Josef Newgarden, Team Penske’s newest driver, benefitted from a perfectly timed pit stop that vaulted him into the lead and eventually to victory lane at the Honda Indy Toronto for his second Verizon IndyCar Series win in 2017.
- RESULTS: 2017 Honda Indy Toronto
Newgarden had the worst qualifying performance out of the Penske quartet, missing the Firestone Fast 6 and earning a fourth-row start while Simon Pagenaud secured the pole position and Helio Castroneves and Will Power shared Row 2.
Starting position became less critical when the race’s second caution came out on Lap 23 for Tony Kanaan who got into the tires in Turn 1 after exiting the pits following his first stop.
The top three at the time — Castroneves, Pagenaud and Rahal — had not yet made their first stops while the rest of the field had, including Newgarden who entered pit lane just as the full-course caution came out.
Once Newgarden assumed the lead on Lap 25 following the pit stop cycle, he maintained it for the remainder of the 85-lap race except for the second round of pit stops between Laps 54 and 57 for a total of 58 laps led.
Newgarden took the checkered flag with a 1.9-second lead over Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi to win for the second time on the streets of Toronto. He last won at Exhibition Place in 2015 driving for CFH Racing.
“I think that is twice I have had good calls and got into the pits at the right time,” said Newgarden after the race. “Thank you to the guys and thank you to Tim (Cindric) for making that call. We got it right, but it was all about managing the race after that.
“I thought we had a very fast car, we got a pretty good start and stayed out of the mayhem. Very, very happy for all of Team Penske and this DeVilbiss Chevy was pretty bright but it was pretty fast too.
“I am pumped for all the No. 2 car guys today, they did an amazing job for Team Penske today.”
Alexander Rossi’s runner-up finish in the No. 98 Honda was his best performance of 2017 and his best result since his victory in the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500.
Rossi profited from the same pit strategy as Newgarden, emerging from the Kanaan-induced caution in the fourth position. He then moved up to second and chased Newgarden for the remainder of the race.
“It’s been a long time coming, looking for that first podium and hopefully it can be a foundation to go into more wins,” said Rossi. “At least we finally kind of got the monkey off our back.
“It was a huge turnaround overnight by Andretti Autosport to get this car to where it needed to be. It was a huge effort from the whole team. I’m very proud of Honda for the efforts that they made.”
Canadian driver James Hinchcliffe brought the No. 5 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda to the checkered flag in the third position for the second consecutive year in Toronto, earning his 13th career podium.
“The yellow just came at the right time but we had the pace at the end there,” said Hinchcliffe. “We were catching Alex and Josef in that last stint. The car really came alive on the blacks so big thanks to Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, all the guys — great stops.
“And all the fans in Toronto. I mean the support that we feel each and every year is amazing. You guys are the best! You came even when the weather wasn’t looking awesome and hung out with us and we appreciate it. So thanks to all of you guys.
“Next year, maybe a couple of spots better.”
Marco Andretti, Rossi’s teammate at Andretti, drove the No. 27 Honda to the finish line in the fourth position, his best result in 2017 and his first top-five result since he finished third at Auto Club Speedway in June 2015.
Simon Pagenaud executed a late-race pass on Ryan Hunter-Reay to complete the top five, giving Penske two cars with finishes of fifth or better.
Top Three Starters Shuffled Back
Castroneves jumped to the lead from the third position on the start and held it through the Lap 23 caution brought out by Kanaan. By leading laps in the race, Castroneves has led in eight of the 12 races in 2017 — the most of any driver.
— IndyCar Series (@IndyCar) July 16, 2017
Having stayed out with Rahal and Pagenaud, Castroneves was forced to pit under caution, losing track position to those who had stopped prior to the yellow flag.
Off the leader’s strategy and with no more cautions after Kanaan’s incident, all Castroneves and the others who lost out with yellow-flag pit stops could do is make up track position by going as quick as possible.
Of the three, Pagenaud did the best job of this and made it into the top five in the closing laps of the race.
Castroneves and Rahal finished in eighth and ninth, respectively.
Dixon, Power Come Together
A surge from third to first wasn’t the only action on Lap 1. Power and Scott Dixon came together, leading to the race’s first caution on the opening lap.
Power ended up stopped on course in Turn 3 with suspension damage while Dixon limped around the track to the pits with a flat left rear tire.
Despite getting moving again, Power’s steering was so impaired that he could not make the turn into the convoluted pit lane at Toronto, requiring the assistance of the No. 12 team to retrieve him.
— Paddock Insider (@PaddockInsider) July 16, 2017
Though the team initially believed that the damage to Power’s car was not terminal when it brought the car back to the paddock for repairs, it was later judged to be unrepairable and the car was retired.
After his cut tire and damage to the brake duct on the No. 9, Dixon was able to go off strategy and run in the top five.
— IndyCar Series (@IndyCar) July 16, 2017
Unfortunately, with no rain or further cautions, Dixon had to make an additional stop and dropped back in the running order. At the checkered flag, he was in the 10th position.
The results further tightened the championship battle. Dixon leaves Toronto with 423 points and retains the lead. Castroneves trails by three points while Pagenaud completes the top three with 404.
On the strength of his victory, Newgarden sits in fourth with 400 points followed by Power in fifth with 359 points.
Following a two-week break, the series will be back in action at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio for the Honda Indy 200 on the weekend of July 28–30. The race will be broadcast on July 30 at 3 p.m. EDT on CNBC with a same-day rebroadcast on NBCSN at 7 p.m.