Verizon IndyCar Series drivers’ championship leader Simon Pagenaud gave himself every chance of extending his points advantage by dominating the opening half of Sunday’s Dual in Detroit Presented by Quicken Loans race.
Driving the No. 22 Hewlett Packard Enterprise Team Penske Chevrolet, Pagenaud led all but one lap of the opening 35 in Detroit after starting from pole position.
A caution was called just seconds into the race after a clash between Carlos Munoz and James Hinchcliffe, the latter being shunted into the wall.
Munoz bore the brunt of Hinchcliffe’s initial anger, but the Colombian was left with nowhere to go after being squeezed by Charlie Kimball. Max Chilton was also eliminated at the first corner, while Takuma Sato was fortunate to continue after also being tagged. The majority of the field used the caution period to pit briefly.
Pagenaud managed to retain his lead once the race returned to green before eking out a gap to Ryan Hunter-Reay through the first stint of the race. By the time the drivers’ championship leader came in for his second pit stop and made the move onto the black primary Firestone tires, his advantage stood at over five seconds, allowing him to re-claim the lead once the pit cycle had been completed.
Juan Pablo Montoya battled his way up from P10 on the grid to run fifth ahead of the first scheduled round of stops, having pulled off a superb pass on Penske teammate Will Power early on. The Colombian attempted a repeat move on Scott Dixon, only for the two to make contact. Both were forced to pit for light repairs, dropping out of the top five.
Hunter-Reay dropped back after making his first planned stop, losing out to both Tony Kanaan and Helio Castroneves. Sebastien Bourdais was able to rise to third after making an early second stop as KVSH Racing looked to repeat their strategic success that took the Frenchman to victory on Saturday.
As the race neared half-distance, Kanaan began to close on Pagenaud at the front, the Penske driver appearing to save fuel in a bid to make a two-stop strategy work. Bourdais had also been in striking distance before pitting just on lap 33, lifting Castroneves to third ahead of Hunter-Reay and Power.
On lap 35, a full course caution was called when Montoya shunted not long after making his third pit stop, capping off a tough weekend for the Penske driver.