Scott Dixon has finished seventh in this morning’s second race of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix. The Kiwi spent the whole race hovering on the edge of the top five, and was unlucky to not be more of a factor in the closing laps following a string of safety car periods.
Pato O’Ward claimed victory for Arrows McLaren SP, following a brilliant run to the flag. The Mexican climbed 15 positions in the race, leaping through the top six effortlessly in the final 10 laps and upsetting was looked like a sure win for either Josef Newgarden or Colton Herta. The former had led the entire racing barring the last few laps, while the latter looked like he was certain to get the lead. The pairing ended up finishing second and fourth, split by Alex Palou.
Meanwhile, it was a disappointing race for Scott McLaughlin. The PPG Chevrolet pilot raced to the edge of the top 10 from outside the top 20, but had a troublesome final stint, eventually fading to 20th. Dixon still sits third in the standings, 36 points behind new series leader O’Ward.
Newgarden started from pole, alongside Colton Herta, with Rinus Veekay and Alex Palau tucked in behind. Dixon qualified sixth, an improvement on his race one starting position. McLaughlin, meanwhile, starting in 21st position.
The race kicked off with immediate drama, with Dixon lucky to survive big contact at turn one. The Kiwi was on the outside of a three-wide situation with Romain Grosjean and an opportunistic Alexander Rossi. He had a half-spin, but was able to straighten up and continue a few spots back.
A safety car did come a few seconds later anyway, courtesy of the crashed car of Max Chilton; the Brit having clobbered into the back of James Hinchcliffe in an awkward collision. A flurry of stops commenced, but most leaders stayed out in the hopes of staying on their preferred two-stop strategy. The strategy outlier was leader Newgarden, starting with Firestone Black rubber underneath him while everyone else had Firestone Reds.
Newgarden was quick, gapping Herta without problem. Dixon restarted the race in seventh, and McLaughlin 14th, having been shuffled upwards by the early pit-stoppers. By lap 12 he was sixth, having sneaked by Ed Jones. And by lap 14 he passed Rossi back for fifth place. By this point the race had started to head up, with the Firestone Red tyre under most cars starting to deteriorate.
Dixon pitted on lap 20, smack bang in the middle of the opening pit cycle and one lap earlier than race leader Newgarden. Those wanting to do a longer first stint were forced to pit after Dalton Kellet’s car stopped at the end of pit-lane with a missing wheelnut; everyone afraid of what the potential safety car might do to their strategy.
The cycle didn’t help Dixon. He dropped from fifth to. Things were better for McLaughlin, who had his progress validated by cycling out in 16th place. Newgarden kept the lead, with Will Power jumping to second. Herta, Takuma Sato, Palau, Marcus Ericsson, Graham Rahal, Jack Harvey, and Connor Daly were the new top nine. This order included some drivers who stopped during that lap one caution, and Power was out of sequence. By lap 29, these drivers had stopped again, shuffling Dixon up to fifth and McLaughlin 13th.
The second wave of pit-stops kicked off on lap 45, with Dixon stopping on lap 46. By the end of the stops Dixon was still fifth and McLaughlin 17th. In the case of the former Supercars champ, he had been passed by Veekay following an excellent exchange, and then also by Sebastien Bourdais.
At the front, Newgarden maintained the lead. But, having deployed the red tyres for the last stint he appeared to be struggling. After leading the race by more than 10 seconds for most of the race, his gap was soon whittled down to less than a second by Herta. By lap 52 the second-generation racer was right on Newgarden’s tail. And the drama was only set to continue on lap 54 when a safety car was summoned for the spun car of Jimmie Johnson.
The race restarted with 12 laps to go, with Dixon immediately losing a spot to a bold Pato O’Ward. The race was immediately back under caution, though, following a spin for Grosjean; incredible scenes following as the high-qualifier was initially forced to try to extinguish his own brake fire before the first responding marshals arrived on the scene.
The race restarted with seven laps to go; Newgarden leading Herta, Palou, Rahal, O’Ward, and Dixon in sixth. O’Ward continued to be explosive; the Mexican driver skipping by Rahal on the restart with a carbon copy move at turn one, and then another move on Palou later in the lap. His climb was bad news for Herta; his arrival in third providing a huge distraction and allowing Newgarden to build a gap. With six laps to go, O’Ward had crafted an excellent pass on Herta to nab second. Dixon, meanwhile, was having a tougher time, losing sixth to Power after the restart.
With four laps to go, O’Ward was on the back of Newgarden and in battle. And, with O’Ward unable to get my Newgarden with the same immediate ferocity, Herta had latched onto the back of both of them. Herta tried to lunge at turn three under brakes, only to lock-up and run wide in the marbles. A few corners later, Newgarden got sideways on the power. This gave O’Ward a chance on the back straight, which he duly took. The pair exchanged light contact at high speed, but Newgarden eventually resisted and let O’Ward keep the corner.
The Mexican subsequently fired away into the sunset to claim a memorable win, grabbing a one-point championship lead and becoming the first driver to win two races in 2021 in the process. Behind him the final lap saw Newgarden fending off a train consisting of Palou, Herta, Rahal, Power, and Dixon. Despite the mountain of pressure, the former champ was quick enough to hold off the pack, with no changes in the battlepack on the final lap.
Behind Dixon in seventh, Simon Pagenaud, Marcus Ericsson, and Santino Ferrucci completed the top 10. For Ferrucci it was a memorable drive; the youngster steering a spare chassis after a severe crash in qualifying. The spare car was an oval-configuration car borrowed from Takuma Sato, having been rebuilt to ‘road course’ specification between qualifying and the race.