Big Weekends for Team Penske, Dixon and AIM Vasser Sullivan in Detroit
It was a huge weekend in the Motor City for both INDYCAR and IMSA with the NTT IndyCar Series competing in a doubleheader and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship hosting their round at the Detroit Belle Isle street circuit.
An incredible May for Team Penske bled into June in both series with Josef Newgarden winning a rain-shortened Race 1 in IndyCar and Juan Pablo Montoya and Dane Cameron capturing the overall win from the pole position during Saturday’s Chevrolet Sports Car Classic in the Acura Team Penske DPi.
The other big winners throughout the weekend include reigning IndyCar champion Scott Dixon — who bounced back from a Race 1 crash to score his first event win of the season in Race 2 — and AIM Vasser Sullivan, which put two Lexus RC F GT3s on the podium with No. 14 drivers Jack Hawksworth and Richard Heistand scoring their second straight wins.
CHEVROLET DETROIT GRAND PRIX: Race 2 results
On the same day he was bestowed an honor by her majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Scott Dixon wrote another chapter in his royal Indy car history. Dixon recovered from a crash and last-place finish on Saturday to win the second race of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear doubleheader on Sunday. The victory was the 45th of the five-time NTT IndyCar Series champion’s career and moved Dixon within seven wins of tying Mario Andretti for second on the all-time Indy car list.
Dixon crossed the Raceway at Belle Isle Park finish line 1.9419 seconds ahead of rookie Marcus Ericsson, who posted his first podium finish in his eighth series race. A day after crashing on the 24th lap and finishing 22nd, Dixon led 44 laps – including the last 21 on the 14-turn, 2.35-mile temporary street course - in the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.
It was Dixon’s first win in 14 races, since the Honda Indy Toronto last season, and his third at Belle Isle to tie Helio Castroneves for most wins on the circuit. Dixon won the first race of the Detroit doubleheader last year and went on to collect his fifth season title.
“Today was all about redemption,” said Dixon, adding he felt like “an idiot” for crashing by himself in Saturday’s race. “The team nailed the strategy, the car was super-fast. We were able to get the mileage we needed to, which was going to be really tough, with the exception of those last couple cautions.
“I can’t believe we ended up here today and it’s just fantastic. Fantastic.”
A day after the opening race of the weekend was delayed and shortened to a 75-minute time limit, Sunday’s race was run to the full 70-lap distance under blue skies. Despite the ideal conditions, the race saw five full-course cautions for incidents on the tight and bumpy circuit.
Dixon dodged the chaos and waited out a six-minute red-flag stoppage when teammate Felix Rosenqvist crashed in Turn 1 with five laps to go. Dixon easily held off Ericsson on the Lap 67 restart and pulled comfortably away to victory.
Before the race, it was announced that Queen Elizabeth II appointed Dixon the Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in recognition of his services to motorsports. It came as part of the Queen’s Birthday Honours List recognizing achievements of extraordinary people across the United Kingdom. Dixon’s native New Zealand is part of the British Commonwealth.
“It was definitely a huge honor to get the Companion Merit of Order, which is definitely very prestigious, something you don’t expect,” Dixon said. “For me, I think it’s not like a normal accolade, like a trophy or a race win. It’s something of a very different feeling, so for me it’s definitely been outstanding. Very proud to get that.
“Yeah, a huge day and definitely not one I’m going to forget.”
Ericsson, who joined the NTT IndyCar Series this year after five seasons in Formula One, was pleased with his second-place finish in the No. 7 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda. The Swede’s best result in his first seven races this season had been seventh place at Barber Motorsports Park in April.
“It was amazing, my first podium since 2013 (in GP2), and you just have to thank the whole team at Arrow SPM,” Ericsson said. “They work so hard all year and we had so much bad luck, and I’ve done mistakes when we’ve been looking really good. So, to finally get a result like this and be on the podium, I think is a great reward for all of the hard work. Now, I think we can build on this.”
