IndyCar’s craziest race of 2024 so far explained

Ganassi's Scott Dixon took his second win of the year and took the IndyCar Series points lead in a ridiculous Detroit street race that featured eight caution stops and system-shattering rain.

At times, it looked like we would never finish the race — 47 of the 100 laps were under caution, such as an accident mile at Turn 3, the first turn after the restart here — but another fuel gamble from Dixon allowed him to jump to the front, albeit Under late pressure (in different ways) from a pair of meddling Andretti drivers in Colton Herta and Marcus Ericsson.

Rain around the lap 33 mark gave the drivers the decision to take the plunge and pit 18 for wet tires as they turned yellow, but by the time the race turned green, the track was dry and those drivers had to pit again for dry tires.

This, combined with the number of warnings, means a mixed bag. A total of 12 penalty kicks were taken, amid six different leaders and a difficult finish.

How did Dixon win?

Dixon started from fifth on the preferred hard tyre, avoiding a wet tire adventure – made all the more tempting by the caution triggered by Scott McLaughlin's crash at Turn 1.

While in second place with 43 laps remaining, Dixon elected to pit, effectively betting that there would be more cautions because it was too early to use fuel otherwise. And there was something that allowed him to drive into the lead when Kyle Kirkwood came up nine laps later.

The only downside to Dixon was that the final stint was still long with fuel and the red-hot Kirkwood had 10 or more laps of fuel to burn in the chase.

But Dixon's teammate Marcus Armstrong in second – who showed exactly how brutal this race was as he crashed on lap 53 but after 13 laps was in the top three – did a great job of backing up Kirkwood, giving Dixon a two-second lead along with He blocked a teammate so Dixon could save fuel.

But within 10 laps, Kirkwood wasn't the Andretti driver to watch anymore, with an inspired Ericsson up to third and Armstrong pushing towards Dixon, while stuck behind Herta who was about to cut a lap down at this point – despite He started the race. Racing on the pole.

With five laps remaining, Dixon sent one on the inside at Turn 3 and by Turn 5, Herta saved and sportingly gave the leader track position, a move that sealed Dixon's win.

It's Dixon's 58th win and another to be achieved through fuel economy, just as his stunning win was at Long Beach.

With two laps to go, Ericsson passed Armstrong at Turn 3 and closed the gap to Dixon to 0.8567 seconds, achieving his best result since joining Andretti, who was joined by his colleagues from Ganassi last year on the podium.

Armstrong had the best result of his IndyCar career in his first full season, despite running out of fuel crossing the finish line, while Kirkwood finished fourth ahead of McLaren's Alexander Rossi, who also had a crazy, crash-filled race.

Disaster for the points leader and Indy 500 winner

Indianapolis 500 winner Josef Newgarden started from fifth on the restart with 29 laps remaining, rounding up former points leader Alex Ballou.

Newgarden was one of the drivers who risked getting wet, then received a penalty for running over with his gun in the pits. When he crashed he was fifth and according to Dixon's strategy, so in theory he would have stayed there the week he won the Indy 500 and announced a Penske contract extension.

Palo, last year's winner in Detroit, started second on a used set of soft tires — probably anticipating that the soft tires would be best and that he could keep his new set until the end of the race — but he was in for a rude awakening as he moved from second to the bottom of the top 10 The first in just two laps and he had to stop very early on lap 12.

Furthermore, IndyCar rules stipulate that a new set of soft and hard tires must be used, so starting with a used set means Ballou has to use soft tires again.

He took it on lap 12 and then pitted under caution from 21st on lap 16, continuing his commitment to softs where many top drivers still need to.

When the rain fell, he pitted, but returned to the top six by staying out of trouble and making some smart overtakes, when he was collected in the Newgarden incident where the latter tried to avoid hitting Kirkwood but still made a slow spin himself.

Palo finished 16th while Newgarden finished 26th after suffering a late engine problem.

Newgarden has four results outside the top 15 in six races. For Palo, his 16th place finish is his worst finish since 18th at Indy in May 2022, over two years ago! His last result outside the top 10 was Portland in August 2022.

Where was the politician in all this?

Hertha was in control of the early run on the preferred hard tire, but when the rain fell, he and strategist Rob Edwards made a joint call for a pit stop.

There were a large number of caution laps and the track was essentially dry by the time the race turned green and like the other 17 drivers who bet, Herta had to turn back.

He then closed entering turn five and crashed into the restart area, taking him past Dale Coyne's returning IndyCar Tristan Vauthier.

Hertha finished 19th, one point behind McLaughlin who was awarded a penalty on his comeback for hitting Sting Ray Rupp.

Lundgaard's missed win

There was a real chance Christian Lundgaard would win this race.

Rahal Letterman driver Lanigan started 11th but was in the top five for the first few laps and took the lead after rain as he urged his team to back his gamble to stay out.

Because he started on soft tyres, he needed to pit shortly after to get fuel and tyres, but his reaction time was reduced when he collided with Romain Grosjean at Turn 3 on lap 57 and was penalized for it.

He was basically beached on top of Grosjean's car but managed to get back up.

But then, after passing Rossi with four laps to go, Lundgaard dropped to 11th when he had to pit on lap 99 to get a little fuel – having been running low on his team's confusion.

Grosjean wondered why he continued to race after Lundgaard's accident, saying, “The championship is over for me.” Shortly after, he was given a traffic penalty for serving in a closed pit

Driver with at least five penalties

Willpower had a day!

His punishments:

Emergency service in a closed pit
Failed to pack under caution – missing 3 track positions
Avoidable contact
Complete service in a closed pit

These are the ones we were able to count.

He started eighth but fell back on the first lap – getting caught in a multi-car accident.

He was angry about being penalized for his contact with Rinus VeeKay, but it seemed like he was able to refocus and keep his championship hopes alive with a sixth-place finish.

Pato O'Ward was also in a first lap incident and returned to seventh, while Felix Rosenqvist, also eighth, was sent back to the start with a puncture and returned to another top ten finish. His only race outside of that so far this year was last year when his engine failed at the Indy 500 last week.

Santino Ferrucci was in the wars all weekend and was under pressure for knocking out Helio Castroneves early on. He bounced back to ninth ahead of Theo Bourchier.

The McLaren driver was penalized for a collision with the impressive Agustin Canapino but recorded his best IndyCar result in his fourth race.

It's fair to say that the second year on the new Detroit street circuit will produce different opinions from fans on whether the racing is good or not. The 1,645-mile course has only nine corners, and is so narrow and short that drama is almost guaranteed.


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