In a race where a flurry of early cautions resulted in a variety of pit strategies, Simon Pagenaud and his Schmidt Hamilton HP Motorsports team played the game to perfection Sunday at the Belle Isle Park in Detroit, winning the second of two IZOD IndyCar Series races this weekend on the 2.3-mile temporary street circuit, and leading a Honda first-through-fifth sweep.
Coupled with a win by Honda-powered Mike Conway in Saturday’s weekend opener, the weekend results moved Honda back to within three points from the lead in the 2013 IndyCar Manufacturers’ Championship, after seven of 19 races.
Starting sixth on the alternate “red” tires, which provide superior grip to the standard “black” sidewall tires but wear out much quicker, Pagenaud moved up to third behind Saturday’s winner Conway, as a total of six caution periods repeatedly interrupted the action during the first half of the 70-lap contest. During a caution on Lap 20, Pagenaud made his first scheduled stop and was fitted with the more durable “black” sidewall primary tires.
A long middle stint saw Pagenaud cycle to the front of the field as the race ran caution-free from Lap 37 to the finish. He built a massive lead of more than 20 seconds before his final pit stop, allowing him to resume in second place behind fellow Honda driver James Jakes. On a similar strategy, Jakes made his final stop three laps later, promoting Pagenaud into a lead he would hold to the finish.
Jakes, in turn, fought off a determined challenge from Honda-powered Saturday race winner Conway in the final laps to claim a career-best second place, while Conway capped off a surprisingly competitive weekend as a last-minute replacement driver at Dale Coyne Racing by finishing third.
Although on different pit strategies, Target Chip Ganassi Racing drivers Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti ran together during the final 10 laps, as Dixon caught and passed a fuel-saving Franchitti, who completed a sweep of the top five finishing positions for Honda. In the third Chip Ganassi Racing entry, Charlie Kimball had another strong run, leading three laps en route to a seventh-place finish.
After the first doubleheader street-circuit race weekend this year, the IZOD IndyCar Series returns to the ovals for the next three consecutive weekends, starting with the June 8 race at Texas Motor Speedway, the first Saturday night race of the 2013 season.