The first race of the lone doubleheader weekend on this year’s Verizon IndyCar Series schedule ended earlier than anticipated and in a fashion not completely uncommon to this sport. Weather plays a big factor in how race cars operate, how drivers handle said machines and how the results of any given contest play out. Today was one of those circumstances and it was ultimately decided by IndyCar, to end the red-flagged event and finalize results as they stood on Lap 47.
The driver of the Andretti Autosport No. 26 Honda, sponsored by shopandretti.com had been waiting on this day for quite some time. His short yet impressive Verizon IndyCar Series resume was pointing to a win for Carlos Munoz, and it finally happened for him. He mentioned multiple times after the fact, that he wanted to win while racing 100% of a race, keeping pace and completing all the laps laid out in front of the field – but in the same breath he admitted that he was taking the advice of teammate, Marco Andretti and team owner, Michael Andretti and enjoying the moment – trusting that ‘a win is a win’.
The truth of the matter is, he did run 100% of the race – the point just came sooner than anticipated. Drivers are notorious for saying how it doesn’t matter if you lead the first lap, because all that matters is that you lead the last one. The young Colombian, celebrating his 23rd birthday this coming Tuesday, did indeed lead the last lap today and should relish in all that a win brings him and his team.
Munoz has been on everyone’s radar since 2013, when Andretti pulled him up from Indy Lights to compete in the Indianapolis 500. It was the first IndyCar race for him and he qualified in P2, starting in the middle of the front row. He proved that it wasn’t just beginner’s luck when he finished the infamous 250-lap contest in the same position. That feat earned him the 2013 Indianapolis Rookie of the Year award and played a key role in securing him a full-season ride with Andretti the following season. He did not take that opportunity for granted either, working hard throughout the year. That hard work equaled three podiums and a final standing of 8th in points. When you combine all of that, it’s no surprise that he then had the 2014 Sunoco Rookie of the Year title bestowed upon him at season’s end.
Finishing P2 in today’s race, was Marco Andretti. The driver of the No. 27 Snapple-sponsored Honda was born with a name synonymous with IndyCar racing. He’s in the midst of his 10th season with the series and he’s out to prove that he’s here for more reasons than his moniker. The 28-year-old Pennsylvania native has won 2 races in his IndyCar career, but none since the implementation of the Dallara DW-12 chassis’. He seemed energized by today’s strategy and results, stating:
“Andretti Autosport and Honda are up to the task. We’re not giving up.”
Simon Pagenaud landed in P3 for Race #1 of the Dual in Detroit. He is in his 3rd consecutive full-season with the IndyCar Series and his first season with Team Penske. Pagenaud pilots the No. 22 Chevy and has been very vocal about his happiness in achieving a position on Roger’s team. It’s always been his goal. His focus remains on creating positive results for his owner, his team and himself. He’s never started lower than P5 during the 2015 season; he has placed in the Top 10 in the 5 of 7 races he’s run to completion.
Pagenaud explained after today’s race that he actually likes the wet/dry conditions of the track – he has experience driving them in both IndyCars and SportsCars. The Frenchman also won at Belle Isle in Race 2 in 2013 and says that he enjoyed the little bit of luck they seemed to come into today, explaining that it hasn’t happened all that often this season. He wanted to make Penske proud in his hometown and at the event that Penske has invested so much in, already. He attributed today’s podium finish to his team making the right calls strategically and to the fact that he & his crew are essentially a new team, but really starting to get to know each other better. There is nothing better than finding a groove with co-workers which allows everyone to perform at their best. It sure seems like Pagenaud and the No. 22 crew are reaching that point.
Today’s race was definitely one I’ll remember for multiple reasons, Tony Kanaan feeling the need to “Shake It Off” in regards to his back wing at the start of Lap 6, perhaps being one of the main ones. Cue the moans and groans. I’m sorry, I couldn’t NOT bring that up, it’s just too rich. I can honestly say that I never saw myself being able to tie Taylor Swift into an IndyCar article. Life astounds me, yet again.
Anyways, I had a darn good time today all decked out in my rain gear and rolling with the changes as they came our way. So what do you say, shall we meet here again tomorrow and do it all over again? Same time? Same place? Alright. Fine. You twisted my arm.
I will be covering the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit from Belle Isle, MI all weekend for Live Full Throttle. Stay connected: