands as Charlie Kimball crashed on the ensuing restart which brought out another caution flag. The remainder of the field took the opportunity to switch over to slick tires which elevated Andretti to the lead.
As they say, “cautions breed cautions” as the next 10 laps were mired by yellow flags for debris which then brought up an interesting strategy call by Target Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon. With more rain coming on the way, Dixon elected to pit under the yellow for rain tires in hopes of the rains coming. Andretti along with Jack Hawksworth, Stefano Coletti, Luca Filippi and Ryan Hunter-Reay stayed out on their slicks.
Andretti’s race nearly took a massive turn for the worse on the restart as the engine on his #27 car sputtered which dropped him down to fifth place. His luck turned back around when the leaders in front of him all needed to pit which put him back into the lead on lap 36 with teammate Carlos Munoz behind him, also on dry tires.
The rain began to fall on parts of the circuit but wasn’t enough to lose the track, at least for Andretti. Andretti and Munoz managed to not only win the race of attricion against Scott Dixon, who was the first to pit for wet tires, but managed to stretch out by nearly 10 seconds a lap over the course of six laps, giving them a large cushion heading into their final pitstops.
Andretti pitted on lap 40 for fuel and rain tires while Munoz managed to build up a lead on his slick tires with two laps extra fuel to his credit. The pitstop was perfect and Munoz kept the lead with 26.2241 seconds to the good on Andretti as the rains began to fall.
Lighting forced the race to come to a halt on lap 46 and after nearly 30 minutes of deliberation, Munoz was declared the winner.
“When it rain a little bit, everyone came, and smart call, Simon and I still on the track,” he said. “I knew for sure it would rain. We stayed. I had more fuel than Marco. I could push three laps harder than anyone else. That’s what make the gap so big.”
“In the rain, after the rain, I was feeling really comfortable. I was pulling like two seconds a lap in the rain. After they say to slow down a little bit.”
“My first win in IndyCar. Not the way I wanted to win. I want to win like 100%, all the laps complete. But a win is a win.”
The win is the second for Honda this season and the first win for Andretti Autosport since Ryan Hunter-Reay’s win at Iowa Speedway last July.
Andretti claimed his first podium since the Indianapolis 500 last year while Simon Pagenaud finished in third place, his first podium with Team Penske. Will Power finished in fourth followed by Scott Dixon in fifth.
Graham Rahal’s streak of top five finishes came to an end when he was caught up in a crash on lap 6 with Tony Kanaan and James Jakes. In his debut race for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, Conor Daly ran inside the top five on the same strategy as Marco Andretti but rear ended a car on a restart and was forced to pit, which relegated him to a 19th place finish.
Chevrolet Dual in Detroit Race 1 Results
1. (20) Carlos Munoz, Honda, 47, Running
2. (9) Marco Andretti, Honda, 47, Running
3. (5) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 47, Running
4. (1) Will Power, Chevrolet, 47, Running
5. (7) Scott Dixon, Chevrolet, 47, Running
6. (2) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 47, Running
7. (14) Jack Hawksworth, Honda, 47, Running
8. (18) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 47, Running
9. (19) Luca Filippi, Chevrolet, 47, Contact
10. (3) Juan Pablo Montoya, Chevrolet, 46, Running
11. (4) Takuma Sato, Honda, 46, Running
12. (10) James Jakes, Honda, 46, Running
13. (16) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 46, Running
14. (6) Sebastien Bourdais, Chevrolet, 46, Running
15. (8) Stefano Coletti, Chevrolet, 46, Running
16. (12) Sage Karam, Chevrolet, 46, Running
17. (11) Tristan Vautier, Honda, 46, Running
18. (23) Gabby Chaves, Honda, 46, Running
19. (21) Conor Daly, Honda, 46, Running
20. (15) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 33, Running
21. (22) Rodolfo Gonzalez, Honda, 25, Mechanical
22. (17) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 13, Contact
23. (13) Graham Rahal, Honda, 5, Contact