DETROIT – For Scott Dixon, it was a rare mistake that took him out of Dual 1 of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear at the Raceway at Belle Isle Park on Saturday.
In Will Power's case, it was just another in a long list of mishaps – a racing mistake costing the 2014 NTT IndyCar Series champion valuable points in the 2019 title hunt.
Dixon, the normally unflappable five-time and reigning NTT IndyCar Series champion, hit the inside wall late in the 75-minute timed race and stuck his No. 9 PNC Bank Honda in the tire barrier at Turn 6 of the 2.35-mile, 14-turn temporary street circuit. The car was towed back to the garage.
It was Dixon's first DNF since the race at Texas Motor Speedway two years ago.
Power, whose luck in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet recently has been nothing short of lousy, had charged from 12th place to third early in wet but drying conditions and pitted under caution on Lap 19 for slick tires.
With the four-tire change apparently completed, Power's car was released from the pit box – only to see the right-front tire topple off as the Australian merged onto the racetrack. The tire’s wheel nut had not been secured but he was sent from his pit as soon as the airjack on the car was lowered.
Power was forced to complete the lap on three wheels before pitting again for a new front wing and tire and wheel assembly. On top of that indignity, Power was assessed a pit-lane drive-through penalty for the loose tire and an unsafe pit release. It destroyed his day and he finished 18th.
After the race, team owner Roger Penske – who calls Power’s race strategy – took responsibility for the miscue, saying he told Power to go from the pit stand.
"That was interesting – I told him when to go," Penske said. "Evidently, I thought he (inside front tire changer Daniel Rohrer) put the wheel on, but he had a problem. The car was dropped (from the jack) and I told him go.
"I think Will had a second- or third-place car. He's hard on himself. I told him there was nothing he could have done. As long as we have a good car (Sunday), he'll be OK."
Power, who was penalized during last weekend’s Indianapolis 500 for hitting a crew member with his car on a pit stop, signed autographs for fans after the race. He didn't point fingers for the pit road miscue.
”It's just not like one thing – a couple things went wrong," he said. "The guy put his air gun down. The airjack guy thought he was done and obviously Roger would have seen the car drop and the gun down from where he was and sent (the car) away.
"It was just an unfortunate incident. We'd done a good job at that point, and I think we could have caught Dixon and (Alexander) Rossi."
Dixon, who was running third when he crashed on Lap 24, was unfazed though disappointed. He finished in the last spot – 22nd – unfamiliar territory for the New Zealander.
"It was unfortunate," he said. "I just clipped the inside wall and got into the tire barrier. It was driver error. I think we broke the suspension and upper toe link.
“We were setting up for a good finish. I'm glad the tire barrier was there. Whenever you go right toward a wall, you never know. But I'm fine. We will bounce back stronger tomorrow."
Power was also eager to get on track Sunday for the second race of the weekend.
"The good news, I know we have a good car," the 2018 Indianapolis 500 winner said. "We just have got to go out there and do it.
"If it is normal conditions, we need to get pole. We need to win a (expletive) race."
Qualifying for Race 2 airs live on NBCSN at 10:30 a.m. ET Sunday. Race coverage begins at 3 p.m. on NBC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.