DETROIT (AP) — The first caution period began about midway through the race.
It was followed by another. And then another. Yellow flags all the way until the final laps.
It made for tedious viewing for fans — but the constant cycle of starting and then slowing down was exactly what Sebastien Bourdais needed.
“At one point, we had to make the call whether we were going to stay out and gamble that all the yellows were going to keep going,” Bourdais said. “It sure looked like it was going to be that way.”
On a wet day at Belle Isle, Bourdais had enough fuel to make it to the end in first place for his first IndyCar victory of the year. There were eight caution periods Sunday, shortening the race from 70 laps to 68 because of a two-hour time limit.
That made all the difference for the French driver.
“Had it not been a timed race, we would have not made it,” he said.
Bourdais held on in his No. 11 Chevrolet, finishing 1.8 seconds ahead of Takuma Sato. Graham Rahal finished third. Indy 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya was awarded the pole based on entry points when qualifying Sunday morning was halted by bad weather. Montoya finished 10th.
Montoya remained atop the season standings.
Carlos Munoz, who won Saturday’s rain-shortened race, finished last Sunday.
Penske teammates Will Power and Helio Castroneves crashed late in the race, leading to a red flag with 5:33 remaining. Bourdais was leading at that point, but he was concerned with the stoppage because he’d been hoping a yellow period would help run more time off the clock.
After the red flag, there was another caution period before the restart.
“I kind of dragged my feet a little bit on the last caution lap,” Bourdais said.
There wasn’t time for 70 laps, and Bourdais held on after the final restart.
“I think Sebastien’s restart was, to be honest, a bit tricky,” Sato said. “He decelerates, so we all had to brake, which is not really what we talk about at the briefing.”
Sato had passed Montoya on a previous restart, and Bourdais said he was trying to avoid that scenario.
“Seeing what he did to Juan, yeah, I became pretty creative at the restart, for sure,” Bourdais said. “I wasn’t going to give it up. Obviously, I think there’s going to be a lot of talks on what happened at these restarts — guys pulling out of the lane way before the green flag, which you’re not supposed to.”
Bourdais’ final lap of 1 minute, 17.9133 seconds was the fastest for anyone on the day. It was the 33rd IndyCar win of his career.
Bourdais’ victory for KVSH Racing was a bright spot for Chevrolet on what was otherwise a fine weekend for Honda. Munoz won Saturday in a Honda, and the next eight spots after Bourdais on Sunday were taken up by Hondas.
Rahal was pleased with his third-place finish, although he was disappointed that he was ordered to give up position to Sato late in the race for blocking.
“I don’t think it was deserved, based on what the rules are,” Rahal said. “You’re allowed to move before the person behind you does.”
On a chilly, rainy day in the Detroit area, Montoya led for 35 laps, dominating the first half of the race. He was still second heading into the restart after the sixth caution, but Sato passed him, and Montoya eventually faded.
The first caution didn’t come until lap 37, but it was the first of many as the restarts gave drivers more opportunities to jockey for position.
Munoz completed only five laps before encountering mechanical trouble. Power, who along with Montoya opened up a decent amount of ground over the rest of the field early on, fell back after having shifting problems on lap 26. He ended up 18th after his crash with Castroneves, who finished 19th.
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