Patricio O’Ward took advantage of a late cautionary period to claim victory over Josef Newgarden at the second race in Detroit.
With 12 laps remaining, Romain Grosjean stopped on track following a brake fire. The Mexican driver had started the race in 15th and had slowly but surely moved his way up the field to fifth, the most memorable of which was a move on Scott Dixon during a prior cautionary restart caused by Jimmie Johnson.
When the green flag fell, the Arrow McLaren was able to make some incredible moves on Graham Rahal and Alex Palou and Colton Herta would shortly follow, owed in part to getting heat into the harder primary ‘black’ tyres quickly and efficiently.
With three laps remaining, Newgarden’s soft ‘red’ tyres began to lose performance and handed O’Ward an opportunity at Turn Seven. The Penske driver’s rear tyres were done as he struggled to get traction out of the corner.
The Mexican driver out-dragged Newgarden down the straight and lightly touched in the process. But it was O’Ward that braked the latest and seized the lead of the race with the end in sight. He would eventually take victory with a five-second advantage over the rest of his competitors.
O’Ward becomes the first repeat winner of the season and moves ahead of Alex Palou in the drivers’ standings – albeit by a single point. This also marks his second career victory after his success at Texas and caps off a magnificent weekend with a pole position and a podium in Race One.
It was heartbreak for Newgarden who had led 67 laps out of 70 from pole position, undone by the teams’ unfortunate contra strategy. He started on the primary ‘black’ compound tyres, while all of his closest competitors started the race on the alternate ‘red’ tyres. After the first caution, which came out on the opening lap when Max Chilton ran into James Hinchcliffe, Newgarden began to pull away from the field. By the time the two-time champion made his first pit stop on Lap 20 his lead over second-place Colton Herta was 13.5 seconds.
During his second stint, he replicated his earlier pace going to lap 46 on another set of primary ‘blacks’. However, Herta was able to close in on Newgarden during this period and had the advantage going into the final stint. Newgarden had to run his final stint on used ‘red’ tyres which are notable for high degradation while the likes of O’Ward, Herta, Palou, and Rahal chased him down on fresher primary ‘blacks’.
Herta would eventually relinquish third to Alex Palou, who rescues what could have been a disastrous weekend.
Graham Rahal sized fifth ahead of a resurgent Will Power who was able to make his way through the field from 20th on the grid, a consolation after losing the win in Race One due to an overheating ECU.
Six-time champion Scott Dixon could not make many inroads after a lap one collision with Romain Grosjean and Alexander Rossi. After starting on the primary ‘black’ tyres, he could not make the final stint on the alternative ‘reds’ work.
Simon Pagenaud crossed the line in eighth ahead of Race One winner Marcus Ericsson with the Swede able to keep his car in the race after a clash with Rinus Veekay with the wall on Lap 15.
Santino Ferrucci was able to keep calm under pressure to finish 10th after his Rahal Letterman Lanigan team spent were forced to ready a backup car thanks to a heavy crash in qualifying. That is now three consecutive top-ten finishes after making his 2021 debut at the Indianapolis 500.
Oliver Askew retired from the race after replacing Arrow McLaren SP driver Felix Rosenqvist in what was a bittersweet weekend for the team. Many were still referencing the passing of McLaren shareholder Mansour Ojjeh who played a significant part under Ron Dennis’s regime.
It will now be a quick turnaround as IndyCar returns to Road America in a weeks time.