By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
Mayhem happened on the opening lap of Sunday’s Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix Race No. 2 at Belle Isle, where a Turn 3 pileup collected seven cars.
Heading into the treacherous breaking spot, an early three-car battle for eighth became disastrous when Will Power, Felix Rosenqvist, and Patricio O’Ward ran out of real estate, resulting Rosenqvist’s No. 10 NTT Honda lifting off and turned O’Ward’s No. 31 Gallagher Chevrolet being turned around in front of the field.
Several cars made abrasive action to avoid the stricken car, with some drivers running into each other, notably a pair of Indianapolis 500 winners.
Tony Kanaan ran into the back of last Sunday’s 500-mile winner Simon Pagenaud, turning him around and crashing into O’Ward. Once the carnage unfolded, both Rosenqvist and O’Ward continued the battle, with the latter bouncing back to finish 11th.
“We were really close to avoiding that first lap incident, but unfortunately, we just had nowhere to go and got caught up in it,” O’Ward on his viewpoint of the opening lap contact. “The No. 31 Carlin Chevrolet was hit fairly hard and lost the front wing completely, so once we were restarted, we had to come in for a new front wing. The guys did a great job on that wing change and really on all of their stops all race, the strategy was really solid and we were able to get our lap back, and ultimately, move our way into 11th.”
Also listed involved in the mayhem were Kanaan’s teammate Matheus Leist, who ran into Marco Andretti. Both would continue, with Andretti scoring sixth, but Leist’s race wouldn’t last much longer after bringing his No. 4 ABC Supply Chevrolet into the pits and ultimately retired from the race yet again at Belle Isle. It marked his third retirement of 2019, all due to incidents.
“We had a problem with the car from the beginning and we don’t know what it is,” Leist on his early exit. “We have to go through the data and find out. It’s a shame for the team and myself. Look forward to Texas.”
The same can’t be said for Kanaan, who’s No. 14 ABC Supply Chevrolet was towed, signaling the end of his afternoon and finishing last in 22nd. It’s the 2004 NTT IndyCar Series champion’s first retirement since last August in Pocono and first last-place result since Road America in 2017.
Kanaan was brief about being out on the opening lap, shifting his focus to Texas Motor Speedway June 8.
“Too bad we got caught up in that first lap accident,” said Kanaan. “I had nowhere to go, got collected, hit other people, so onto Texas.”
Pagenaud’s No. 22 DXC Technology Chevrolet was briefly stuck, but were able to bring it back to the paddock and began repairing the damage to avoid his first retirement since last year at Long Beach.
While making repairs, Pagenaud described what he saw in the seven-car crash, notably the gear sensor taking a huge beating.
“I was going for the cap there, but it stopped. Then I got hit in the back like three times,” said Pagenaud. “I think I got some slight damage. I couldn’t select the gears right away because I got hit bad. It damaged the gear sensor, so I couldn’t select the gears to leave again, but the car doesn’t have much damage.”
Pagenaud returned to the track, but took a huge hit in the championship battle after coming into the weekend as the points leader.
However, with points leader Josef Newgarden crashing alongside James Hinchcliffe and Alexander Rossi in the same corner on Lap 33, Pagenaud wound up 17th, 12 laps behind race winner Scott Dixon to Newgarden’s 19th place finish. He’ll head to Texas third in points, 25 markers behind Newgarden.
Pagenaud was proud of his team getting him back on the track and although he gained little amount of points, it could pay dividends later in the season.
“The guys did a great job fixing it. We got back in the race and we scored six points, which could be important in the end,” said Pagenaud. “We had the fastest lap of the race by half a second, so the car was just honestly really, really good. It was a bit of a shame we didn’t get to race because I really think we would have challenged for it today.
“It could have been a huge day for points, but at the end of the day you also have to remember, I think we got pretty lucky today. Unlucky for Josef (Newgarden), of course, you don’t want to see that happen, but (Alexander) Rossi didn’t score too much, which for the both of us is a good thing.”
As for Power, the car Rosenqvist made the initial contact and resulting his car lifting, his rotten luck appeared to have continued after his No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet stalled a few laps later. Fortunately, Power was able to re-fire and pulled off a magnificent rally to finish an astonishing third.
“I definitely thought we were done,” Power on his earlier problems. “We were done – I couldn’t shift, and then obviously, I tried to reset it and then I stalled. But just a great recovery. We went fast when we needed to in that sequence to get a bunch of spots.
“I haven’t been satisfied with a race since Gateway (2018), and this is the first time I’ve been satisfied with a race (since).”
After finishing fourth yesterday, Rosenqvist’s day would go from bad to worse with six laps to go when he lost control in Turn 1 and ended his race. The incident brought out the red flag a lap later, the second of the season and the first at Belle Isle since 2017.
The Swede made contact with the Turn 11 wall, resulting in a bent suspension which led to his spin. He wound up finishing 16th, six laps down after working his way back into the top-10 before his second retirement in the last three races.
“I touched the wall on the exit of (Turn 11) and then I felt something weird in my steering. I was thinking about pitting,” Rosenqvist explained. “I told my guys on the radio that I probably broke the car, and then when I got to the straight before Turn 1, it got worse and when I turned in something broke in the rear and I spun around. Really, really a shame.
“We had a tough race. We got sandwiched at the start and fell back a bit, but we had a good strategy and the car was really quick. At that point it’s on me. I touched the wall (and) broke the car. It’s really a shame.”
Along with Spencer Pigot, who crashed out after Sebastien Bourdais ran into him as he was about to blend into pit entry, lifting Bourdais’ car but also continued the race, five out of 22 cars failed to finish the second Belle Isle race.