Newgarden wins mixed-up Toronto race
16 July 2017 – Josef Newgarden won his second career Honda Indy Toronto race on Sunday, cruising to a 1.8704-second victory over Andretti Autosport's Alexander Rossi after 85 laps. Hometown favourite James Hinchcliffe quietly worked his way onto the podium, as well, in front of a resurgent Marco Andretti.
Newgarden previously won on the streets of Toronto back in 2015 in similar fashion. It is the Penske driver's second win this season after the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama and his fifth career victory overall.
The race had just two caution periods early and stayed green the rest of the way despite a constant threat of rain.
Hélio Castroneves, fresh off a victory last week in Iowa, blitzed the field at the start, assuming the lead by the first turn after starting third, but he would be unable to stay there.
The first caution, brought out when Will Power suddenly lost drive directly in the path of Scott Dixon and Graham Rahal, came early enough in everyone's stints that the field stayed roughly in the same order. The same couldn't be said for the race's second yellow, though.
Green-flag pit stops had begun amongst some of the mid-pack runners when Tony Kanaan missed his corner entry and gently nosed his Ganassi car into the tyre barrier at Turn 8.
At that point, the leaders had yet to pit, unlike drivers such as Newgarden, Ed Jones, Rossi and others. Jones, the dynamic rookie whose season has been a rollercoaster so far, ran as high as second but was forced to retire late in the race with an engine failure.
Splitting the field into two distinct pit strategies, everyone wondered if and when the next caution would come out, but it never materialised.
With a handful of laps to go, the gap up front began to dwindle as Newgarden moved through lapped traffic, but a challenge never came from Rossi. It marked only the second time the 2016 Indianapolis 500 winner has stood on an IndyCar podium.
Hinchcliffe, who also finished third at Toronto in 2016, was a further 2.8 seconds back. Behind him was a sizeable gap to Marco Andretti, whose fourth-place was his best finish since Fontana 2015.
Simon Pagenaud, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Max Chilton were close behind the Andretti Autosport driver in fifth, sixth and seventh, respectively.
Hunter-Reay and Pagenaud had been locked in a duel throughout the final stint, at one point shouldering each other wide twice in successive corners, but neither received measurable damage.
Castroneves fell to eighth on the day just 0.8278 seconds ahead of front-row starter Rahal. The American would later complain about the IndyCar's pit closure rules which also caught him out under that Kanaan caution.
Farther back, IndyCar rookie and ex-Formula 1 driver Esteban Gutiérrez finished 14th despite earning a blocking penalty earlier in the race. The Mexican had to be re-examined and cleared to race this morning after suffering a hard impact in qualifying yesterday that temporarily rendered him unfit to race. A late press release yesterday indicated that the presence of 'concussion-like symptoms' forced IndyCar medical crews temporarily not to clear Gutiérrez to drive today.
The championship leader thus far, Scott Dixon, also had an eventful race en route to a tenth-place finish. Following his contact with Power early on, the Kiwi pitted for repairs in a closed pit lane, but his crew also completed several other tasks 'beyond the required service,' earning him a drive-through penalty.
He pushed hard in an attempt to catch back up, at one point missing Turn 8 altogether before veering back on track in front of his team-mate, Tony Kanaan, who slammed on the brakes to avoid contact. He would finish just ahead of Sebastián Saavedra, who got called in to replace Mikhail Aleshin at the last minute for undisclosed reasons.
Dixon's result is good enough to retain his title advantage over Newgarden and the rest of the field, but the American's victory has now shaved the advantage to just three points.
The Verizon IndyCar Series resumes in a fortnight at Mid-Ohio