Detroit flashback: Track issues overshadow Dixon’s dominance in 2012

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Track surface problems marred the IZOD IndyCar Series’ return to the Motor City in 2012 after a four-year absence.

Just five laps into the scheduled 90-lap race, reports of track deterioration around the 2.1-mile Belle Isle Park course began to come in from drivers. But the race continued on without issues until Lap 39, when James Hinchcliffe ran over a large chunk of sealant that had been pulled up from the track and was sent airborne before slamming into the Turn 6 tire barriers.

“I have never seen anything like it,” Hinchcliffe said. “We had these big pieces of tar just sort of ripping up from Lap 5…The lap before the accident, I had this chunk hit me in the wing in Turn 9. I radioed to the guys to make sure the wing was all right because it was a big hit. Then going through [Turn] 6, I turned in and a piece of the tar, whatever, just folded over with a giant chunk of concrete. It launched the front-end of the car in the air. I was just a passenger at that point.”

That incident, along with another one that involved Takuma Sato, would eventually bring out the red flag at Lap 45 for extensive repair work to multiple parts of the circuit. After a delay of just under two hours and with darkness starting to creep in, the decision was made to end the race at 60 laps and to allow everyone to get fresh tires for the sprint to the finish (although they had to maintain the same compounds they were on at the time of the red flag).

Light rain began to fall as the green flag came out on Lap 47, with pole sitter Scott Dixon as the leader. As the rain made the freshly-repaired circuit even tougher to navigate, Helio Castroneves spun and tagged Ed Carpenter in Turn 6, while Josef Newgarden and Ryan Briscoe did the same in Turn 7.

Dixon would have to endure two more restarts within the final ten laps but was able to pull away from teammate Dario Franchitti and win the shortened event. Dixon, Franchitti and third-place driver Simon Pagenaud made it a clean sweep of the podium for Honda in Chevy’s backyard.

Afterwards, Dixon, who led every lap on the day, was thankful for IndyCar and Belle Isle’s quick repair work to the track.

“I’d like to give a lot of credit to everyone at INDYCAR and the Detroit staff for getting the track back in shape so we could race,” he said. “The final 15 lap shoot-out was exciting for me, so I sure hope the fans liked it.”

Shortly after the race, a massive project to overhaul the Belle Isle course was announced by Detroit Grand Prix Association chairman Bud Denker, who had been spotted helping track workers himself during the repair process.

Meyer Shank Racing wins Petit Le Mans to take final DPi championship in dramatic finale

Petit Le Mans championship
IMSA
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Meyer Shank Racing outdueled Wayne Taylor Racing to win the Petit Le Mans and clinch the championship in a thrilling final race for the DPi division.

Tom Blomqvist, who started from the pole position, drove the No. 60 Acura ARX-05 to a 4.369-second victory over Pipo Derani in the No. 31 Action Express Cadillac.

“That was incredible,” Blomqvist told NBC Sports’ Matt Yocum. “I’ve never dug so deep in my life. The adrenaline. I did that for the guys. I was so motivated to win this thing this weekend. But I’ve got to thank everyone on the whole team.”

With co-drivers Oliver Jarvis and Helio Castroneves, Blomqvist helped MSR bookend its season-opening victory in the Rolex 24 at Daytona by winning Saturday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season finale at Michelin Road Atlanta.

In between those two victories, the No. 60 earned five runner-up finishes to stay in the thick of the championship hunt and trail WTR’s No. 10 Acura by 14 points entering Saturday’s race.

WTR’s Filipe Albuquerque had a lead of more than 10 seconds over Blomqvist with less than 50 minutes remaining in the 10-hour race.

But a Turn 1 crash between the Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillacs brought out a yellow that sent both Acuras into the pits from the top two positions.

Though he entered in second, Blomqvist barely beat Albuquerque out of the pits, and he held the lead for the final 45 minutes.

Blomqvist said he gained the lead because of a shorter fuel fill after he had worked on being efficient in the second-to-last stint.

“The team asked a big job of me with the fuel; I had a big fuel number to hit,” Blomqvist said. “We knew that was probably our only chance. The yellow came at the right time and obviously we had a bit less fuel to fill up, so I was able to jump him and then it was just a matter of going gung-ho and not leaving anything on the line. And obviously, the opposition had to try too hard to make it work. I’m so thankful.”

Albuquerque closed within a few car lengths of Blomqvist with 14 minutes remaining, but he damaged his suspension because of contact with a GT car in Turn 1.

It’s the first prototype championship for Meyer Shank Racing, which also won the 2021 Indy 500 with Castroneves.

“We’ve had in the last four years, three championships for Acura, the Indy 500 win and the Rolex 24, it doesn’t get any better,” team co-owner Mike Shank told NBC Sports’ Kevin Lee.

It’s the third consecutive runner-up finish in the points standings for Wayne Taylor Racing, which won the first Daytona Prototype international championship in 2017. The premier category will be rebranded as the Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class with the LMDh cars that will establish a bridge to racing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Kamui Kobayashi finished third in the No. 48 Cadillac of Action Express that also includes Jimmie Johnson and Mike Rockenfeller.

The podium showing marked Johnson’s last scheduled race in IMSA’s top prototype division. The seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion has raced in the No. 48 Ally Cadillac lineup as the Action Express entry has run the Endurance Cup races.

Johnson said a lack of inventory will preclude him having a 2023 ride in the top category. But he still is hopeful of racing the Garage 56 Next Gen Camaro in next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans and possibly running in a lower class for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

“I’d love to be at Le Mans next year,” Johnson told NBC Sports’ Dillon Welch after his final stint Saturday. “I’d love to be at the Rolex 24. The series is going through a shake-up with the reconfiguration of the rules and classes, so I don’t have anything locked down yet, but I’m so thankful for this experience with Action. The support Ally has given us, Mr. Hendrick, Chad Knaus, all of Hendrick Motorsports. It’s been a fun two years, and I certainly hope I’m on the grid again next year.”