Josef Newgarden has won yet again, doing so at the Toronto street course.
Josef Newgarden won the second Verizon IndyCar Series race of his career - and of this 2015 season - in grand style during the 31st Honda Indy Toronto street race. It took three and a half years to get his first win (at Barber Motorsports Park in April) and just six weeks to achieve his second.
CFHR double podium
Newgarden’s Carpenter Fisher Hartman Racing (CFH) teammate Luca Filippi followed him to the checkered flags, slightly more than 1.44 seconds in arrears while Helio Castroneves took third place, 3.90 seconds back for Team Penske. Polesitter and Team Penske’s reigning INDYCAR champion Will Power was fourth and Dual in Detroit 2 victor Sebastien Bourdais, who won one of two doubleheader races here last year took fifth.
“This was an amazing team effort,” exulted Newgarden, who has now won in two countries, the United States and Canada. “I can’t believe we finished 1-2. That final stint,” he confirmed, “I couldn’t do anything with lapped traffic. There was such close racing,” including with Filippi, who attempted a single move on Newgarden in Toronto’s infamous Turn 3 but couldn’t make it stick. “We got lucky on that yellow - it was a great call (to pit just before the first caution came out) by the team.
"Luca's such a star"
“Luca’s such a star, too. For our first year together, to get a 1-2 result,” Newgarden said, “Well, I’m glad for the whole group. We had amazing effort by the crew and amazing pit stops,” to help the race’s 11th starter make his way to the top step of the podium. Newgarden admitted the race was “tough for everyone with the changing conditions. The track stayed pretty consistent once it tried up but you still had to be careful with those slick spots. Everyone had the same things to work with - all credit to the crew!”
For Filippi, who learned to love Indy car racing through the exploits of countryman Alex Zanardi, this was an excellent result, easily bettering his previous best of ninth. This was the highest finish for an Italian here since Zanardi won in 1998. “He is how I started to love Indy car racing,” Filippi said. “I’m very happy. Normally when you finish second you’re upset but there was a good battle between me and Josef - hard but okay - we have respect for each other.”
Tony Kanaan, championship leader Juan Pablo Montoya and Scott Dixon in sixth through eighth completed the Chevrolet sweep. Graham Rahal and Takuma Sato led the Honda troops home to finish ninth and tenth.
There were only two caution periods, four laps for James Jakes’ Honda (starting on lap 29) which bounced off the Turn 5 tire walls but continued after aid from the Holmatro Safety Team; his would be the final car running at the close. The second yellow came for Stefano Coletti’s crash on the 40th lap, when he hit the same Turn 5 wall after making light contact with Charlie Kimball. Caution flew for five laps, going green on the 46th tour of the 1.77-mile, 11-turn circuit at Exhibition Place with Newgarden in the lead.
Only rookie KV Racing’s Coletti and Dual in Detroit 1 winner Carlos Munoz, who had a gearbox problem with his Andretti Autosport Honda failed to finish the race. The top 18, including 18th finisher rookie Rodolfo Gonzalez (who who would lead seven laps in his Dale Coyne-entered Honda before stopping with 13 to go) were on the lead lap.
Ever-changing track conditions
The story of this race was changing conditions; all cars began the contest single file on wet Firestone tires but the pit stops began early in the contest and would determine the finish. Pole man Power had a clean start and built a sizable lead over teammate Simon Pagenaud, who finished the contest in 11th place, Montoya, Dixon, Bourdais, Filippi, Sato, Castroneves, Kanaan and Rahal.
Montoya would overshoot the third turn early in the going and reappear in eighth place, just leading Castroneves. The first driver to call for red alternate slicks would be Marco Andretti, who pitted on the ninth lap, coming out just ahead of leader Power. By the 12th lap, the balance of the field started to change tires, which didn’t help the third-generation driver’s early gamble.
After several tries passing his teammate, Pagenaud settled into second while his teammates Montoya and Castroneves nearly collided when the race was about one-third done. With 85 laps to get it right, there were bound to be different scenarios throughout the 23-car field.
Castroneves caught out by yellow
Castroneves, who was stretching his fuel mid-race was caught out by Coletti’s crash and the subsequent full-course caution, which stopped him from calling on the pits. A later final stop did mean he had more power toward the end but it still wasn’t enough to catch the two CFH cars, even with a light mist falling in the closing laps.
Castroneves cited “all the circumstances today,” as he credited team owner and strategist Roger Penske for great calls on his pit stops. “The car was on rails and it was a shame with the weather, but thank God we were able to put some dry laps out there for the fans. This is a great event and I hope, when we come here next year we get a win.”
Conor Daly drove another stellar race in support of injured grand marshal James Hinchcliffe to finish to 12th behind Pagenaud, but it was was another hard-luck contest for Andretti Autosport’s trio with Marco Andretti 13th and for 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay who finished 19th, the first car a lap down. Kimball, who finished third at Indy this year, also had a difficult run to 20th.
The next three Verizon IndyCar Series races take place on ovals with the MAVTV up next in two weeks, a Saturday afternoon contest on the 2-mile banked Auto Club Speedway oval in Fontana, CA. Montoya continues to lead the points race, holding a 25-point gap to Power. Dixon is 45 points back in third, followed by Castroneves (-52) and Rahal 91 points back. Gabby Chavez, who finished 15th for Bryan Herta Autosport’s Honda team, leads the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings by 42 points over Coletti.
With the season finale at Sonoma Raceway offering double points, though, this 16-contest season, now 10 races in, is anything but done.