CLICK: Full race 2 results
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Just 24 hours earlier, Helio Castroneves had started on pole position for the first of this weekend's two races in the Chevrolet Indy Dual in Detroit doubleheader at Belle Isle, only for the timing of a caution to catch him out and leave him crossing the line in fifth place while team mate Will Power took victory.
There was no repeat of that sort of setback on Sunday, however. Starting from the second row after being pipped to pole position earlier in the day, Castroneves played his cards perfectly. He bided his time early on before emerging as the leader once everyone had completed their first round of pit stops, and then pulled out a safe margin over the rest of the field before the race hit a late series of cautions that required the Brazilian to keep his cool and ace the restarts having led for a race-high 42 of the 70 race laps.
"Indy 500, it just clicked something," said Castroneves, recalling missing out on a fourth career win there by a mere 0.06s last week. "It just made us hungry and here I am in Victory Circle where I won my first race. It's great energy again. I wanted it so bad," he said. "More than anything, I want this championship."
It's Castroneves' first win of the 2014 season, and means that Penske complete a sweep of the Detroit weekend after Power's victory on Saturday, at a race track championed by team owner Roger Penske.
Sato had been the early dominant factor in the race, leading ahead of Castroneves and James Hinchcliffe for the first ten laps which included an aborted restarts and then a multi-car accident on lap 1 when Will Power tapped Josef Newgarden into the wall at turn 3, with Graham Rahal running into the stricken #67 and then Justin Wilson piling into the back of the stationary #15. Charlie Kimball had just enough time to react to take to the run-off and missed getting caught up in the mêlée. Power and those involved in the incident took the opportunity for an early pit top to ditch the short-life red-walled soft option tyres as soon as possible, and Power was also handed a drive-thru penalty for causing the incident which put him at the back of the field.
There was a second caution on lap 10 when Sebastian Saavedra hit the barrier in turn 6, and this time Sato decided to pit from the lead while Hinchcliffe stayed out; Castroneves followed Sato's lead onto pit road, promoting Mike Conway - the only driver in the field to gamble on starting on a set of longer-life black-walled prime tyres - to second spot. Conway's plan was to pass Hinchcliffe as soon as possible and sprint away, hopefully using Hinchcliffe as a bulwark to hold up the rest the field. However, Hinch's initial set of options were holding up better than expected and it wasn't until lap 21 that Conway took the lead and the #27 finally came on to pit road for his first stop.
Even so Conway managed to pull out a ten second lead over the field by the time he pitted on lap 25. Unfortunately Conway then had to endure his deferred mandatory stint on the options and after a dozen laps he was struggling badly, locking up and getting passed by anyone within hailing distance. He was forced to pit ahead of schedule and then had an extra stop after flat-spotting his new set of primes, meaning that the 2013 race winner ended the day down in a disappointing 11th place.
Power had recovered from his earlier pit-stop penalty to lead the race when Conway came in. Two laps later he was in for his second stop of the day which put his team mate Castroneves into the clear air at the front, and the Brazilian was quick to get to work and build up a big margin which meant that his lead survived the last pit stops of the day, with Castroneves holding a ten second lead over Power, Scott Dixon, Charlie Kimball, Simon Pagenaud and James Hinchcliffe going into the final stint of the weekend.
With such a margin over the rest of the field, the last thing that Castroneves wanted to see was a late full course caution. He dodged one bullet when Graham Rahal's car limped back to put lane without causing a yellow after it finally succumbed to the injuries it sustained in the lap 1, but Helio wasn't so lucky minutes later when Sebastien Bourdais ended up in the tyre wall at turn 5 on lap 59.
The caution closed up the field and left Castroneves with the prospect of surviving a restart with seven laps to go. In fact he made it look easy, quickly pulling away from Power who had his hands full holding off a determined lunge from Dixon. Unfortunately for Dixon, a brake problem on the #9 saw him have to back out of the move and he was immediately passed by Kimball and Hinchcliffe just before a new yellow came out to freeze the positions once more.
The cause this time was the day's pole winner and former leader Takuma Sato. The #14 had already dropped out of contention after spinning on cold tyres on lap 35 after a pit stop. Although he'd been able to get underway without causing a caution on that occasion, he was less fortunate on lap 65 when he was tapped into the tyres at turn 5 after contact from Marco Andretti, who received a drive-thru penalty for causing the accident. Sato was restarted by the safety crew but was now a lap off the leaders for the final restart on lap 68 with three laps remaining.
Once again Castroneves got a good getaway from the rest of the field, Power perhaps deciding that a team 1-2 was the important factor here and that a second place on Sunday added to his win on Saturday would be a more than satisfactory outcome for the weekend.
"Because of Roger, I definitely wasn't going to race him hard," admitted Power. "Unless he made a mistake, I wasn't going to go for a move unless I was close. A great day for Chevy, Roger at his home track and Chevy's backyard. Just fantastic."
The two held station to the end, while behind them a battle for the final podium spot between Kimball and Hinchcliffe ended with Hinch nearly going into the wall. The interruption to his momentum allowed Dixon to retrieve one of the spots he'd lost in the previous start, meaning that the Kiwi finished in fourth place behind his Ganassi team mate Kimball who had successfully clinched third behind the Penske pair.
"A huge credit to the Target team coming from dead last to fourth, that's a huge accomplishment," said Dixon of his race. "Overall, a good day and the team did a good job on strategy."
In the Verizon IndyCar Series championship standings, a strong weekend for Penske sees Power move back into the lead with 326 points, 19 points ahead of Castroneves. An appalling weekend for Indy 500 champion Ryan Hunter Reay - who ended Saturday's race in the tyre barrier and was forced out early on Sunday with gear change issues - means that he drops to third place with 299 points still well clear of Simon Pagenaud in fourth on 247 points.
“I'll try to erase this one from my memory and move on to Texas," said Hunter-Reay, who came into this weekend with a lead in the points. "Nothing we did worked this weekend. We will just move on from these two races and focus on the future."
Full race 2 results
Verizon IndyCar Series championship standings