Bourdais triumphs in the wet over Sato
31 May 2015 – Sébastien Bourdais held off Takuma Sato and Graham Rahal to win a bizarre, caution-filled Race 2 in Detroit. The Frenchman was well short on fuel but was aided by numerous yellows and a race that was shortened by two laps due to time constraints.
In a second Dual populated by crescendos and decrescendos, any number of drivers seemed poised to take the race win, but circumstances continually knocked out the contenders one-by-one (or, in the case of Penske, two at a time).
Will Power looked sure to outlast the field when the race turned into a fuel mileage affair late, but on a wet restart, a tap from Tristan Vautier (who improbably finished fourth) sent Power sideways into his team-mate Hélio Castroneves. Both were out of the race, and the ensuing carnage forced IndyCar to throw the red flag with six laps to go.
At this point, due to over five cautions, the two-hour time limit would be exceeded, so officials said that at the point of the cars rolling off, a 5m30s timer would begin, meaning just three minutes of green flag running would remain. This allowed Bourdais just enough petrol to cross the line, with his team's computers predicting he would run out on the very next lap. Considering there were originally two more laps scheduled, the lengthy cleanup provided a welcome lucky break for the four-time Champ Car champion.
The three cars behind Bourdais had all pitted the same time he had, which was 30 laps prior, so with green flag running, the race may have been handed to Power, Castroneves and Marco Andretti. Instead, Marco was elevated to P5 with the prospect of outlasting the top four, but the timed race doomed his chances.
The lead Andretti driver finished ahead of rookie Conor Daly whose impressive strategy gamble saw him lead his first laps in an IndyCar. With the track drying and a caution well before his final pit window, Daly decided to stay out on used wet tyres instead of pitting for new ones like most of the field. For most cars, this was their second-to-last stop, as the track would soon turn too dry for wets.
When several more yellows came after the restart, Daly soon found himself leading the race under green with fewer than 25 laps remaining – a stint easily doable on one tank of fuel. By eliminating a whole pit-stop, Daly was suddenly on the leaders' rotation, but when Josef Newgarden hit the wall hard, Daly's chances at winning the race seemingly disappeared in a flash of yellow.
He pitted under caution and was shuffled back to P15, and a block on the restart drew ire and a penalty from IndyCar officials sending him to the back. Still, his fuel situation was such that he was effectively in the top 10 if the leaders were to run dry. And as they did, the young American, who is currently filling in for the injured James Hinchcliffe, stayed clean to notch the best result of his short career.
For Bourdias, though, this marked his 33rd open wheel victory going back to his days in CART/Champ Car. It's just his second IndyCar win after triumphing in the first race at Toronto last year for KV Racing Technology. This is coming off a fourth-place finish at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course a few weeks ago, meaning he now sits well and truly in the top 10 of the IndyCar championship.