CHEVROLET DETROIT GRAND PRIX: Race 1 results
A timely pit stop catapulted Josef Newgarden to victory in the rain-shortened opener of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear doubleheader, as well as back into the NTT IndyCar Series championship lead.
Newgarden won Saturday’s race by 0.8237 of a second over Alexander Rossi and capped a perfect day at Belle Isle Park for team owner Roger Penske, whose team also won the IMSA sports car race in the weekend event promoted by Penske’s group.
“It was great to have a victory here,” said Newgarden, whose best previous finish in 13 Detroit races was second place in the second race of 2017. “I think we’ve been strong here in the past. We’ve not been able to fully get a win.
“I think, as a team, we executed. We had the car. We definitely had the compliance, the speed from the car. I think Chevy gave us the power, the drivability. Today was a lot about drivability, especially in the wet. We had all that that we needed.”
Newgarden, in the No. 2 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet, made his lone pit stop of Saturday’s 75-minute race on Lap 17, among the first drivers to switch from Firestone’s grooved rain tires to dry-condition slicks. As Newgarden entered pit lane, a full-course caution was called when Ed Jones’ car slid into a tire barrier in Turn 7.
Newgarden credited race strategist Tim Cindric, Team Penske’s president, for making the critical call to the pits.
“I think when we pitted was the right time to pit,” Newgarden said. “You could tell the rain tires were starting to go off, the rears were overheating terribly because it was getting dry. You could see Rossi was struggling.
“We pitted at the right time and the yellow helped us even further. It was a great call.”
CHEVROLET SPORTS CAR CLASSIC: Race results
Juan Pablo Montoya and Dane Cameron, co-drivers of the No. 6 Acura Team Penske ARX-05 DPi, accomplished something in Saturday’s Chevrolet Sports Car Classic that never has been done since IMSA began racing on Detroit’s Belle Isle Park.
Before Saturday, General Motors race cars won their class in all nine IMSA races held on Belle Isle from 2007 through 2018, including overall victories from 2012 through last year. But on this day, Montoya and Cameron came away with their second consecutive IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship victory in a tight, 100-minute battle on the 2.3-mile street circuit.
After claiming the Motul Pole Award in qualifying Friday, Montoya got a fantastic jump at the start to take the lead, which he held for the first 19 laps of what would be a 58-lap race before pitting under the second of the race’s five full-course caution periods to turn the car over to Cameron. Montoya’s stop turned the lead over to Tristan Nunez, who was on a different pit-stop strategy in the No. 77 Mazda Team Joest RT24-P DPi.
Following the ensuing restart, however, Cameron picked up where Montoya left off, taking the lead away from Nunez on the first green-flag lap. Cameron surrendered the lead for one more lap when he came in for his final pit stop but retook the lead on Lap 35.
Cameron led the field to the green flag for the final restart with just under 22 minutes remaining, but he quickly had last year’s Detroit winner, Felipe Nasr in the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi-V.R, right on his tail. Nasr filled Cameron’s mirrors all the way to the checkered flag, but never could get quite close enough as Cameron crossed the stripe 0.820 seconds ahead of the No. 31 to take the victory.
“Certainly, we’ll take that,” said Cameron, who won at Detroit in 2015 in the Whelen Engineering Corvette DP with then-co-driver Eric Curran. “It’s a little bit unexpected for us. Usually the street course is pretty good for the Cadillac, so we knew they were going to competitive here, but obviously we were looking for more of a podium than wins here and get some good points.
“I’m super excited to win here and get two in a row. Lots of people who get two wins in a row get championships, so hopefully that’s a good omen for the balance of the season.”
Cameron and Montoya also won last month’s Acura Sports Car Challenge at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. It was Acura’s second overall victory in Detroit, the first coming in the 2008 American Le Mans Series (ALMS) race on Belle Isle when James Rossiter and Franck Montagny won for Andretti-Green Racing.
It was Montoya’s fifth career IMSA win (two WeatherTech Championship and three GRAND-AM) and was Cameron’s 14th (12 WeatherTech Championship, one GRAND-AM, one ALMS).
