For the second time in three years, Josef Newgarden was the winning beneficiary of fortunate pit stop timing at the Honda Indy Toronto.
Newgarden seized the lead by making his first stop just before a full-course caution flag waved on the streets course at Exhibition Place. The Team Penske driver led 58 of the last 61 laps to win the Verizon IndyCar Series race by 1.8704 seconds over Alexander Rossi.
It is Newgarden’s second win of the 2017 season – following his April victory at the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama – and his second Toronto win in three years. Like today, Newgarden’s 2015 Toronto triumph was also set up by a timely pit stop made prior to a full-course caution.
“That is twice I have had good calls and got into the pits at the right time,” Newgarden said. “Thank you to the guys and thank you to Tim (Cindric, race strategist) 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.”
Newgarden’s win Sunday in the No. 2 Team Penske Chevrolet also tightened the season championship chase after 12 of 17 races. Points leader Scott Dixon finished 10th after making first-lap contact with Will Power, whose three Team Penske teammates now lurk within 23 points of first place.
Helio Castroneves trails Dixon by three points after finishing eighth in the No. 3 Team Penske Chevrolet. Simon Pagenaud is 19 points behind Dixon after finishing fifth in the No. 1 Team Penske Chevrolet and Newgarden is 23 points behind. The Verizon IndyCar Series championship has been decided in the final race of the season every year since 2006.
“Overall, it was a good weekend for us,” said Pagenaud, the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series champion. “We made up some ground in points and it’s always great to visit Toronto. Congratulations to the No. 2 team and all of Team Penske.”
Castroneves, who started third, jumped pole sitter Pagenaud and Graham Rahal for the lead with a brilliant inside pass in turn 1 on the first of 85 laps around the 11-turn, 1.786-mile street circuit. Newgarden was running fourth when he made his first stop for fuel and tires on lap 23, seconds before Tony Kanaan ran into the turn 1 tire barrier to bring out the caution flag and pit lane was closed.
Once the pits were reopened under yellow, Newgarden inherited the lead when the other front-runners made their stops and he never looked back in collecting the fifth win of his six-year Verizon IndyCar Series career. It is the sixth win for Team Penske in 2017 and No. 193 for the organization in its Indy car history – the most of any team.
Rossi climbed from the eighth starting position to place second, the best showing for the driver of the No. 98 Andretti Autosport/Curb Honda since his memorable win in the 2016 Indianapolis 500. Rossi led an Andretti Autosport renewal with Marco Andretti finishing a season-best fourth and Ryan Hunter-Reay sixth.
“If you look at where we were last year,” Rossi said, “the last four cars in qualifying, to having three cars in the top 10 (in the race), really having something to fight for today, it’s a testament not only to this weekend and the strength the team has shown, but also this offseason and how much better 2017 has been for us, has been for Honda.
“I think things are starting to finally come together. We’ve been looking for a breakthrough this year. I think this is it.”
For the second straight year, Toronto-area native James Hinchcliffe started sixth and finished third to the delight of the hometown fans. Hinchcliffe, in the No. 5 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda, also benefited from making his first stop the lap prior to Newgarden.
“The yellow just came at the right time, but we had the pace at the end there,” Hinchcliffe said. “We were catching Alex and Josef in that last stint. The car really came alive on the (Firestone primary) blacks, so big thanks to Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, all the guys – great stops – and all the fans in Toronto. The support that we feel each and every year is amazing.”
Honda Indy Toronto event promoter Green Savoree Promotions announced that it has extended its agreement with Honda Canada Inc. to continue sponsoring the Verizon IndyCar Series event through 2020.
The next Verizon IndyCar Series race is the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on July 30.
Verizon IndyCar Series
Toronto Street Course – Toronto, Canada
Honda Indy Toronto – July 16, 2017
1. (7) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 85, Running
2. (8) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 85, Running
3. (6) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 85, Running
4. (11) Marco Andretti, Honda, 85, Running
5. (1) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 85, Running
6. (16) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 85, Running
7. (9) Max Chilton, Honda, 85, Running
8. (3) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 85, Running
9. (2) Graham Rahal, Honda, 85, Running
10. (5) Scott Dixon, Honda, 85, Running
11. (20) Sebastian Saavedra, Honda, 85, Running
12. (17) Charlie Kimball, Honda, 85, Running
13. (12) JR Hildebrand, Chevrolet, 85, Running
14. (21) Esteban Gutierrez, Honda, 85, Running
15. (19) Carlos Munoz, Chevrolet, 85, Running
16. (10) Takuma Sato, Honda, 85, Running
17. (18) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 85, Running
18. (13) Spencer Pigot, Chevrolet, 84, Running
19. (14) Tony Kanaan, Honda, 83, Running
20. (15) Ed Jones, Honda, 75, Mechanical
21. (4) Will Power, Chevrolet, 0, Contact
Winner’s average speed: 95.790 mph
Time of Race: 1:35:05.3522
Margin of victory: 1.8704 seconds
Cautions: 2 for 9 laps
Lead changes: 4 among 4 drivers
Lap Leaders: Castroneves 1-24, Newgarden 25-53, Chilton 54, Pagenaud 55-56, Newgarden 57-85
Verizon IndyCar Series point standings: Scott Dixon 423, Castroneves 420, Pagenaud 404, Newgarden 400, Power 359, Rahal 359, Sato 351, Rossi 330, Kanaan 306, Hinchcliffe 297.