Dixon overcomes delay to win shortened Detroit Grand Prix

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DETROIT -- Scott Dixon led all 60 laps in a shortened Detroit Grand Prix, the only normal part of a wild afternoon of IndyCar racing at Belle Isle.

In between the start and the finish was a two-hour delay for a track surface coming apart, several crashes and rain.

The finish was a swap of last week's Indianapolis 500, with Dixon holding off 500 winner Dario Franchitti for his 28th IndyCar victory, his first win of the season.

"He's been in a class by himself all weekend," Franchitti said of the pole winner. "He was also a wily little fox there (on the last restart)."

Franchitti held off Simon Pagenaud for second, completing a Honda sweep of the podium in a Chevrolet-sponsored race.

Will Power finished fourth, Oriol Servia fifth in Chevrolets.

"It was pretty crazy," said Dixon, who enjoyed the break in the team's transporter. "I had some Frosted Flakes (cereal), came back out and did the last 15 laps."

Thirty laps were trimmed from the scheduled distance because of the uncertainty over the track repairs.

Dixon scored the maximum points of the weekend to pull within 25 points of Power, the series leader.

The delay came as a result of track sealant coming up in several parts of the 14-turn, 2.07-mile street circuit. Several chunks landed in areas at the end of the track, including chalets filled with corporate guests.

Drivers began complaining about the track as early as Lap 5, but the race continued without incident -- for a while. Then, on Lap 39, everything changed.

James Hinchcliffe was following a group of cars through Turn 6 when a large piece of track sealant laying on the track struck his front wing. The debris got under the car and lifted it in the air, breaking traction with the asphalt.

Unable to control the No. 27 machine, Hinchcliffe soared into the large tire barrier, which engulfed him.

Takuma Sato crashed at almost the same point, although his incident was caused by running over the curb.

Hinchcliffe described the sealant debris as "giant pieces" that he and the other competitors had to dodge.

"It was like playing Russian Roulette," he said.

The craters left in the track were described as 2 inches deep by 6 inches wide. There were in several parts of the island circuit.

"A mess," Hinchcliffe said.

A piece of the sealant broke part of Power's front wing, another broke Tony Kanaan's mirror.

Dixon said there were several areas of the track with the problem. Kanaan estimated there was damage "in seven corners around the track."

Franchitti said the situation causes a driver to "lose steering, and off you go."

Up until that point, the focal point of the race had been Dixon as he drove away from Power and the rest of the field, and EJ Viso.

Viso started fourth and was third when a gaggle of cars stacked up behind him. As the leaders pulled away, Viso's car was loose to the point of twice sliding, which slowed others behind him. He trailed Dixon by as much as 15 seconds before he pulled off the track to pit.

Ryan Hunter-Reay was the car immediately behind Viso, and he clearly was frustrated by the slowness of the KV Racing Technology car that went way wide at one point and slapped the wall in another. Hunter-Reay's first big try to pass came on Lap 20, but he couldn't make it stick.

Viso made wall contact on Lap 26; he pitted two laps later.

Hunter-Reay wasn't just busy with Viso; he had Ryan Briscoe stalking behind him. Briscoe got a run on him, but Hunter-Reay moved over to block. They touched briefly, sending a puff of smoke in the air. Hunter-Reay drew a warning from race control; Briscoe slowed briefly but was able to regain pursuit.

Justin Wilson was one of the race favorites, having won the most recent IndyCar race held on Belle Isle, in 2008. But he was out after only a couple of corners when he banged the wall after the rear of his car got loose. The contact, while light, was enough to damage a suspension piece.

The real action was after the delay and a shortening of the race by 30 laps.

With light rain starting to fall on the course, Helio Castroneves spun into the wall and was clipped by the trailing Ed Carpenter. It was amazing that neither car suffered more damage than it did, with Carpenter hitting Castroneves basically front end to front end. Carpenter spun on impact.

Josef Newgarden, a rookie, also got into a mess that included several cars spinning, including Briscoe.

Viso even got knocked off line byMarco Andretti, causing yet another caution. But Dixon held on through all of it.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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