A part-time pay driver beat all of the full-time established stars of the IZOD IndyCar Series Saturday in the first race of the two-race Detroit Grand Prix being held on Belle Isle in the Detroit River.
Mike Conway, an English driver who was over 'ome last weekend watching the Indianapolis 500, won the race by more than 12 seconds going away. He will start from pole in Sunday's second race of the first of three double-header race weekends this season, another of which is the Honda Indy Toronto in July.
In fact, as Conway - who refuses to race on oval speedways after sustaining serious injuries in a crash at Indianapolis several years ago - climbed out of his car in Victory Lane, he was approached by car owner Dale Coyne.
"You want to go to Toronto now?" he asked the driver. Conway indicated he would.
Defending series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay finished second and Conway's mate on the Dale Coyne Racing team, Justin Wilson, was third.
James Hinchcliffe of Oakville, who qualified poorly, had another terrible race for Andretti Autosport, finishing 15th. After winning two of the first four races of the season, Hinchcliffe and his car have performed poorly ever since.
Team owner Michael Andretti should read the riot act to the car's engineer and to the driver because what's happening is just not good enough.
Hinchcliffe will start tenth in Sunday's second race.
The other Canadian in the first race, Alex Tagliani of Montreal, hung around the top five for much of the day but "contact" resulted in a 23rd-place finish.
In the Sunday morning warmup for Race 2, Dario Franchitti was fastest, with Sebastien Bourdais second and Conway third.
OTHER RACING: Joey Logano won the NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Dover. . . .Jordan Taylor and Max Angelelli won the Grand Am Rolex Sports Car Series race at Detroit. Robin Liddell and John Edwards won in GT. Max Papis and Jeff Segal driving for AIM Autosport of Woodbridge finished third. . . . The crowd was thin in Detroit for Saturday's racing.
At a little after 11 a.m. Saturday, I called up the Fox Sports Speed website, previously Speed Channel, or speedtv.com, to see who was really on the pole for the first of two Indy car races at Detroit (E.J. Viso), and found not one word about the series or the race.
There were a bunch of NASCAR stores, and Moto GP and an F1 story about Pirelli still trying to worm out of that controversy over its secret tire test with Mercedes, but six days after one of the most exciting and popular Indianapolis 500 races in recent memory there was zilch about the sport of Indy car racing and the series on the home page of what some people consider the best and most comprehensive Internet racing site around.
When I wrote previously this week that the IZOD IndyCar Series needs serious help in the area of marketing and public relations, I meant it. This is gobsmacking mind-boggling.
Not a word.
Oh, there are two series racing at Detroit that are prominent on Speed: the Grand Am Rolex Sports Car Series - there's a story on there about the pole sitter - and a video of Johny O'Connell driving a lap of the Belle Ilse course in a Cadillac racing in the Pirelli World Challenge.
But nada about IndyCar. If I was new CEO Mark Myles, I'd be pulling some of my white hair out.
I have a suggestion, which I will unveil in my Monday Morning Racing Roundup. No, it's not the pro wrestling scenario I suggested the other day (I had Tony Kanaan swinging the Borg Warner Trophy at another driver, which if it had happened would have been in all the papers and on all the TV stations and networks around the world) but it's something that will work and that they have to do.
Meantime, talking about frustration, James Hinchcliffe of Oakville is stuck in 21st place on the IndyCar grid. That's where he finished in last weekend's Indy 500 and that's where he qualified for Saturday afternoon's first Detroit Grand Prix Indy car race.
In each case, he was the slowest of the Andretti Autosport cars - five at Indy and four at Detroit.
I'm sure it's all a coincidence and just one of those things.
Quickly. Dario Franchitti was fastest in qualifying for the first Detroit race and technically won the pole but will start 11th after being penalized 10 starting positions because his team changed an engine when it wasn't supposed to.
(I still think this is insane and another reason Indy car doesn't resonate with people who are not passionate about the sport. If the engine goes kaput, why does the driver have to suffer? Penalize the engine company, not the driver.)
So E.J. Viso will start on the pole at Detroit. Alex Tagliani will go off sixth and Hinchcliffe 21st, as mentioned.
Notes:The race Saturday and Sunday is on CITY TV, Channel 7, in Toronto and area. It comes on at 3:30 p.m. both days. . . . Will Power is under the gun at Penske. A.J. Allmendinger is the apple of Roger's eye these days and unless Power pulls up his socks, he'll be gone after this season. Roger doesn't like three-car teams but, as in the case of Paul Tracy, he'll make exceptions if he likes the driver.
- NORRIS McDONALD