Fans of motor racing were treated to a plethora of action both on and off the track on Sunday, June 1, as teams from the Pirelli World Challenge, IndyCar, and the SPEED Energy Formula Off-Road Presented by TRAXXAS series took to the historic track at Belle Isle for a third day of competition on the small island nestled between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario. Many of the series competed on more than one occasion over the three-day visit to the track, and making for a truly exciting weekend.
Johnny O’Connell in GT and Dean Martin in GTS won both of the events held by the Pirelli World Challenge at the Cadillac V-Series Challenge presented by Metro Detroit Cadillac Dealers in flag-to-flag victories from Motul pole position. In addition, Marcelo Hahn became the first driver to score a second win within the GT-A classification this season. O’Connell’s win is his third this season and fifth in six starts over three years at Belle Isle Park; Martin’s is his second of the season and third in four starts the last two years at Belle Isle.
“There are certain tracks that you know that you have to do well at. When we are on the street circuits we have an opportunity,” O’Connell said. “The hardest thing for any driver is winning the first time at any track and once you win you wake up the next morning knowing that you can do it again.”
Hahn, driving the No. 0 Reiter Engineering Lamborghini Gallardo FL2, completed an excellent bounce back race in GT-A after contact at Turn 6 ended his race on Saturday. Second was GT-A points leader Michael Mills, of Angleton, Texas, in the No. 41 EFFORT Racing Porsche GT3 R and third, for his second straight podium finish, was Dan Knox, of Pilot Point, Texas, in the No. 80 ACS Manufacturing, Inc./Performance SpeedTech SRT Viper GT3-R.
“I was in first place yesterday and made a mistake and my team spent all night repairing the car for today,” Hahn said. “In the beginning I was in second place and it was hard to pass Mills, but I got a chance and used it.”
Eight cars in the GTS race were in podium contention, two had a more realistic shot at the win as a GT-A car was wedged in-between second and third place for the first 13 laps of the race.
Martin, in the No. 50 Picture Cars East/Rehagen Racing Ford Mustang Boss 302S led the similar car driven by Alec Udell, of The Woodlands, Texas, in the No. 17 Watson Racing Ford Mustang Boss 302S for the first 13 laps, with the rest of the field engaged in a tight battle for third. Martin was able to hang on and complete his first career series weekend sweep, with a winning margin of victory under yellow of 2.124 seconds.
“We are committed to doing a full season in the series with our Mustang; the Mustangs really show their strength here in Detroit, our home territory,” Martin said. “It’s really great to bring home a win for Ford here. Hats off to our crew, brand new car that was originally built as a show car and we tore it down and took what was left from the race car from Barber.”
Of note, Roush, who was classified 19th, earned the Invisible Glass Clean Pass of the Race Award for his move on Lawson Aschenbach, of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., on Lap 9. Aschenbach, driving the No. 1 Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Camaro, endured a difficult weekend with a 19th place result Saturday and a 20th on Sunday.
The Cadillac V-Series Challenge presented by the Metro Detroit Cadillac Dealers races will air on NBC Sports Network on Sunday, June 15, at 2:30 p.m. ET.
The next round for the GT, GT-A and GTS contingent is at Elkhart Lake’s Road America from June 19-21, as Pirelli World Challenge returns to the picturesque Wisconsin road course for the first time since 2009. With the TC, TCA and TCB classes also in action there, it will be the second of four all-class weekends this season.
E.J. Viso completed a weekend sweep of three Menards Formula Off-Road Presented by TRAXXAS races, taking Sunday’s race in front of a massive audience at the Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix. Viso’s Momo/Gridstar truck dominated a weekend of thrilling truck racing.
“I am obviously starting to feel more comfortable with the truck,” Viso said. “It was a great weekend and a great track. This new series is going to be the next thing, it’s really catching on with the fans, sponsors and drivers. The trucks are very fun to drive and I had a blast. This is only my second opportunity in the trucks, and I hope there are many others. Now I am looking forward to X Games next weekend in Austin (Texas) which I am sure is going to be a different animal but I am ready for that challenge.”
Four metal ramps were positioned throughout the course, with the trucks jumping as much as 15 feet in the air and more than 100 feet down course bringing cheers and gasps from the huge Belle Isle crowd.
A replay of the Menards TRAXXAS races from Detroit will be shown on NBCSN June 20 at 10:30 p.m. PDT (1:30 a.m. June 21 EDT).
The SPEED Energy Formula Off-Road Presented by TRAXXAS series now moves to Austin, Texas and the ESPN X Games, marking the first time in series history that it will be featured in a live network television broadcast. The final race at X Games Austin will air Sunday, June 8 on ABC at 12:30 p.m.
Josef Newgarden and Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing(SFHR) did not draw a lucky hand for Race 2 of the Indy Dual in Detroit Verizon IndyCar Series doubleheader. On the opening lap of the race, Team Penske’s Will Power drove to the inside of Newgarden in Turn 3, sending Newgarden into the barrier. Power received a penalty for the incident that also collected Graham Rahal and Justin Wilson.
“It’s a shame that we were booted in Turn 3 at the start there,” Newgarden said. “Not what we needed to have happen on a day like this. We had a strong car, everyone did a great job bouncing back from yesterday, and we were trying to redeem ourselves from my mishap in Race 1. Then we got caught out with something that wasn’t our fault.”
Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves won the race, his 29th IndyCar victory. Will Power and Charlie Kimball rounded out the top three.
“For us as a group, we have to keep pushing,” Newgarden said. “We have a great team, sponsors, supporters and ownership. We just have to keep moving forward, and I think we’re going to have some good success soon.”
Race 2 at the Chevrolet Indy Dual in Detroit presented by Quicken Loans was much kinder than Race 1 to Schmidt Peterson Motorsports teammates Simon Pagenaud and Mikhail Aleshin, who both earned top-10 finishes.
“We had a fast car,” Pagenaud said. “I’m a little bit disappointed, though, because I felt like we had a car that could have won today. And unfortunately the two pit-stop strategy didn’t play in our favor. We lost a lot of time behind (Will) Power during the middle stint. We were faster, but I couldn’t get by him. I didn’t want to take any chances and crash again racing him.”
Pagenaud started seventh and finished sixth Sunday, June 1 after running in the top five for most of the 70-lap race on the 13-turn, 2.36-mile street course. Aleshin started 16th and climbed nine spots to finish seventh, the top-finishing Verizon IndyCar Series rookie of the race.
“I think my team did a great job,” Aleshin said. “We had a great pit strategy with three stops, and the car was quite good. I had contact with (Juan Pablo) Montoya at the start of the race, but thankfully it wasn’t substantial enough to stop us. My suspension was bent slightly, but I still had speed. I felt like I could really attack out there on the track.”
The rookie’s seventh-place finish was his highest result since April 13 at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, where he finished sixth in the No. 7 SMP Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone car.
Aleshin rebounded from a 17th-place finish in Race 1 Saturday. Pagenaud was eliminated after four laps Saturday in a collision with Will Power and was credited with 22nd.
“Starting 16th and finishing seventh is a great result on a street course like this,” Aleshin said. “It’s been a few races since the No. 7 SMP Racing car has had a positive result, so we’ll go home feeling happy tonight.”
The Verizon IndyCar Series returns to action at 8 p.m. (ET) Saturday, June 7 at Texas Motor Speedway for the Firestone 600.