Will Power had everyone’s attention en route to a runner-up finish in the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear.
Starting seventh in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, he methodically marched forward and was running third by Lap 20 of 100. He sparred with pole sitter and eventual race winner Alex Palou. On Lap 91, Power attempted a pass for the lead with an over-under move into Turn 3, but a tap from behind courtesy of Scott Dixon dropped Power to third. The contact allowed the No. 7 NTT DATA Arrow McLaren Chevrolet of Alexander Rossi to rise from fifth to second.
A quick caution moments later set up a restart on Lap 96, which Power used to gain the spot back. Despite his best efforts to chase down Palou, Power finished 1.184 seconds behind.
“Yeah, very satisfied,” Power said. “Good strategy. I mean, starting on the blacks (primary Firestone tires), everything played out as we thought. I guess we were worried when the yellow came. Everyone packs up. But then we got a yellow again, so that kind of helped us. We had 10 laps to push hard. I got Palou on the restart. Then they went off, he got me back. Yeah, I couldn't get him. I tried everything.
“I think my one chance was when Dixon got into me a little bit. I was trying to switch back and get a run, get him into (Turn) 4. Apart from that, yeah, the next restart was in third, so I didn't have another shot at him.
“Very good job. Man, you're never looking back on seconds as a bad day. Although the guy I was needing to close points to was the guy that won. We limited the damage.”
After seven of 17 rounds, Power is eighth in the championship standings, 19 points behind fifth-place Pato O’Ward (191-172).
O’Ward’s Day Unravels
O’Ward started 10th and was poised for a strong day before it all came crashing down less than halfway through the 100-lap race.
The Mexican found the lead for a lap during a pit stop cycle before pitting himself on Lap 35. After being serviced by his crew, he stopped abruptly near the exit of the pits with an apparent issue and was pulled back into his stall by crew members that re-secured the left rear wheel.
Rejoining the fight after losing a lap, O’Ward was pushing the limit of his No. 5 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet. Attempting to press on, the day ended on Lap 43 after he pounded the barrier in Turn 9 and with a 26th-place finish.
“I got onto the marbles,” O’Ward said. “I had to get by Santino (Ferrucci) because if (Alex) Palou would get us, we were going to go a lap down. My push-to-pass was disabled, as expected, because we were a lap down. Yeah, I was pretty boxed in on what I could do. It was either race over or try and get past but ended up being race over. It is what it is. Honestly, our race went upside down on that pit stop and yeah, all downhill from there. It is what it is. We'll move on to Road America.”
Another Tough Day for Grosjean
It was another race in which Romain Grosjean showed tremendous pace but without the complementary result.
After starting third, the Swiss-born Frenchman remained a player among the top 10. However, while running seventh in the No. 28 DHL Honda for Andretti Autosport on Lap 81, he crashed hard into the Turn 4 wall.
As the AMR INDYCAR Safety Team was quick, as usual, to attend to Grosjean’s damaged car, he spent several moments inside the cockpit slamming his hands on the wheel multiple times in frustration. Moments later, he climbed out and sat on the ground behind the same wall that took him out of the day’s running, with helmet in hands. He finished 24th.
It was the fourth time in the opening seven rounds Grosjean has crashed this season, with three of those happening while running in the top 10.
Grand Stamp of Approval
Grand Marshal John Watson was the first to ever win on the Streets of Detroit.
It happened when Formula One arrived in 1982, which saw the Briton climb from 17th on the grid for his fourth of five career victories. While a little more than four decades have passed since that day and the layout has changed, Watson enjoyed the atmosphere surrounding the NTT INDYCAR SERIES weekend in the Motor City.
“What I've seen over the three or four days I've been here is an energy and an involvement with the city and the residents of the city, but also the commercial side of it as well as the residential side,” Watson said. “I think it's brought something to Detroit.”
And while nearby Belle Isle Park further enriched the racing history in Michigan, returning the event to downtown Detroit for the first time since 1991 adds more for everyone, Watson said.
“With respect to Belle Isle (Park, the previous venue for the INDYCAR SERIES), I thoroughly enjoyed watching when we had TV coverage of it, but I think it wasn't maybe the most accessible of venues and maybe didn't have that sense of involvement,” he said. “What you've got here is just an integration of the city and the population. I believe, and I've said on a number of occasions, that maybe motorsports sometimes need to look beyond its own interests to bring a race to the population or to the public rather than expecting the public to go to the venue.
“There’s a place for both because I don't think every race should be a street race, but I think having a street race in a city and a metropolitan area like Detroit brings something to the city and it gives people a pride in their city, and they come down and they enjoy all the elements that are available to it. Some of the viewing areas have been made available on a free basis, which I think is amazing. I'm not sure all your other track owners around the country are going to go along with that one, but that's part of the innovation that has been involved.”
Watson, who also earned his first and Roger Penske’s only F1 victory at Austria in 1976, was also astonished that the event was put together in roughly 18 months.
“It's a phenomenal amount of effort that's gone on,” he said. “Bud Denker (president, Penske Corporation) and all the people, he's just one of many, many people who have worked timelessly and tirelessly to ensure this event has gone on. It's been a fantastic event. I've thoroughly enjoyed it.”