DETROIT – “Great day for us. I had to redeem myself for this morning,” Tony Kanaan said after driving his No. 14 ABC Supply Chevrolet from 22nd to seventh in Race 2 of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix Sunday afternoon on Belle Isle.
Kanaan spun in qualifying in wet conditions on the 2.35-mile temporary circuit and brought out a red flag which ended his session per IndyCar rules. He had to start nearly last, only rookie Rene Binder, who didn’t qualify this morning, started behind him.
“The good part about it, what is awesome is when your boss [A.J.] is behind you regardless what happens,” Kanaan explained. “I was really down after qualifying today because I made a mistake. It looked like he was trying to find the reason that I crashed so that it wasn’t my fault. I said, ‘A.J. it was my fault.’ So that gives me a lot of confidence and a lot of motivation just to go and do it.”
After yesterday’s race when the team used the same strategy for both cars, they decided to use two different strategies today: Kanaan was on a three-stop race and Matheus “Matt” Leist was on a two-stop race. A two-stop race means the driver has to save fuel, with a three-stopper, fuel saving is not as critical.
Both drivers got off to a great start picking up five positions each on the first lap which was slowed by the race’s only full course yellow for Spencer Pigot’s spin in Turn 5. Leist jumped up to 13th and Kanaan 17th.
As the different fuel strategies played out in the first half of the race, Leist ran as high as seventh. He was running ninth when Sebastien Bourdais spun in Turns 1 and 2. He lost two spots as cars scrambled around Bourdais who was limping back to the pits with a broken front wing.
Leist, who was on the red tires (softer alternate compound) in the second stint, radioed to his strategist Larry Foyt, “We don’t have tires anymore.” Foyt told him to do the best he could because he was less than 10 laps from his next stop when he’d be back on the preferred black primary compound tires.
Kanaan meanwhile was on fresher tires and had more fuel so he passed Leist just past the halfway mark of the race on lap 38. Leist was 11th when he pitted for his second and final time on lap 46. The No. 4 ABC Supply crew gave him a good stop because he stayed ahead of Josef Newgarden, James Hinchcliffe and Takuma Sato -- all of whom stopped on the same lap as Leist. However, the pack of them did drop back as the pit stops cycled out. Leist dropped to 14th which is where he finished.
“We probably had the pace to be in the top 10, we got a great start but it just was not our day today,” Leist lamented. “I’m learning a little bit more every time, but it’s time to start running at the front, not the back. Hopefully we’ll have a good race next weekend.”
Kanaan, who pitted three laps later than Leist because he didn’t have to save fuel, was able to pass cars and he climbed into eighth from 10th. Alexander Rossi spun while leading with just seven laps to go in the 70-lap race. Rossi had to pit for new tires, which allowed Kanaan to move up to seventh which he held to the checkered flag.
Kanaan was pleased with the performance of his No. 14 ABC Supply Chevrolet and crew, saying, “The guys did a great job in the pits. We had a fast car. I had a lot of fun. I’m exhausted but it’s our best result of the season so far at one of the most difficult tracks and with one of our worst qualifiers. So pretty happy.”
A.J. Foyt was happy to come out of Detroit with both cars intact—not an easy task on the bumpy, narrow temporary circuit.
“Today we came back strong,” Foyt said. “Tony drove a great race, to come from 22nd to seventh on this type of race track was fantastic. With Matt, we went for a two-pit stop race, and the two different strategies worked out good for the 14 car and it hurt the 4 car a little bit, but that’s racing. We didn’t want to get caught out like we did yesterday [running the same strategy with both cars]. This track is very hard to pass on, and Tony did everything right and so did Matt. I thought both guys did a helluva job really.”
Ryan Hunter-Reay won the race. He was followed by Will Power, Ed Jones, Scott Dixon and Graham Rahal.
No rest for the weary as the Verizon IndyCar Series teams head south this week to Texas for the DXC.technology 600 at Texas Motor Speedway. The Saturday night race will be broadcast live by NBC Sports Network starting at 8 p.m. ET.
In a unique tribute to the crews that work extra hard at this doubleheader, the race organizers introduce the Over-The-Wall pit crew with each driver. Our crews are pictured below with their respective drivers.
L to R: Chris McFadden, Pat Jordan, Vince Bass, Tony Kanaan (and son Deco), Dave Higuera, Warren Wilson and Eric Prentice.
L to R: Thomas Semik II, Andrew Copeland, Thomas Gould, Tomihiro Takase, Phil Long, Matheus Leist and Jim Cahall.