Scott Dixon used a combination of a quick pit stop and on-track speed to record his first win of this year’s Verizon IndyCar Series in the first of the Detroit Duals.
Dixon started on the outside of the front row but moved into a sizeable lead during the first pit stops cycle and was not troubled thereafter despite two late Cautions.
Ryan Hunter-Reay and Alexander Rossi made up the podium on a day dominated by Hondas as Will Power led the Chevrolet-powered cars in seventh.
Marco Andretti qualified on pole and the #98 Andretti-Herta w/Curb Agajanian Honda led until he peeled off for his first pit stop at the end of Lap 23.
Dixon ran second to that point, pitted a lap later in the #9 Chip Ganassi Honda, and emerged a couple of seconds ahead of Andretti.
Graham Rahal, the only driver to start the race on red tyres, took service another lap later again and split Dixon and Andretti.
While those three were going after two-stop races, Hunter-Reay and others opted for three-stoppers and the 2012 champion got out in just in front of team-mate Andretti after pitting a second time.
Crucially, he managed to keep the #28 Andretti Autosport Honda in front of #98 while under pressure on cold tyres in the first few corners of his out lap.
After half the 70 laps had been notched up, Dixon led Rahal, Hunter-Reay, Andretti, Rossi, Ed Jones, Takuma Sato, Will Power, Josef Newgarden, and Spencer Pigot.
Dixon might have made his pass in the pits but he disappeared into the distance during his middle stint and the margin at the front was over 16 seconds on Lap 45 when Rene Binder (#32 Juncos Racing Chevrolet) drew a local yellow by parking in the run-off at Turn 7.
The potential Caution drew all the front-runners into pit lane over the next two laps but it was actually Rahal that caused the race to be neutralised when he made heavy contact with the wall at Turn 13 on Lap 46.
The man who swept last year’s Duals had climbed up on the inside kerb, which appeared to push his #15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Honda across to the other side of the road.
— IndyCar Series (@IndyCar) June 2, 2018
Dixon led Hunter-Reay, Andretti, Rossi, Jones, Sato, Power, Newgarden, Pigot, and Robert Wickens under Caution.
Racing resumed on Lap 54 and Sato (#30 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Honda) pounced on Jones (#10 Chip Ganassi Honda) at Turn 1.
The top four broke free as Sato and Jones continues to battle, but the Safety Car returned when debutant Santino Ferrucci was unloaded by Charlie Kimball on Lap 56.
Kimball hit the #19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda from behind on the run to Turn 7, Ferrucci spinning but luckily splitting Zach Veach (#26 Andretti Autosport Honda) and Tony Kanaan (#14 AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet) as he speared across the track at the corner itself before a significant impact with the tyre wall.
The #23 Carlin Chevrolet driver would be handed a drive-through for avoidable contact.
Aside from Sato’s pass and Wickens getting by Pigot, the order was unchanged for the second restart on Lap 61.
Rossi rounded up Andretti through Turns 3 and 4 in a nervous moment for Andretti Autosport moments after that restart.
No one was threatening Dixon, however, as he won by 1.82s over Hunter-Reay.
Rossi gapped Andretti by over seven seconds in the final 10 laps, with Sato just behind in fifth.
Rounding out the top 10 were Jones, Power, Wickens (#6 Schmidt Peterson Honda), Newgarden (#1 Team Penske Chevrolet), and Pigot (#21 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet).
Simon Pagenaud was a notable outside the top 10, starting 13th and finishing 17th in the #22 Team Penske Chevrolet having gone for a third pit stop under the first Caution.
Rossi’s podium and Dixon’s win put them first and second in the title race, ahead of previous leader Power, with the second race of the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit taking place on Monday morning at 0550 AEST.
Race results: Detroit Dual 1
|Pos||Num||Driver||C/E/T||Race time/Split||Pit stops||Status||Grid pos|
|8||6||Robert Wickens (R)||D/H/F||+21.4715||3||Running||3|
|12||26||Zach Veach (R)||D/H/F||+23.0621||2||Running||16|
|15||4||Matheus Leist (R)||D/C/F||+26.5471||3||Running||21|
|16||20||Jordan King (R)||D/C/F||+27.0156||3||Running||20|
|21||32||Rene Binder (R)||D/C/F||+3 laps||2||Running||23|
|22||19||Santino Ferrucci (R)||D/H/F||+15 laps||2||Contact||18|
|23||15||Graham Rahal||D/H/F||+25 laps||2||Contact||8|
(C)hassis: D=Dallara | (E)ngine: C=Chevy, H=Honda | (T)yre: F=Firestone
|22||Zachary Claman DeMelo||72|