A strategic gaffe by the Target Chip Ganassi team appeared to have given Helio Castroneves a vital break in the IndyCar championship race - until the Brazilian also erred and handed a maiden IRL victory to rookie Justin Wilson.

Castroneves was poised to slash Scott Dixon's points advantage for the second straight week, following his victory at Infineon Raceway last Sunday, but defended too hard when Wilson challenged him for the lead following the last caution period of the Detroit Indy Grand Prix and was forced to hand over first position by the officials.

Wilson had been a factor all day, but never looked a candidate for the win until the final phase when his Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing car was able to tail Castroneves closely. The Brazilian, meanwhile, had had to pay second fiddle to points leader Dixon in the opening 19 laps but, once their gameplans differed, was able to set the pace until the closing stages.

Ganassi's decision to pit Dixon under the second caution of the race, and a good ten laps before the first fuel window was expected, raised more than a few eyebrows as it dropped the Kiwi deep into the pack, where he was neither able to run as fast as Castroneves, or pass the slower cars ahead of him to find clear road.

As a result, when the leaders made their stops - under green - around lap 31, they were able to rejoin still ahead of the Target car, which made it only as far as fifth when the dust had settled.

A third caution followed the stops almost immediately, leaving Castroneves at the head of the field, in front of Wilson, Oriol SZervia, Tony Kanaan and Dixon, with Ryan Hunter-Reay attempting to keep pace with the top five.

With the exception of Servia dropping behind Kanaan at the final round of stops, and Hunter-reay suffering a puncture in the heat of battle with Will Power, the order remained the same for the remainder of the race. As he had in the opening stages, Castroneves was able to open a gap on the majority of his pursuers, but had Wilson for company - and the Briton's McDonalds car was suddenly looking the fastest of all.

With the race having been trimmed from 90 laps to a two-hour maximum due to the number of cautions, Wilson used the final restart on lap 69 to make his move, closing quickly on Castroneves before ducking out to the Brazilian's right in an attempt to take the lead. Castroneves reacted by squeezing the NHLR machine closer and closer to the wall, forcing Wilson to back off or take both into the concrete, and the officials duly took a dim view of his actions.

Even before the following lap was complete, Castroneves had been ordered to hand over top spot to his rival and, despite the protestations of the Penske team, ceded the lead on lap 71. With just eleven laps possible before the chequer was raised, there was little time, especially on a course as sinuous as Belle Isle Park, for the Brazilian to retaliate, and he had to settle for a frustrated second - his eighth runners-up finish of the season.

The significance of Castroneves' error centred on more than just losing a second race win of the season, for handing top spot to Wilson also saw his championship tally take a hit of ten points, the gap between first and second. With Dixon only managing fifth at the flag, the Brazilian, who took the bonus for leading most laps, had been on course to slash the points gap to around 20. Instead, he now has to pull more from the bag at Chicagoland next weekend.

Wilson was elated at finally taking a victory many had predicted for earlier in his maiden IndyCar campaign. The Briton had been a hot property in Champ Car, and was tipped to take the title before unification in March. Despite then having to tackle unfamiliar venues in an unfamiliar car, the former F1 driver was listed among potential road course winners, but was made to wait until the penultimate round before provising his own fillip to ailing team owner Paul Newman, who health continues to give the team and the racing world at large cause for concern.

The now defunct Champ Car series figured to provide two of the three podium finishers until Servia and the KV Racing Technology team suffered a long final pit-stop that was enough to allow Kanaan into third. Servia had led his first lap of the weekend immediately prior to taking on more fuel and fresh tyres, but fell away from the Brazilian thereafter and ended the race keeping Dixon and a closing group at bay.

Dixon, for all his success, this season, was unable to find a way past the Catalan and was forced to settle for fifth, perhaps anticipating a tougher task in the finale than he eventually found. The Kiwi appeared to have been helped in his attempt to catch the leading pair when Ganassi team-mate Dan Wheldon went off at turn seven with 18 laps to go, but was unable to find the opportunity he needed to make up places.

Wheldon, as he had at Infineon last weekend, opted to make a very early pit-stop in an effort to overcome a midfield grid position, but the tact5ic did not work as it had in California and, having been tipped into a spin by rookie Jaime Camara, the Briton was never a factor. His second off, this time entirely of his own making, proved to be the final straw and, having restarted, he finally came in a dozen laps down on countryman Wilson.

Hunter-Reay's attempts to keep in touch with Kanaan through the middle of the race suffered along with his right rear tyre when Will Power attempted to squeeze through into sixth on lap 54. Unable to continue at racing speed, RHR dropped away from the lead group when he pitted, while Power soldiered on for a couple of laps while Team Australia looked for a repalcement wing. The incident did not hamper either man too much in the final reckoning, however, with Hunter-Reay still managing to claim sixth at the flag, while Power came home, behind the feisty Bruno Junqueira, who had emerged from his final pit-stop just ahead of the Aussie.

Ryan Briscoe, like Wheldon, opted for an early stop as Penske attempted to cover its bases, but similarly never featured at the front, eventually coming home in ninth, while AJ Foyt took a rare road course top ten for Vision Racing.

The American came home ahead of rookie points leader Hideki Mutoh, while Darren Manning - who survived a mid-race touch from Junqueira before then being asked to give way to the Brazilian - Graham Rahal, who lost a top six finish to a late splash 'n' dash, and Ed Carpenter rounded out the unlapped runners.

Missing from the top order were Danica Patrick, who eventually came home a lap down in 16th after being involved in anotehr contentious moment. Seemingly unable to get up to speed following her second and supposedly final stop, the Andretti Green driver was passed early in teh lap by EJ Viso, before finding her mirrors full of Rahal and Vitor Meira. While attempting to cover the former's move to the inside - with what appeared to be a blatant block - Patrick appeared unaware of Meira's move on the outside, and made heavy contact with the luckless Brazilian's right-rear corner, breaking the suspension. Both seemed to be out after pulling up on track, but eventually rejoined to finish a lap and four laps adrift respectively.

Viso, meanwhile, lasted just a handful of corners more before losing the HVM entry at speed and sideswiping the wall. With substantial damage to the left-hand side of the black-and-green machine, the aggressive Venezuelan's day was done. Patrick, however, was not, and unleashed another tirade against the rookie, the source of which remains unclear.

Marco Andretti suffered another nightmare, posting his seventh DNF of the season after losing second gear and being black-flagged by race officials, while Buddy Rice and veteran debutant Alex Tagliani also retired with mechanical woes. Tomas Scheckter appeared to have set the retirement ball rolling on lap two after breaking another half-shaft while attempting to rejoin from a strategic second lap pit-stop, but eventually rejoined to use the race - initially unscheduled by Luczo Dragon Racing - as a valuable testing exercise.


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