Marcus Ericsson wins at Detroit as Will Power blasts IndyCar for late red flag that costs him


Marcus Ericsson held off a challenge from Rinus Veekay and Pato O’Ward to win the Chevrolet Grand Prix of Detroit in a three-lap shootout Saturday, inheriting the lead after Will Power experienced bitter disappointment that left him angry at IndyCar officials.

Power’s car was in first when it initially failed to refire after IndyCar officials stopped the race with five laps remaining to ensure a green-flag finish after a caution for Roman Grosjean hitting the wall.

Power eventually rejoined the race but finished three laps down in 20th after leading a race-high 37 laps. If IndyCar had held the red flag, the race likely would have ended under yellow and given Power (and Team Penske) its first victory of the season.

“I’m mad at IndyCar,” Power told NBC Sports’ Kevin Lee. “Because I’m the first car in and they wait for the last car in to get a fan on the car – and it roasts the ECU. And just going red flag for starters.

“The guys up there in race control have never listened to any drivers. They never listen! They don’t care. We’ve given them so many good suggestions and they don’t care. I worked my ass off today to have this happen.”

“I’m screaming on the radio to get a fan because the ECU always overheats. They wait for everyone. These guys (in the back) still have air coming in the car. You work your ass off in this sport. So much money goes into it. And it’s just dumb decisions like that. Man, if it’s not a yellow they throw, it’s some stupid idea like this, a red flag.”

IndyCar officials said they red-flagged the race because they always attempt to end under a green flag and felt there was enough time for a finish with a stoppage for cleanup after the yellow flag on Lap 65 of 70.

Last year in the Indy 500, IndyCar officials provided a similar line of reasoning for why they didn’t throw a red flag and allowed the race to end under caution, asserting there wasn’t adequate time for a green-flag finish when the yellow flew on Lap 196 of 200.

Ericsson was poised to strike at Power when the second red flag waved for the accident involving Grosjean. The final laps seemed to be shaping up as a restart fight between a driver with 37 starts vs. a driver with 37 IndyCar wins.

Instead, Ericsson became the fourth first-time IndyCar winner this season and extended a streak of seven winners in seven races to start the season — tying a record recorded four times previously. The most recent was in 2017.

“It’s been such a long time for me,” Ericsson told NBC’s Marty Snider. “I was a kid when I won last time. I feel so good.

“I had my best result here two years ago with my second-place. I really liked this track then, so I knew coming into this weekend that I had a lot of confidence. … For once things fell my way.”

The overheated ECU denied Ericsson, in his third season in IndyCar, an opportunity to make an on-track pass of Power, a 14-year veteran with wins in every season since 2008.

“For Will, I feel really bad for him the way it ended,” Ericsson said. “He did a tremendous job today.”

On the restart following Grosjean’s incident, Ericsson, VeeKay and O’Ward were able to separate from the field as several drivers raced wheel to wheel.

The battle between VeeKay and O’Ward allowed Ericsson to concentrate on hitting his marks until the checkers waved.

Marcus Ericsson’s first IndyCar win makes him the seventh different winner of 2021 – tying a record. Chris Owens / IndyCar

VeeKay’s second-place finish is his second podium finish in seven starts and his second consecutive on a road course. He won the most recent road course race in the GMR Grand Prix and Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

O’Ward’s third-place finish is his best finish at The Raceway at Belle Isle and his third podium of 2020. O’Ward started the day on the pole after narrowly beating Alexander Rossi in that session. In the closing laps. he nursed a flat spotted left front tire.

“I understand they want to end under green,” O’Ward said about the final red flag. “If I was Will, I’d be telling you no. I feel for him. … He would have walked away with it if we didn’t go red.”

O’Ward was relieved with the podium finish, however. He was one of several drivers impacted by an early red flag period.

“If you go back to that first red flag, we really got hosed,” O’Ward said in a post-race interview.

Takuma Sato in fourth and Graham Rahal rounded out the top five.

The first red flag of the race for a massive crash by Felix Rosenqvist on Lap 26 lasted for more than an hour.

Rosenqvist impacted the wall heavily when his throttle appeared to stick. He was evaluated in the infield medical facility before being transported to a local hospital for further evaluation of injuries that were not “life-threatening or limb-threatening.”

The incident was a blow to Scott Dixon and James Hinchcliffe were caught out on strategy. Dixon finished the afternoon in eighth after getting off sequence. Hinchliffe was 17th.

Josef Newgarden finished 10th after losing a tire on Lap 7 when a lug was left loose on an early pit stop.

