The first race of the weekend in Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix at Belle Isle track was a wet affair, where the start of the NTT IndyCar Series got delayed due to thunderstorm in the area.
Alexander Rossi had qualified on Pole Position, in front of Josef Newgarden, Scott Dixon, Felix Rosenqvist, Colton Herta and Ryan Hunter-Reay. Championship leader Simon Pagenaud would start the race from P13, right behind his Team Penske teammate Will Power.
After an hour wait, the thunderstorm drifted away and the field was ready to start a 75-minute race instead of doing 70 laps, since the laptimes would be much slower than on a dry track, as well as the wet asphalt increased the chance of accidents by almost a hundred percent. So by telling the teams in advance that they would race by time instead of laps, they could plan the race better.
Zach Veach spun around on the second warm-up lap, so his eighth position became P22.
It meant that there was an extra lap behind Safety Car, where the clock was already counting down.
But when the race finally started, it became a wild start, where Newgarden fell behind Dixon and almost got passed by Rosenqvist.
Matheus Leist had a spin in Turn 2 and brushed the barrier. It deployed the Safety Car, after only half a lap race.
Patricio O’Ward also fell far behind in the field, where he completed the first lap in fifteenth place after starting seventh. He had to avoid Takuma Sato, who was also about to lose control of the car in Turn 1 like Leist.
Ten minutes later the race got restarted.
Will Power had a fantastic start and was up to P7 after a couple of corners. Rosenqvist also came up to P3 when he forced Newgarden to make a mistake.
Pagenaud worked himself slowly but slowly up the field, and he was up to P9 after a few laps of real racing.
Power and Sato had a bit of contact as the former snatched fifth position.
Rosenqvist did a small mistake, which enabled Newgarden to come up to third again, while the Swede got Australian Will Power breathing down his neck.
Marco Andretti chose to pit with 51 minutes left and gambled on slicks – the hard version instead of the soft, which seemed like a bit of an odd choice if you had to take a chance anyway. He sailed around on the track and struggled to warm the tires, but then he started to set laptimes where the drivers on the wets could do.
Santino Ferrucci pitted a couple of laps after Andretti and put on the soft slicks, while Hunter-Reay, Spencer Pigot and Zach Veach chose the hard ones.
There was another SC period on the track when Ed Jones brushed the tire wall in Turn 7 and couldn’t continue.
It was something that really shook off the tield, since the drivers on slicks could stay on the track while the others should pit and change into dry tires shortly afterwards.
So after the remaining cars pitted, everyone was on slicks.
Something went wrong for the otherwise perfect Team Penske mechanics, when they sent Will Power out too early, without fastening the right front wheel. The mechanics waved erratically with their arms but they didn’t manage to stop the cars before Power losing the tire in the pit exit, and it actually touched Alexander Rossi’s car. Power had to drive an entire lap with just three tires – and could expect a penalty due to the unsafe work by the mechanics. And rightly enough, he got a Drive-Through penalty for that.
So after the restart Josef Newgarden led the race, in front of Alexander Rossi, Scott Dixon, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Felix Rosenqvist.
The green flag came with 33 minutes left. Graham Rahal went past Hinchcliffe straight away, in the battle for eighth place.
Zach Veach and Colton Herta had a cool duel through several corners, where the two respected each other but there was no position change.
Scott Dixon did a very seldom mistake and parked his blue and orange Chip Ganassi Racing car in the tire wall. It caused another FCY to get the car removed. Luckily, Dixon could climb out of the car by himself and with only limited damage, so the car should be ready for the race tomorrow. Actually, two years ago was the last time Dixon retired from an IndyCar race.
The majority of the field had the hard slicks on, while Patricio O’Ward, Santino Ferrucci and Ed Jones had the soft slicks on, marked by the red sides. Jones was however one lap behind due to his problems earlier in the race.
The race got restarted with 21 minutes left, and right away there were fights all over the field. Sato outbraked Hunter-Reay in the duel for fifth place.
Sebastien Bourdais overtook Herta in the close midfield.
Sato outbraked Rosenqvist in Turn 3, and then the Japanese suddenly became a serious threat for Rossi and Newgarden.
There were only one and a half laps with green flag, before the yellow flag was shown over the track again. Matheus Leist outbraked himself in Turn 7 and ended up in the tire barrier, so his car had to be pulled free from there.
There were twelve minutes left on the clock when the race got restarted.
Rossi was a few centimetres behind Newgarden through the first corner but couldn’t make it past.
Sato slammed the door close on Rosenqvist, even though the Swede was beside the Japanese. Both drivers kept their positions.
Newgarden and Rossi opened a big gap to Sato in P3, as they had a nice duel in front. Rosenqvist was right behind Sato and surely hadn’t given up the last spot on the podium.
But Josef Newgarden took it home, ahead of Alexander Rossi, with Takuma Sato in P3, followed by Felix Rosenqvist, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Simon Pagenaud.
The result put Newgarden back in the lead of the championship, in front of Simon Pagenaud, Alexander Rossi and Takuma Sato.
The second NTT IndyCar Series race of the weekend will be run on Sunday.