A miscommunication regarding a safety car wave-by likely cost Mike Conway and Ed Carpenter Racing a strong result on their race debut together.
Conway started 12th and quickly worked his way into the top 10 early on in the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet. He led a lap in a pit sequence (Lap 77) and ran in the top three for most of the first half.
Then, as the field was under yellow, James Hinchcliffe was waved by and Conway reacted as though he was due to be waved by as well. But a penalty was assessed to Conway shortly thereafter for the infraction of passing the pace car.
“I wasn’t really hoping for a safety car there around lap 80,” Conway said. “I was hoping to hold the gap when we went to the black tires. I didn’t hear a radio communication to come into the pits then. I thought the safety car waved me by but they were waving (James) Hinchcliffe by instead. I don’t know if there was a communication problem there too. I didn’t know if they waving at me or both of us. Then they said it was only for Hinch. And that was it. It screwed up our whole day.”
The problem was exacerbated as the restart accident happened the next time by. Conway, who was restarting further back, explained how this appeared from his vantage point.
“With the single file restarts, you can’t see around the big rear wings because you can’t pull out to pass before the green flag,” Conway said. “And we can’t see the green flag with these rear wings and we bunched up single file. So we have to rethink that area I believe. We have to be able to see around the other cars. It definitely needs to be looked at in the future.”
It’s an interesting point considering one of the official updates this weekend was the re-implementation of single-file restarts as opposed to the double-files. Some double-file restarts caused headaches in the past.
Alas, for Conway it was an unrepresentative 16th place result.
From here, it’s onto Long Beach, where he should be a podium contender.
He won in 2011 driving for Andretti Autosport, and a year ago took a one-off third Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing entry to a Firestone Fast Six appearance. That qualifying effort kept his name on the map ahead of his eventual partial season with Dale Coyne Racing, and his success achieved later in 2013.
The focus of the Detroit Monster Energy Supercross round was on the mid-pack battle while Aaron Plessinger pulled away from the field, but when he crashed after hooking his foot in the dirt, the results once more looked like we’ve come to expect, with Chase Sexton, Cooper Webb and Eli Tomac sharing the podium for the fifth time in 10 rounds.
For Sexton, Plessinger’s late-race crash was a vindication of sorts. Several times already this season, Sexton has crashed while battling for the lead and the points that has cost him keeps him sporting the red plate. He lost points in Detroit for a different reason, however.
Sexton was allowed to keep the win, but was penalized seven points for jumping in a red cross section of the course. As a result, he dropped four points to Webb and two to Tomac. Sexton is now 17 points behind Webb in the championship hunt.
One week after snatching the red plate from Tomac for the first time in 2023, Webb stretched his advantage by two. With his second-place finish, Webb holds a three-point lead over Tomac, which essentially means both riders control their fate in the coming weeks. Webb continues to have a sweep of the top five this season with his sixth consecutive podium.
Coming off his worst finish of the season, Tomac rebounded to finish third. His eighth-place result last week was partially attributed to a stiff neck that hindered him in traffic and he still suffered some of those same effects in Detroit. Before Plessinger’s crash, he was destined to be the only rider in the three-man title scrum to finish off the podium in Detroit.
It is surprising what one position can do for one’s confidence.
Justin Barcia scored his fourth top-five of the season. He was part of the exciting four-man battle that dominated the middle stages of the race before Sexton and Webb gained a little separation. Finishing less than three seconds behind Tomac, he kept that rider honest for the entire race.
Coming off his first win of the season, Ken Roczen finished fifth. It was his seventh top-five of the season and it elevated him to fifth in the standings.
Hunter Lawrence tied his brother Jett Lawrence with 10 wins each after another dominating ride in the Detroit Supercross race and the results in the points continue to widen. With his fifth win in six rounds and a worst finish of third, Lawrence now has a 35-point advantage over Nate Thrasher with four rounds remaining. Finishes of 14th or better in the final four mains will give him his first 250 championship.
Jett will have an opportunity to retake his wins’ lead as Supercross heads west for the next two rounds in Seattle and Glendale, Arizona.
Nate Thrasher earned his third second-place finish of the season with a gap of 7.6 seconds to Lawrence. He won the overall in Arlington earlier this season, but a 15th-place finish in the opening round in Houston and 10th in Daytona hurts his championship chances.
Haiden Deegan scored his second podium and fourth top-five in six rounds of his young career. On his way to that finish, he rode aggressively against his teammate Jordon Smith in the heat race. Fans are getting a glimpse of what his on-track personality might be.
Jeremy Martin continues to be the model of consistency. He has not finished worse than sixth or better than fourth in six rounds now and that has allowed him to close to within two points of third in the 250 East championship standings.
Max Anstie entered the race weekend second in the points, but a hard crash in heavy traffic early in the main forced him to retire after two laps. Earning only one point for the round, he plummeted to fifth in the standings.
The news was worse for Smith, who was dropped out of the top nine in his heat after the altercation with Deegan and failed to advance through the LCQ. In the last chance race, he stalled his engine and had to mount a determined charge. He got only as high as seventh in that race after crashing while attempting to make a pass on fourth-place Jack Chambers.