DETROIT, Sunday, June 3, 2012 – Schmidt Hamilton HP Motorsports driver Simon Pagenaud was part of a Honda sweep of the Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix podium when the checker flag finally flew over a bizarre race that included a red flag to repair the track’s surface.
Pagenaud started the scheduled 90-lap race from the second row after he qualified fourth Saturday. His fourth-place starting position matched his best starting spot of the season. He capitalized on a great start to move into third place at the first turn, falling in behind leader Scott Dixon and Will Power. It was a position he comfortably held through the first set of pit stops.
The Frenchman was still running in third place when the red flag came out on Lap 45 to repair the track’s surface, which was tearing apart in several areas. The damage to the track was the cause of a crash by Andretti Autosport’s James Hinchcliffe, which eventually brought out the red flag.
After a delay just under two hours, the drivers were called back to their cars and the race was green flagged on Lap 47. Series officials determined during the red flag delay to shorten the race from 90 laps down to 60 to ensure the temporary concrete patches would last for an adequate time of green flag racing.
IndyCar officials also allowed teams to change tires before the restart as long as a car put on the same Firestone compound (red or black). The decision allowed Franchitti to put on fresh Firestone ‘reds’ while Pagenaud replaced his Firestone ‘blacks.’ When new, the Firestone ‘reds’ are the much faster compound. Though they wear out faster than the ‘blacks,’ it was a definite advantage for the 15-lap sprint after the red flag.
On the restart, Pagenaud timed his approach to the green flag perfectly and moved past Power for second place. It looked as if he would be able to pull away from Power until a yellow flag came out on lap 52. When the race resumed on lap 53, Franchitti took full advantage of his red tires and passed Power for third and finally Pagenaud for second place. They maintained those positions to the finish.
“It was a tremendous day for Honda,” said Pagenaud. “The guys have done such a great job providing us with a super good powerplant. Today is just the testament to all their work. Also I’ve got to thank my team, Sam Schmidt Hamilton Motorsports. It’s amazing to be a one-car team and fighting against Penske and Ganassi. I’ve found it’s like living the dream. So we’re very happy today. What else can I say, really? It was just a fantastic day for us.”
After Team Penske’s dominance in the first four races of the 2012 season, Chip Ganassi Racing has countered with two straight wins. Franchitti won last week’s Indy 500 and Dixon cruised to victory today.
Dixon’s win was his first IZOD IndyCar Series of 2012 and his 28th career Indy car win, which moves him past Johnny Rutherford on the all-time win list. It is also the 88th win for Chip Ganassi Racing.
Franchitti’s second place was his third-straight top-five finish, which includes winning his third Indianapolis 500.
Following Pagenaud to round out the top five at the finish were Power and Oriol Servia.
Will Power maintains his lead in the IZOD IndyCar Series championship with 232 points. Dixon is now second with 206, while Helio Castroneves is third with 177. Franchitti and Hinchcliffe are tied for fourth while Pagenaud is sixth with 171.
The next IZOD IndyCar Series event is the Firestone 550 at Texas Motor Speedway on June 9, 2012.
DATE: June 3, 2012
EVENT: Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix
SERIES: IZOD IndyCar Series
LOCATION: Raceway of Belle Isle, Detroit (2.04-mile, 14-turn temporary street circuit)
START/FINISH: 4th/3rd (Running, Completed 60 of 60 laps)
WINNER: Scott Dixon of Ganassi Racing