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.
IndyCar said it went to red flag, essentially, because teams are told before each race that the series will make every effort to end races under green. There was still time to go green with 5 to go to stop, restart with 1 pace lap and go green with 3 to go.— Jenna Fryer (@JennaFryer) June 12, 2021
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.
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.