Monday, June 15, 2015

IndyCar Race Review: Newgarden Storms to Victory During Wet Honda Indy Toronto

Photo Credit: Chris Nagy

The auto racing equivalent of the David versus Goliath story has taken place in the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series. Late last year, two small teams of Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing and Ed Carpenter Racing merged to form CFH Racing. Able to campaign as a multi-car team, CFH Racing has still been perceived as lacking the resources of major teams such as Team Penske or Chip Ganassi Racing. However, earlier this year, young American driver Josef Newgarden drove the team's #67 car to victory at Barber Motorsport Park. At the 2015 Honda Indy Toronto, CFH Racing proved that perhaps a David effort has Goliath strength.

While the 1.755-mile race course along the Canadian waterfront remained the same, the 2015 Honda Indy Toronto contained several changes compared to event of other recent years. Bumped from its typical July date by Toronto's hosting of the 2015 Pan-Am Games, the Honda Indy's temporary course was shaped a month ahead of the international sport event. Operating on a single-race format (a departure from the double-header races of the past two years), there would be only a single opportunity for the 23-car field of Verizon IndyCar Series to battle.

The last time drivers and teams of the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series matched wits on a street course, it was an experience that saw some reach their wits end. Belle Isle in Detroit two weeks ago challenged teams twice with tight quarters racing and inclement weather led to a total of 13 caution periods during the weekend of racing. Returning to temporary street course racing, the open wheel racing series arrived in Toronto for the Honda Indy with similar weather conditions as the Belle Isle event weekend. As Sunday afternoon rain drenched the 1.755-mile, the question remained whether the Honda Indy Toronto would be the site of more carbon fiber carnage.


Photo Credit: Chris Jones

The 29th running of the race on the streets of Toronto, this year's race was the first not to involve a Canadian driver in the main event due to the injury of James Hinchcliffe in a practice crash at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The 2015 Honda Indy Toronto did appease the patriot nature people in the well-packed Canadian grandstands by making the Oakville, Ontario native the grand marshal of this year's race. Hinchcliffe's appearance at the race track was a welcomed sight through the weekend.

Taking pole on dry track Saturday, Will Power and his #1 Verizon-sponsored Team Penske Chevrolet powered race car started ahead of teammate Simon Pagenaud's vehicle for the 85-lap Sunday main event. Taking green on the still damp street course, Power roars at the sight of the green flag putting a quick gap on Pagenaud. Power and Pagenaud had a spirited bout early at the front of the field but the advantage always remained with the #1 car.

While all competitors utilized wet weather Firestone tires at the beginning of the Honda Indy Toronto, several teams quickly shifted to slick tires. Marco Andretti and the #27 Andretti Autosport team was an early adopter pitting on lap 8. Starting in 18th place, Andretti was almost lapped by Power early but pulled away from the leader when the slick tires came to temperature.

For those expecting the circumstances of the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit at Belle Isle to be repeated on the streets of Toronto, there would be disappointment. On only two occasions was the Honda Indy on Sunday by a full course yellow. The first came on lap 29 after James Jakes nosed his #7 car into the turn 5 tire barrier.


Photo Credit: Chris Jones

Having led the full distance of the race up to the caution, Will Power lost the lead to Penske teammate Helio Castroneves who was left on the track race under direction of the team's owner. The #18 car of Dale Coyne Racing driven by rookie Rodolfo Gonzalez also attempted a similar strategy to gain position to the front of the field. Gonzalez would later lead 5 laps at the Honda Indy before falling to 18th at the end of the race. On the lap 32 restart, Castroneves' #3 car bolted to the front leaving behind teammate Simon Pagenaud and Will Power. At one point more than five seconds ahead, the Brazilian driver's lead evaporated on lap 40 due to debris from the slowing #4 car of Stefano Coletti. Coletti would be one of two drivers not to be running at the end of the IndyCar race in Toronto. The other retirement being Andretti Autosport driver Carlos Manoz claimed by a mechanical problem after 69 laps.

As Helio Castroneves pitted out of sync with the rest of the field, the lead of the 2015 Honda Indy was turned over to Josef Newgarden. From lap 42, Newgarden held the top spot on the street circuit for 16 laps before turning the lead over to teammate Luca Filippi during the #67 car's green flag pit stop. Filippi would lead his first laps in IndyCar in the #20 machine before the Italian relinquishing the spot for his final pit service for the day. After Tony Kanaan, Helio Castroneves and Rodolfo Gonzalez led for brief periods, Newgarden reclaimed the lead of the race on lap 72.


Photo Credit: Chris Jones



In the final laps, Josef Newgarden pushed his #67 to fast lap after fast lap setting his personal-best of the race on lap 80. The Tennessee native maintained his controlled aggression even as a drizzle over the track made the surface a little damper. By 1.4485 seconds over teammate Luca Filippi, Newgarden took his second career race victory. Reflecting on his team's 1-2 finish at the 2015 Honda Indy Toronto, Newgarden commented in post-race, "I'm super happy for the whole group. Just an amazing team effort - I can't believe we had a 1-2. It got a little close there with Luca, but we were really just trying to keep up after we got into the final stint. I got a little bit of lapped traffic, but I couldn't do anything with the lapped traffic, but they wanted me to because of everyone that was coming. It's close racing and, for sure, I got a little lucky, too, on that yellow. But you can't discount that because it was an amazing effort by this crew at CFH Racing." Josef Newgarden's win came after an 11th place starting spot. For Luca Filippi who is assigned to run the road course races in the #20 CFH Racing car, the result is the Italian driver's best in 16 IndyCar starts.  

Despite the long-running success of Team Penske, the Roger Penske-backed organization has only won the Toronto race twice (1993 with Paul Tracy and 2010 with Will Power). Operating with a unique pit strategy in the midpoint of the Honda Indy, Helio Castroneves came home in third place receiving the final podium position. Pole winner Will Power came across the line in fourth place reflecting on the event in post-race as a "championship type day" in maximizing points. With Juan Pablo Montoya settling for seventh, Power gained 8 points on Montoya in the overall Verizon IndyCar Series championship. A 27-point is now in place between first and second in the 2015 championship after 10 races.

Results after the Honda Indy Toronto continues to illustrate a difficult season for Honda. The highest-ranked Honda-powered race car was wheeled by Graham Rahal. Despite some brave and spirited passing, Rahal and the #15 car settled for a 9th place run. A second Honda-powered machine driven by AJ Foyt Racing pilot Takuma Sato took the 10th spot at the line.



2015 Honda Indy Toronto

Verizon IndyCar Series

Race Results


Pos # Car # Driver Engine
1 67 Josef Newgarden Chevrolet
2 20 Luca Filippi Chevrolet
3 3 Helio Castroneves Chevrolet
4 1 Will Power Chevrolet
5 11 Sebastien Bourdais Chevrolet
6 10 Tony Kanaan Chevrolet
7 2 Juan Pablo Montoya Chevrolet
8 9 Scott Dixon Chevrolet
9 15 Graham Rahal Honda
10 14 Takuma Sato Honda
11 22 Simon Pagenaud Chevrolet
12 5 Conor Daly Honda
13 27 Marco Andretti Honda
14 41 Jack Hawksworth Honda
15 98 Gabby Chaves Honda
16 8 Sebastian Saavedra Chevrolet
17 19 Tristan Vautier Honda
18 18 Rodolfo Gonzalez Honda
19 28 Ryan Hunter-Reay Honda
20 83 Charlie Kimball Chevrolet
21 7 James Jakes Honda
22 26 Carlos Munoz Honda
23 4 Stefano Coletti Chevrolet



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