Conway bags second Toronto win thanks to pit gamble, great restart (VIDEO)

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TORONTO – A race otherwise dominated by the Team Penske and Chip Ganassi Racing squads saw the single-car Ed Carpenter Racing steal a win in Toronto. Mike Conway won his second, and ECR’s third race of the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series season in the second of Sunday’s Honda Indy Toronto doubleheader races.

Perhaps it was fitting that tire strategy played a key part in Firestone’s 250th career victory in IndyCars.

Conway’s call to move the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet onto dry weather Firestone slicks on Lap 44, just prior to a caution flag, proved the deciding factor as the quiet but talented Englishman took control of the race in the waning stages when the previously damp track began to dry.

Conway started 11th in the race and was in fifth at the point of the second-to-last restart on Lap 49. But as he was on the dries with the top four in front of him – Justin Wilson, Josef Newgarden, Carlos Huertas and Luca Filippi – still gambling on wet weather tires and further cautions, Conway passed them all by Lap 51.

The ultimate winning move came when Conway passed Wilson exiting Turn 6, the sweeping right-hander. A caution on Lap 51 for a multi-car incident at Turn 3 stopped the race once again.

“I knew as soon as I could see part of a dry line I’d come in,” Conway told NBCSN’s Kelli Stavast in victory lane. “From there we just took off. I knew we had to cover it. We had good fun out there.”

The race had one final restart after INDYCAR – which opted to utilize a timed race of 80 minutes instead of the scheduled 65 laps, as there was another scheduled support race just after 6 p.m. ET at the Exhibition Place street circuit – threw a red flag following the Lap 51 incident, which began following contact between Huertas and Charlie Kimball.

After the restart, which occurred on Lap 54, Conway streaked away from the rest of the field to the victory.

Despite the win, Conway’s team owner Ed Carpenter wasn’t a fan of the red flag call.

“I can’t say that I like it,” Carpenter told NBCSN. “It worked out. But how many times are you gonna go red. You don’t seem to know what’s going on as a competitor.”

Another of the drivers that had switched onto dries, Tony Kanaan, made it up to second in the No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, with Team Penske’s Will Power coming home third in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet.

Both races featured all-Chevrolet podium sweeps.

Kimball, who survived the Turn 3 fracas, finished fourth in the No. 83 Levemir FlexTouch Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet and Takuma Sato scored a desperately needed fifth place in the No. 14 ABC Supply Co. Honda. Sato broke a string of nine consecutive races finishing 18th or worse.

The four who gambled on wets fell to 10th or worse. Wilson was 10th, Newgarden 13th, Huertas 15th and Filippi 16th – the latter earning a 30-second penalty post-race for doing work in a closed pit.

Points leader Helio Castroneves struggled home to 12th and suffered late race wing damage. He’ll retain the points lead, but Power has closed after this result.

Meanwhile race one winner Sebastien Bourdais failed to make much headway from 10th on the grid, and ended ninth in race two.

F1 2017 driver review: Sergio Perez

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Sergio Perez

Team: Sahara Force India
Car No.: 11
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 0
Best Finish: P4 (Spain)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 1
Points: 100
Championship Position: 7th

While failing to hit the podium as he did in both 2015 and 2016, Sergio Perez once again finished the year as Formula 1’s leading midfield team driver, but faced a greater fight from within Force India in the shape of Esteban Ocon.

Perez has long been knocking on the door of F1’s top teams should an opportunity come up, and 2017 saw him continue his solid if unspectacular form. The dominance of Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari meant any finish higher than seventh was impressive, something he managed to do on five occasions.

But there were some missed opportunities along the way, most significantly in Baku. Force India had been quick all weekend, with Perez charging to sixth on the grid, and when drama struck at the front, he and teammate Ocon were eyeing a podium finish as a minimum.

Contact between the two forced Perez to retire and prompted Ocon to pit for repairs, leaving the team without the top-three finish it targeted heading into the season. With Lance Stroll taking P3 for Williams and Daniel Ricciardo winning the race, a maiden victory for Force India was not out of the realm of imagination.

Perez and Ocon came to blows on a number of occasions, with the final straw coming in Spa when they twice touched on-track, prompting Force India to introduce team orders. Perez finished the year 13 points clear of Ocon in the final standings, meeting his own pre-season target of 100 points, yet the Frenchman had arguably made the bigger impression at Force India through his first full season in F1.

Force India remains the top underdog in F1 with Perez spearheading its charge, but it is difficult to see either taking the final step to becoming true contenders at the front of the field anytime soon, as solid as their displays have been.

Season High: P4 in Spain after retirements for the ‘big three’.

Season Low: Losing a sure-fire podium, if not a win, in Baku after contact with Ocon.