With the threat of rain looming and a dominant performance by Team Penske during the first half, KVSH Racing made the right strategy call for Sebastien Bourdais to put him in the lead in the final stages of the race to take the win in the first of two Chevrolet Dual in Detroit races.
A clean start for pole-sitter Simon Pagenaud allowed him to retain the lead through the first lap. The three positions behind him remained consistent with Helio Castroneves, Juan Pablo Montoya and James Hinchcliffe rounding out the top four. Tony Kanaan had moved into the top five before pitting early with much of the field to switch from alternate to primary tires.
With the entirety of the field having made pit stops except for the top three of Pagenaud, Castroneves and Carlos Munoz, the race’s first caution came out on Lap 10 when Max Chilton made heavy contact with the wall along the straightaway that leads to Turn 7 after an apparent suspension failure.
Rather than give up their track position, the lead group of three elected to stay out under the caution and continue on track for a full fuel stint.
Despite having tires with 15 laps on them, both Pagenaud and Castroneves were able to get away on the restart with the driver of the No. 22 enjoying a 2.3-second lead by Lap 17. Will Power got around Munoz for third, giving Team Penske a temporary lockout of the top three.
On Lap 23, Pagenaud’s lead over Power had grown to 6.2 seconds but the French driver entered pit lane at the conclusion of the lap. Power took over the lead until his pit stop on Lap 29 after building up an advantage of three seconds over Montoya.
With pit stops continuing, Pagenaud cycled back to the lead with Power, Montoya, Sebastien Bourdais and Castroneves completing the top five at the halfway mark of the 70-lap race. With three Team Penske cars out front, Pagenaud had a more difficult time increasing his lead as the difference between the Nos. 22 and 12 held fairly steady at 1.5 seconds.
The second yellow flag flew on Lap 42 for Hinchcliffe who put the No. 5 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda into the tire barrier in Turn 7. The pits opened on the following lap with much of the field taking advantage of the opportunity including leader Pagenaud. Power beat Pagenaud off pit road followed by Castroneves, Munoz, Kanaan, Charlie Kimball, Aleshin, Ryan Hunter-Reay, and Newgarden.
Montoya stayed out during the caution and would have assumed the race lead on the Lap 46 restart but the green flag was delayed due to an issue for Power in Turn 3. What the driver initially reported as a gearbox issue looked to instead be a loose tire, leaving Power stranded for the remainder of the race.
The field went back to green-flag running on Lap 47 with Montoya holding the lead. Rahal, Dixon, Bourdais and Conor Daly rounded out the top five three laps later. When Montoya pitted from the lead on Lap 54, Dixon had moved up to second and assumed the race lead.
Dixon pitted on the next lap with Bourdais taking the lead. After his pit stop, the driver of the No. 9 had problems getting back up to speed with apparent gearbox issues. Dixon went back to the pits with 14 laps to go followed by race leader Bourdais.
Sebastien Bourdais was able to come back out after his pit stop ahead of the Team Penske trio while Conor Daly had assumed the lead though he was off strategy having pitted 20 laps before Bourdais. Daly made his final pit stop on Lap 61 as Bourdais took the race lead. Daly rejoined the field in second and trailed Bourdais by three seconds on Lap 64.
During the last few laps, Daly was able to cut into Bourdais’ lead with the French driver encountering lapped traffic. With two laps to go, Bourdais held a 1.5-second advantage over Daly.
Sebastien Bourdais easily held on at the head of the field and took the checkered flag to win his 35th career Indy car race. Daly, Montoya, Rahal and Castroneves completed the top five with Munoz, Hunter-Reay, Kimball, Kanaan and Alexander Rossi rounding out the top 10. The second-place finish for Daly was his first career Verizon IndyCar Series podium.
The series returns to the Raceway at Belle Isle Park for Race 2 of the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit on Sunday with the green flag expected at 3:50 p.m. EDT.