DETROIT, MI (June 2, 2013) — Last year the Belle Isle racetrack cracked up. On Sunday, it was the drivers' turn to come apart at the seams.
The second race of the Izod IndyCar Series' first of three scheduled doubleheaders became a ferociously fought duel along the river, with cars wrecking, drivers throwing gloves and barbs at competitors and also some having to be restrained by track workers.
In a street fight on a brisk, windy day at Belle Isle, the Chevrolet Indy Dual at Detroit was won by Frenchman Simon Pagenaud, who raced across the finish line in his No.77 Schmidt Hamilton Honda/Dallara more than five seconds ahead of the rest of the field.
Pagenaud, who started sixth in the 70-lap race, avoided multiple crashes in the first half of the race that involved about a third of the grid.
"Did I take the right spot?" asked Pagenaud after his first IndyCar win when he sat down at the post-race press conference. "Yes, it was a crazy race," added Pagenaud. "I think it is more we should say an amazing weekend."
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Side-by-side restarts, which IndyCar uses on road and street courses as well as at Milwaukee and Iowa, seemed to lead to some of the wrecks on the tight track.
"They need to rethink these double-file restarts for open-wheel cars," Penske Racing driver Will Power said.
Power's shot to compete for a win ended when he was bumped from behind by Sebastien Bourdais, a move that affected nine other cars. After Power got out of his car, he threw his gloves toward Bourdais.
"The safety worker was being very aggressive with me. I was like, 'Hey, I'm just trying to show the Frenchman my displeasure with him, and that was it,'" Power said.
Bourdais was penalized during the race for avoidable contact, but the damage had been done.
James Jakes, a golfing buddy of Detroit Tigers pitching ace Justin Verlander, placed second, while fellow Englishman Mike Conway, who won the first dual race, was third.
Jakes got caught in a big wreck in Turn 1 early in the race and hurt his wrist, which he broke a couple years ago. It didn't stop him wringing the most out of his car.
Conway, who got the call in England last weekend to come across the Pond and drive for Dale Coyne Racing after leaving IndyCar last season, was pleased with his good fortune at Belle Isle.
"Great job by all the guys," said Conway, who won the IndyCar street race in Long Beach in 2011. "I want to thank my team for giving me the opportunity this weekend. Big credit to them."
Pagenaud, a former sports car ace, joined the IndyCar Series as a substitute driver in 2011 and began racing full time for team owner Sam Schmidt last season. He didn't hold back in Sunday's win.
"I was in full attack mode for the race," he said. "My goal was to attack, go to the front, not look behind."
Pagenaud admitted he had trouble the last two laps of the race keeping his focus — and keeping the lead over Jakes and Conway.
"The last two laps I was quite emotional in the car," said Pagenaud. "It was difficult to stay focused. I kept saying, push, don't lift. It worked out. When I crossed the finish line, it was a sweet moment."