A race day made up of constantly shifting weather, challenging track conditions, a series of late-race cautions and a shortened race distance combined to prevent Honda from sweeping the second half of Sunday’s “Dual in Detroit-2” at Belle Isle Park. But the manufacturer still dominated the finishing order, claiming eight of the top 10 positions in the second half of the Verizon IndyCar Series double header weekend, after a 1-2 finish in Saturday’s opening race.
In a weekend marked by frequent – and sometimes heavy – showers, Sunday’s scheduled 70-lap race began with light rain falling on an already thoroughly wet Belle Isle Park street circuit. The track would slowly dry throughout the race, but the changing conditions led to a variety of pit strategies and treaded “wet” versus dry weather “slick” tire choices.
As the race entered its closing stages, Takuma Sato and Graham Rahal battled for third place, while both closed down on leaders Sebastien Bourdais and Juan Pablo Montoya, both of whom were having to conserve fuel in an effort to make the finish. Sato and Rahal both passed Montoya on a Lap 63 restart, but yet another caution later that lap – the seventh of the day – led race officials to display the red flag in order to give fans a race to the finish.
Unfortunately, time limits also resulted in the race distance being shortened by two laps, giving Bourdais just enough of a fuel margin to take the win, with Sato second, Rahal third and other Honda drivers finishing fourth through ninth.
Indy car’s run of consecutive May-June races continues next week, as the series heads south to the Dallas-Fort Worth for round nine, the Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway on Saturday night, June 6.
Takuma Sato (#14 A.J. Foyt Racing Honda) started 15th, finished 2nd: “A.J. Foyt Racing gave me great cars and it is great to be on the podium here after a long, exciting, and to be honest, crazy race. I was a little disappointed when they cancelled qualifying this morning and we had to start as far back as we did [on entrant points], because I feel like we’ve always qualified well here. We’ve had such a rough season that bringing home a good result was our first priority. We did most of what we could today, coming from the middle of the pack to contend for the win, and now I want to go for wins during the rest of the season.”
Graham Rahal (#15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Honda) started 5th, finished 3rd: “Obviously we would like to be winning, but that’s three podiums in the last four road and street course races, and three in the past five overall, so I’m pretty proud of that fact. I want to thank Honda for all the hard work they are putting in to the Indy car program. The fuel mileage was really good there at the end. I would have like to have seen the race run full distance because I heard Bourdais was tight on fuel and we were definitely good. We don’t necessarily always have the fastest car but if we can get to the end and have good finishes, we can be right there.”
Art St. Cyr (President, Honda Performance Development) on today’s race: “All in all, it was a good weekend for Honda, starting with yesterday’s 1-2 finish. I am disappointed to not get the win today, but finishing second through night is a good result. I believe today’s race demonstrated there is still plenty of fight left in Honda and our partner teams. With the combination of our performance and fuel economy, I believe we would have won the race if it had gone for the scheduled 70-lap distance. As it was, we still dominated the top 10 finishing positions, and every one of our partner teams had at least one car in the top nine. It was an excellent performance, in very challenging conditions, from everyone at Honda Performance Development and all of our teams; with exceptional efforts from Takuma Sato, his A.J. Foyt Racing team, and from Graham Rahal and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, keeping his championship chase intact.”