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IndyCar Detroit

Armstrong ran out of fuel crossing Detroit finish line for first IndyCar podium

Chip Ganassi Racing driver Marcus Armstrong explained that he "ran out of fuel as I came across the line" to secure his first IndyCar podium in Detroit on Sunday.

The 23-year-old New Zealander was in the mix late for a possible win, despite starting 19th and being stuck in a multi-car incident triggered by Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Christian Lundgaard at the Turn 3 hairpin shortly after half-distance.

The incident prompted his fourth and last pit stop on lap 56, which put him on the same strategy as team-mate Scott Dixon, but both needed to save fuel to reach the end.

Armstrong lost second place to the charging Marcus Ericsson (Andretti Global) on the penultimate lap and revealed afterwards that he ran out of fuel right as he crossed the finish line to finish third.

“Ultimately on the last stint, I was having to achieve quite a big fuel number, as was Scott,” reflected Armstrong, the 2023 rookie of the year.

“But Scott does what Scott does. I actually ran out of fuel as I came across the line, so we timed it perfectly.

“Otherwise I would have fought Marcus [Ericsson] a little bit harder in the end. It was necessary just to sort of coast in and take the podium.”

When the last of eight cautions came out on lap 63, Armstrong cycled up to second in the running order behind Dixon as others pitted.

After falling roughly 3s behind in the early part of the stint, Armstrong closed to within a few car lengths as Dixon was busy being thwarted by Colton Herta’s attempt to stay on the lead lap

Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, Linus Lundqvist, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, Marcus Armstrong, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, podium

Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, Linus Lundqvist, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, Marcus Armstrong, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, podium

Photo by: Michael L. Levitt / Motorsport Images

The lead gap widened once Dixon got through, but Armstrong was content to score his first IndyCar podium, which he felt was “a long time coming” after an eventful race which featured 47 laps under caution.

“It was a difficult one, obviously it was pretty chaotic,” he remarked. “I think being a strategist today was more stressful than being a driver.

“I have to give a big shout-out to my strategist, Taylor Kiel. He always places me perfectly to maximise the situation we found.”

Armstrong offered that difficulties with generating tyre temperature over a stint were likely to blame for the proliferation of incidents, and reasoned that “a lot of the mistakes are also caused by the fact that the tyre is not working early in the run, especially when they're cold”.

“I know I've taken some margin,” he added. “If you brake where you think you should brake, occasionally you just drive straight through someone. I'm sure that's happened, as well.”

Second for Ericsson after mental reset

Ericsson for his part said his late surge to finish second was preceded by a mental reset after a miserable Indianapolis 500.

The 2022 Indy 500 winner was collected by a spinning Tom Blomqvist on the opening lap of the race, his second crash of the month of May after the primary car was scrapped during a practice session.

Having only scored one top 15 finish since joining Andretti from Ganassi over the off-season, placing fifth at Long Beach, Ericsson admitted that his travails at Indianapolis were "tough mentally" to manage. 

Marcus Ericsson, Andretti Global Honda

Marcus Ericsson, Andretti Global Honda

Photo by: Phillip Abbott / Motorsport Images

“It was a really tough month of May,” said the Swede, who had no such concerns with fuel.

“We had a habit of a tough start. St. Pete and Long Beach, we showed we were fast. Should have been top five, top six in both those races.

“Going into this weekend after the month of May we had, it was really tough mentally. That month of May was draining because we had to work so hard and we got so little.

“I think the whole 28 group has come together well going into this weekend. We all talked together and said let's reset, press that big red button, reset, get our 2024 2.0 going. That was the mindset coming into this weekend.”

The combination of Dixon, Ericsson, Armstrong and Kyle Kirkwood gave Honda a sweep of the top four spots – and did so at the headquarters of General Motors no less.

“It felt good to spoil the party, for sure,” Ericsson grinned.

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