After bad weather turned the first race of the 2019 Detroit Grand Prix doubleheader into an unpredictable affair on Saturday, few would have imagined an even greater number of dramatic moments would take place under sunny skies at Belle Isle on Sunday. But a lap 1 wreck involving Indy 500 champion Simon Pagenaud set the tone for an action-packed Dual 2, one that featured only a few calm stretches before Scott Dixon survived a late restart to claim his victory of the NTT IndyCar Series season.
The race was red-flagged on lap 66 for a big single-car crash for rookie Felix Rosenqvist, who hit the wall and damaged his Chip Ganassi Racing Honda before taking a big hit in turn 1. That set up a final dash to the finish that saw the cars in the podium positions remain in place, with rookie Marcus Ericsson finishing second and Will Power, who had a roller coaster day that included involvement in the lap 1 incident and a gear sensor issue, coming home third.
Dixon’s win came just a day after he crashed on his own during Dual 1, the first time that happened to the New Zealander since 2014.
“I can’t thank the PNC Bank crew enough,” Dixon said in victory lane. “Rough day yesterday, I had a pretty good headache today and my wrist was pretty sore after that one. I just drove the wheels off it, and they did all the strategy, and the strategy is what nailed it.”
The day’s most notable incident came just before the halfway point, with James Hinchcliffe blending after a pit stop right in front of Dual 1 winner Josef Newgarden and Alexander Rossi. Entering turn 3, which proved the most treacherous part of the Belle Isle layout again, the drivers nearly got three wide and all lost control, with the rear end of Rossi’s Honda ever so slightly bumping Newgarden’s Chevrolet into Hinchcliffe, leaving both drivers’ cars entangled and motionless near the wall.
Rossi was fine after his close call, eventually ending the race in fifth. Hinchcliffe wasn’t as fortunate, losing power on lap 54 and bringing out a caution before being scored 18th at the checkered flag — and he was none too happy with Newgarden after his day ended.
“I know he’s there, I’m defending the inside, he tries to take what’s basically less than a car width inside,” Hinchcliffe said after seeing the incident for the first time. “[Newgarden] just loses it, Alex gets into the back of me. I’m on cold tires, we’re coming to another straightaway, Josef had plenty of time to do it, and just ran out of patience, I guess.”
Sebastian Bourdais was part of a scary collision as well, pulling a big wheelie after failing to recognize that Spencer Pigot was pitting and plowing into the back of his Chevrolet. Bourdais’ team was able to repair his car and salvage a top-10 finish.
Despite finishing 19th and taking responsibility for his wreck, Newgarden managed to leave Detroit atop the points standings, a spot he lost at Indy but reclaimed with his win on Saturday.
“I can’t blame anyone, it’s my fault,” Newgarden said. “It’s ultimately my fault with the way this happened…. I should have made a better decision there. Obviously it’s not the right thing that I did, so I feel bad. It hurts in the moment, I feel sorry for my guys, sorry to my team, sorry to Chevrolet.”