“To win in Detroit finally, it’s good,” said Montoya. “It’s nice to be here. It’s nice to be here with Acura – it’s an amazing program – and Team Penske. [Team owner] Roger [Penske]’s home race. I felt yesterday I did a really good job in qualifying. To convert that into a win, Dane did an amazing job out there today too. We did everything we needed to do again. We just need to keep doing that every week.”
The victory moved Cameron and Montoya into second in the WeatherTech Championship DPi standings, but Nasr and co-driver Pipo Derani slightly extended their lead to five, 152-147, with the runner-up result. But the No. 31 duo came up just short of extending General Motors’ hometown win streak.
The run included back-to-back American Le Mans Series (ALMS) GT1 class wins by Corvette Racing in 2007 and 2008. Corvette Daytona Prototypes won overall in the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series in 2012 and 2013, as well as IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship races from 2014 through 2016. Cadillac DPi race cars won in both 2017 and 2018.
Helio Castroneves and Ricky Taylor picked up their third podium result in five races this season and made it two Acura Team Penske DPis in the top three with a third-place showing. They are third in the DPi championship standings at the halfway point of the 10-race season for the DPi class, trailing Montoya and Cameron by just one point.
AIM Vasser Sullivan is getting comfortable atop the IMSA WeatherTech Sprint Cup standings.
In Saturday’s 100-minute Chevrolet Sports Car Classic, the No. 14 AIM Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3 of Jack Hawksworth and Richard Heistand crossed the finish line first in the GT Daytona (GTD) class to score their second consecutive victory in the new-for-2019 championship.
The WeatherTech Sprint Cup – contested solely by GTD teams – encompasses the class’ seven races that are two hours and 40 minutes or less in length.
After Heistand qualified the car in fourth and held steady in the top five, Hawksworth got behind the wheel and closed in on Patrick Long in the No. 73 Park Place Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R. Long, who inherited the lead from substitute teammate and polesitter Zacharie Robichon, gave way as Hawksworth ducked inside the Porsche to steal the lead with 51 minutes remaining.
Although Long was able to keep Hawksworth in his sights, the No. 14 Lexus did not relinquish the lead for the remainder of the race.
“We got a bit of a streak going, don’t we?” said Hawksworth. “It was a good race. We did good job qualifying yesterday and were able to have a good stint and put it in the top five. We had a really good pit stop. To be honest, we knew it would come down to that stop because the GTD class was a lot shorter than normal, in terms that we normally have 40 seconds to fuel between driver change, fuel, and tire change. We knew the driver change would be important, and it went well. We ended up coming out in third and I minded my way.”
While it was a victory celebration for AIM Vasser Sullivan’s No. 14 Lexus, the team’s second entry of Frankie Montecalvo and Townsend Bell in the No. 12 earned a podium finish of its own to stand next to their teammates with a third-place finish. Sandwiched between the two Lexus RC Fs were Long and Robichon for a runner-up finish.
“Fundamentally, racing is about getting the basics right,” said Hawksworth. “This team is what we’re really focusing on. The race pace needs to be good. Pit stops need to be good. We’ve got a really good silver driver in Richard and a great package in pit lane. And when you put that all together, it’s a testament to what the team is doing and that’s how you end up winning races.”
With wins in the first two races of the WeatherTech Sprint Cup – the first being at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course four weeks ago – Hawksworth and Heistand now have opened up a 10-point lead, 70-60, in the standings over Long.
The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and NTT IndyCar Series come to WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca during back-to-back weekends in what will be an unforgettable “Monterey Speed Week” in September. The penultimate round of the IMSA SportsCar Championship and season finale of the WeatherTech Spring Cup will take place September 13-15. One week later, Indy cars return to Monterey for the first time in 15 years to crown a champion at the season finale, the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey on Spetember 20-22.
Combined pricing is available for both events by visiting here or calling 831-242-8200. Advance ticket pricing, VIP hospitality and camping are also on sale for each event.