This weekend marked the first of three doubleheader weekends in the IZOD IndyCar Series and it provided more dramatic racing which has been the norm this season and it also provided two surprise winners. Mike Conway took the Chevrolet Indy Dual in Detroit Race 1 on Saturday and Simon Pagenaud won the Chevrolet Indy Dual in Detroit Race 2 on Sunday at the Belle Isle course.
Conway was running a one-off weekend with Dale Coyne Racing and found out he had the ride on this past Tuesday in the No. 18 car that Ana Beatriz drove in the first five races of the year. Earlier on Saturday, Conway won Dale Coyne Racing its first pole which was for Dual Race 2. Then he backed that up in the afternoon by shocking everyone with great team strategy to win.
The team used a strategy to run the first two stints of the race on the faster and more durable black tire compound and then only run the final few laps of the 70 lap race on the red compound which was about 1.5 seconds per lap slower.
Conway was able to open such a big lead over the first two stints that he had up to a 20 second lead at one point that no one could make up even with the blacks on the last run. He won by 12.9 seconds over Ryan Hunter-Reay.
The win was the second of Conway's career and first since the 2011 season and also was the first win for DCR.
"I can't thank Dale enough for making this possible," said Conway. "They've given me a great car all weekend. The car was amazing on the blacks and even on the Reds. Amazing pace and great job from the crew guys."
Hunter-Reay finished second for Andretti Autosport and Dale Coyne Racing also placed Justin Wilson on the podium with a third place finish. Scott Dixon was fourth, Helio Castroneves fifth, Dario Franchitti sixth, Josef Newgarden seventh, Will Power eighth, Graham Rahal ninth, and James Jakes tenth.
AJ Allmendinger crashed on lap 1 hard into the tire barriers in Turn 1 after riding over the rear of Scott Dixon. Allmendinger finished last without completing a lap. Dixon's team made repairs and he stormed through the field all the way to a fourth place finish. Sebastien Bourdais retired with mechanical issues on lap 19 and Alex Tagliani made contact and retired on lap 28. Sebastian Saavadra retired on lap 32 after contact.
Sunday's Dual Race 2 had much more contact than Race 1 did on Saturday and when the dust settled Simon Pagenaud scored his first career IZOD IndyCar Series win and also the first for Schmidt Hamilton Racing. He finished 12th in Dual Race 1.
"It's such a relief," said Pagenaud. "There was so much emotion going through the cockpit those last two laps. I've been working for this my entire career. This is so freakin' awesome."
James Jakes finished in second for his first career podium in 38 starts and Mike Conway finished off his strong weekend with a third place finish and second podium in two days.
Contact and surviving was the name of the day. AJ Allmendinger crashed out for the second straight day before finishing a lap and finished last after hitting the Turn 2 exit wall.
Simona de Silvestro had a tire issue on lap 10 and crashed into the wall and finished 24th. On lap 17 Ryan Hunter-Reay crashed in the same spot, he finished in 18th, 11 laps down.
On the lap 14 restart, Ed Carpenter made contact into Alex Tagliani and the caution came right back out. A caution on lap 21 for more debris brought a lap 24 restart where Takuma Sato made contact into Tristan Vautier who hit the tire barrier. Sato finished 23rd and Vautier one lap down in 14th.
The lap 28 restart produced a nine-car melee when Sebastien Bourdais touched Will Power who spun in Turn 1. Justin Wilson and Alex Tagliani retired from their damage and finished 22nd and 21st respectively. Power continued after repairs but finished 20th, 17 laps down. Bourdais finished in 11th on the lead lap. In the accident many other drivers made nose changes after damage including the eventual winner Pagenaud.
After that accident the severe contact was done for the race and the charge to the finish was on with Pagenaud besting Jakes and Conway. Scott Dixon finished fourth for the second straight day and Dario Franchitti was fifth. Marco Andretti was sixth, Charlie Kimball seventh, Helio Castroneves eighth, Graham Rahal ninth, and Sabastian Saavadra tenth.
The points standings were shuffled following the Dual races and now after seven completed races Helio Castroneves and Marco Andretti are tied atop the standings with 206 points. Ryan Hunter-Reay is 15 points behind in third. Scott Dixon is fourth, Simon Pagenaud fifth, Takuma Sato sixth, Justin Wilson seventh, Tony Kanaan eighth, James Hinchcliffe ninth, and Charlie Kimball tenth.
Race eight is on Saturday night, June 8th at Texas Motor Speedway.
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