Ford unveils a new Mustang for 2024 Le Mans in motorsports ‘lifestyle brand’ retooling

Ford Mustang Le Mans
Ford Performance

LE MANS, France — Ford has planned a return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans with its iconic Mustang muscle car next year under a massive rebranding of Ford Performance aimed at bringing the automotive manufacturer “into the racing business.”

The Friday unveil of the new Mustang Dark Horse-based race car follows Ford’s announcement in February (and a ballyhooed test at Sebring in March) that it will return to Formula One in 2026 in partnership with reigning world champion Red Bull.

The Mustang will enter the GT3 category next year with at least two cars in both IMSA and the World Endurance Championship, and is hopeful to earn an invitation to next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. The IMSA entries will be a factory Ford Performance program run by Multimatic, and a customer program in WEC with Proton Competition.

Ford CEO Jim Farley, also an amateur sports car racer, told The Associated Press the Mustang will be available to compete in various GT3 series across the globe to customer teams. But more important, Farley said, is the overall rebranding of Ford Performance – done by renowned motorsports designer Troy Lee – that is aimed at making Ford a lifestyle brand with a sporting mindset.

“It’s kind of like the company finding its own, and rediscovering its icons, and doubling down on them,” Farley told the AP. “And then this motorsports activity is getting serious about connecting enthusiast customers with those rediscovered icons. It’s a big switch for the company – this is really about building strong, iconic vehicles with enthusiasts at the center of our marketing.”

Ford last competed in sports car racing in 2019 as part of a three-year program with Chip Ganassi Racing. The team scored the class win at Le Mans in 2016 in a targeted performance aimed to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Ford snapping Ferrari’s six-year winning streak.

Ford on Friday displayed a Mustang with a Lee-designed livery that showcased the cleaner, simplified look that will soon be featured on all its racing vehicles. The traditional blue oval with Ford Performance in white lettering underneath will now be branded simply FP.

The new mark will be used across car liveries, merchandise and apparel, display assets, parts and accessories and in advertising.

Farley cited Porsche as an automaker that has successfully figured out how to sell cars to consumers and race cars in various series around the world while creating a culture of brand enthusiasts. He believes Ford’s new direction will help the company sell street cars, race cars, boost interest in driving schools, and create a merchandise line that convinces consumers that a stalwart of American automakers is a hip, cool brand.

“We’re going to build a global motorsports business off road and on road,” Farley told the AP, adding that the design of the Mustang is “unapologetically American.”

He lauded the work of Lee, who is considered the top helmet designer among race car drivers.

“We’re in the first inning of a nine inning game, and going to Le Mans is really important,” Farley said. “But for customer cars, getting the graphics right, designing race cars that win at all different levels, and then designing a racing brand for Ford Performance that gets rebranded and elevated is super important.”

He said he’s kept a close eye on how Porsche and Aston Martin have built their motorsports businesses and said Ford will be better.

“We’re going in the exact same direction. We just want to be better than them, that’s all,” Farley said. “Second is the first loser.”

Farley, an avid amateur racer himself, did not travel to Le Mans for the announcement. The race that begins Saturday features an entry from NASCAR, and Ford is the reigning Cup Series champion with Joey Logano and Team Penske.

The NASCAR “Garage 56” entry is a collaboration between Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet and Goodyear, and is being widely celebrated throughout the industry. Farley did feel left out of the party in France – a sentiment NASCAR tried to avoid by inviting many of its partners to attend the race so that it wouldn’t seem like a Chevrolet-only celebration.

“They’re going right and I’m going left – that NASCAR thing is a one-year deal, right? It’s Garage 56 and they can have their NASCAR party, but that’s a one-year party,” Farley said. “We won Le Mans outright four times, we won in the GT class, and we’re coming back with Mustang and it’s not a one-year deal.

“So they can get all excited about Garage 56. I almost see that as a marketing exercise for NASCAR, but for me, that’s a science project,” Farley continued. “I don’t live in a world of science projects. I live in the world of building a vital company that everyone is excited about. To do that, we’re not going to do a Garage 56 – I’ve got to beat Porsche and Aston Martin and Ferrari year after year after year.”

Ford’s announcement comes on the heels of General Motors changing its GT3 strategy next season and ending its factory Corvette program. GM, which unlike Ford competes in the IMSA Grand Touring Prototype division (with its Cadillac brand), will shift fully to a customer model for Corvettes in 2024 (with some factory support in the IMSA GTD Pro category).