Ericsson takes first IndyCar win in Race 1 of Detroit doubleheader

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Ericsson takes first IndyCar win in Race 1 of Detroit doubleheader

IndyCar

Ericsson takes first IndyCar win in Race 1 of Detroit doubleheader

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It was a race in three parts as a pair of red flags brought pauses to Race 1 of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix, and when it was over, Team Penske’s Will Power was heartbroken, Chip Ganassi Racing’s Marcus Ericsson was jubilant after scoring his first NTT IndyCar Series win, and the paddock was keeping good thoughts for Arrow McLaren SP’s Felix Rosenqvist.

The only boring part of the 70-lap race took place on the last three laps as Ericsson took the green flag from the lead and crossed the finish line in the No. 8 Honda over Rinus VeeKay in the No. 21 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevy (1.7290s) and polesitter Pato O’Ward of Arrow McLaren SP in the No. 5 Chevy (+1.9105s). The drama is what came before the final red flag as Power led 37 laps and appeared to have Team Penske’s first win of 2021 in hand. That was until a solo crash by Romain Grosjean with five laps left to go turned the race on its head.

By calling for the red flag, IndyCar wanted to ensure the race finished under green conditions, and for all but Power, the decision worked to perfection until his No. 12 Chevy refused to fire at the front of the field. Given ample time to make multiple attempts to get the engine running, IndyCar officials ordered Ericsson — in P2 — and the rest of the drivers to pull around Power and follow the pace car.

With the No. 12 wheeled back to its pit box, the Penske crew worked swiftly to replace the ECU, but three laps were lost as Power returned to the circuit and finished an unrepresentative P20 as Ericsson made use of an almighty gift.

“I’ve been here now for three years, and there’s been a lot of bad luck,” said the ex-Formula 1 driver who became IndyCar’s seventh different winner in as many races this season. “Today was my day. I feel bad for Will. Still, I’ll take it. I’m so happy. It’s 10 years since I won a race. I came over here with that fire to win again. To get to victory lane means a lot.”

Ericsson also added another piece of history to the mix by earning the first win for the CGR IndyCar team in the No. 8 since Michael Andretti drove the No. 8 Reynard-Ford/Cosworth to victory at the Toronto CART race in 1994.

For VeeKay, it was another statement-making drive for ECR to follow his May win at the Indy Grand Prix.

“Very happy,” VeeKay said. “It’s an awesome track. I like street courses, being a little crazy. Very good result; very good for the points.”

Where Grosjean was able to easily climb from the No. 51 Honda in his crash, the same could not be said for Felix Rosenqvist. On Lap 25, the Swede suffered a hellacious crash at Turn 6 when his No. 7 AMSP Chevy went to full throttle—for reasons unknown, at this point—and slammed into the wall to hard, it knocked over the 7000-pound concrete barrier sections struck by the front of his Dallara DW12 chassis.

After circulating behind the pace car for a few laps, the field was sent to pit lane and the first red flag was flown on Lap 28 to give the AMR Safety Team ample space to removed Rosenqvist from the car and for the track workers to begin extensive repairs to the Turn 6 barriers and fencing. Perched atop the tires, the safety team mounted the No. 7 car and slowly extricated Rosenqvist, who was in pain, but not seriously injured, according to IndyCar.

With the red flag being flown at 2:49 p.m. ET, the track repairs took more than an hour and engines were re-fired at 4:04 p.m. and the green flag waved a few minutes later.

As cars rolled away from pit lane, Scott Dixon led a group of drivers who were moments away from stopping prior to Rosenqvist’s accident. The list included James Hinchcliffe, Santino Ferrucci, and Graham Rahal, Alexander Rossi, Colton Herta, Alex Palou, Sebastien Bourdais, and more. Their need to pit as the race resumed would ruin their chances of staying up from and fighting for victory.

Their stops ensuing stops promoted Power to the lead and Ericsson to second; Dixon fell to P11 and most of the group that followed him into the pits were close behind as the race resumed.

With the upcoming red flag that led to Power’s demise and Ericsson’s breakthrough win, there were a few others who would make use of the post-Rosenqvist sequence to fight their way forward. Rahal authored the best recovery after the first red flag to take P5, right behind Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing teammate Takuma Sato, and completing the RLL Hail Mary — after all three cars qualified P16 or worse — was Santino Ferrucci in P6.

Andretti Autosport’s Rossi was the best among his four-car collective in P7, and having started in P11, gotten into the lead, then fallen outside the top 10, Dixon rallied to take P8 but fell to third in the championship with O’Ward’s podium result.

It wasn’t as good as it could have been for Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser Sullivan’s Ed Jones. However, after a day that threw every variable his way, he persevered to finish P9 after starting P4, and for the first time this season, he was truly competitive. Penske’s Josef Newgarden, who lost a lap when a rear wheel fell off, put in a spirited drive to get back on the lead lap and round out the top 10.

Round 1 was a bonafide mess with crashes, wheel-to-wheel clashes, penalties for rough driving, speeding, blocking, and using a short cut. It was dreadfully hot inside the cars, hands were blistered and bleeding and, with less than 24 hours to Race 2 which starts at 12 p.m. ET, exhausted minds and bodies will be asked to do another 70 laps for our entertainment.

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