DETROIT – After a scorching hot day on the track, including two red flag stoppages, Will Power’s racing heart was ripped from him.
Conversely, Marcus Ericsson achieved a heartwarming outcome – the first win of his NTT IndyCar Series career – in Saturday’s Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix at Belle Isle NTT IndyCar Series contest after the second red flag of the day stopped the race with five laps to go.
Power had fought his way to the lead and appeared to be in prime position to score his first victory of the season. Instead, he found himself trying to catch up to the back of the field, three laps down to Ericsson.
RESULTS: NTT IndyCar Series Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix Race 1
Ericsson became the fourth first-time NTT IndyCar Series winner this season. It was his first win in more than a decade of racing for the former Formula One driver with 97 F-1 starts.
“It’s been such a long time for me and it’s tough, I was a kid the last time I won,” Ericsson said. “I feel so good.
“I had my best result here two years ago with a second place so coming here this weekend I had a lot of confidence. For once, things fell my way and I feel pretty good.
“I feel really bad for Will Power. He did a tremendous job. But it was my day, today. For once, luck was on my side. I think we deserved that.”
The second red flag left Power seeing red as the Team Penske driver was furious at IndyCar Race Control after leading 37 laps during the 70-lap race only to finish 20th, three laps down.
“I’m mad at IndyCar because I’m the first car in and they wait for the last car to come in before getting a fan on the car and it roasted the ECU,” Power said. “Throwing the red flag for starters. The guys up there in Race Control never listen to any drivers. They never listen. They don’t care. We have given them so many suggestions and they don’t care.
“I worked my ass off today to have this happen. I screamed on the radio to get a fan because the ECU overheats.
“You work your ass off in this sport, so much money goes into it and dumb decisions like that.
“It’s not a yellow they throw, it’s some stupid idea like this with a red flag.”
When the race was restarted with three laps to go, Ericsson got a tremendous start out of turn 13. Further back, Takuma Sato raced from fourth to second as he tried to track down Ericsson.
Although the ambient temperature was 82 degrees, the high humidity and a bumpy race course made for a difficult race for the 25 driver that took the green flag. More than three hours later, the exhausted drivers had to prepare for a late-race shootout to determine the outcome.
What appeared to be Power’s green-flag charge to the checkered flag was halted when Romain Grosjean crashed in turn nine for what appeared to be the final caution period of the race. As Grosjean exited the turn, his car did not turn and he slammed into the wall.
Instead of the yellow flag, it was the red flag that waved as IndyCar officials stopped the race with five laps to go.
The overheated drivers pulled onto pit lane and implored IndyCar officials to allow portable fans and air conditioning units to be brought to the cars to cool off themselves and the Electronic Control Unit (ECU). Alexander Rossi also called for Band-Aids to tend to some blistered hands.
IndyCar called for engines to be refired at 5:08 p.m., after a 7 minute and 29 second red flag. However, Power’s Chevrolet engine would not refire, and the field pulled off pit lane and left Power’s stalled car behind.
Team Penske attempted to replace an ECU but that did not correct the issue and Power was told by the team to get out of the car. The team was able to correct the problem shortly thereafter and he returned to the track, three laps down.
Ericsson defeated Rinus VeeKay by 1.7290 seconds. Pato O’Ward was third in the No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet, followed by Takuma Sato’s No. 30 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda. Two more Rahal letterman Lanigan Racing entries followed, with Graham Rahal in fifth and Santino Ferrucci in sixth.
Earlier in the race, Felix Rosenqvist’s massive crash in turn six on the 14-turn, 2.35-mile street course on lap 25 brought out the first red flag of the race.
It appeared a stuck throttle or brake failure was the cause of Rosenqvist crash, although that has not been confirmed by the team or IndyCar.
The incident severely damaged the fence and concrete barrier, causing the red flag to stop the race on lap 27.
The AMR Safety Team was diligent and methodical when they extracted the conscious 29-year-old driver from Sweden from the cockpit. Rosenqvist was put in a neck brace to stabilize his neck and placed in the ambulance on a backboard.
“Felix is doing fine, he is conscious and alert, was talking the whole time, has some soreness but no loss or sensation,” said IndyCar Medical Director Dr. Geoffrey Billows. “We are sending him downtown to the hospital for more medical evaluation and further advanced imaging.”
Rosenqvist was running in the top 10 at the time of the crash.
The Red Flag stopped the race for 1-hour, 18-minutes. After a few laps of yellow when the pits were opened and most of the field pitted for new tires and fuel, racing resumed with Power in front with 39 laps remaining.