IndyCar: Double Sunday Toronto podium fuels TK’s recent surge

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A year ago, Sebastien Bourdais finished second in race one and third in race two in Toronto to be the second driver with two podiums in the doubleheader weekend, behind double race winner Scott Dixon.

This Sunday, it was Tony Kanaan who was the only driver to bag a pair of podiums in the same weekend for the Verizon IndyCar Series Honda Indy Toronto doubleheader. He finished third in race one, second in race two.

It’s a bit of a surprise, to be honest, given TK’s recent record on street courses. The last year he finished on the podium on street courses more than once was in 2011, when he finished third at both St. Petersburg and Baltimore driving for KV Racing Technology.

He matched that podium total in a single day today in Toronto; coupled with his third in Race 1 at Detroit, TK now has three street course podiums this season as he and the No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet team begins to hit its stride.

Kanaan led 325 laps in the previous two race weekends at Pocono and Iowa, coming up short on both occasions, but had by far his best weekend on a road or street course in a long time with his performance on Sunday.

The 39-year-old Brazilian put it down primarily to time, as now having had nearly a full season with Ganassi after three years with KV, Kanaan and his crew are gelling heading into the home stretch.

“I think it’s just time,” Kanaan said. “I had a big responsibility replacing Dario (Franchitti). That team was built around him. It was very unexpected, his retirement. It takes time to get to know people. It takes time to get the chemistry… Dario worked with (engineer) Chris Simmons for seven years. I worked with Eric Cowdin for 12. We found different things.  Target gives us the budget… so we need to perform. I’m not gonna say it clicked, but all those things together gives us a big improvement.”

After race one, when he finished third after starting fifth, said Kanaan’s end result was “better” but still not ultimately what they wanted.

“We knew this year we were struggling the most on the street and road courses instead of the oval, so it definitely feels good,” he said.  “I would say feels better.  Me and Dixon are putting pressure on the engineers and working closely together to make sure that’s going to happen soon.”

In race two, Kanaan survived a first lap run-in with the Turn 3 tire barrier as he stopped just shy. He moved to the back of the field but in a methodical drive, plus the call to move onto slicks in the final pit sequence, Kanaan was back in podium contention by the end of the race held in mixed conditions.

“Either I went in too deep or got hit, but I got stuck in Turn 3. The car died and I was desperate to restart,” he said, while thanking the Holmatro Safety Team for getting him going so quickly. “We did from dead last, then did a bit of a strategy. It was extremely slippery in the rain. When dry, we went for it. We just ran out of time.”

But after the near misses at Pocono and Iowa, and the would-have-been podium at Houston Race 1, Kanaan and the 10 team may not be out of time for banking a win this year. If they do, coincidentally, they’d be the 10th different winner this season – and Kanaan could well pull it off at any of the four remaining races.

Kanaan now sits eighth in points after a banner Sunday north of the border, where he banked his first two podiums in 12 career Toronto starts.

Indy Lights: Chad Boat to make Indy Lights debut with Belardi

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Belardi Auto Racing, which currently fields entries for Aaron Telitz, Santi Urrutia, and Shelby Blackstock in the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, announced on Tuesday that USAC standout Chad Boat, son of former Verizon IndyCar Series race winner Billy Boat, will make his Indy Lights debut with the Brian Belardi led-outfit. Boat will contest the July 9 race at Iowa Speedway, a track he has previously raced on in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, and will return for the August 26 event at Gateway Motorsports Park.

“We’re extremely pleased to announce the addition of Chad Boat to our stable of drivers for the Iowa and Gateway Indy Lights oval races this summer,” team owner Brian Belardi detailed. “It’s exciting to have a second-generation driver running with us, and we’re certainly looking forward to getting Chad on track in Iowa.”

The younger Boat has become a star in his own right in USAC, winning Rookie of the Year honors in both the USAC National Midget and Sprint car divisions. The 25-year-old will pilot the No. 84 entry, with sponsorship from Pristine Auction.

“I grew up watching my dad race Indy cars, so having the opportunity to run Indy Lights this year is absolutely surreal,” said Boat. “I have to thank Belardi Auto Racing for giving me a shot behind the wheel of the No. 84 Dallara, as well as Pristine Auction for their continued support in my racing career. I can’t wait to get to Iowa Speedway.”

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Mercedes, Ferrari go conservative on Austrian GP tire picks

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Pirelli has confirmed all 20 Formula 1 drivers’ tire picks for next weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, with most opting to stack up on ultra-softs.

As it does for every grand prix, Pirelli will bring three compounds to Austria next week, electing for the softest possible combination of ultra-soft, super-soft and soft tires.

In the regular pre-race release of each driver’s tire picks, Pirelli revealed that Force India, McLaren and Red Bull have gone down the most aggressive routes, stacking up on the ultra-soft tire.

Title contenders Mercedes and Ferrari have gone down a more conservative route, favoring additional sets of the super-soft compound.

Ferrari drivers Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen will take seven sets of ultra-softs to Spielberg, while Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas will have eight sets at their disposal through the weekend.

Graham Rahal survives Road America to finish eighth

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Graham Rahal and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing faced a roller coaster of a race during the Kohler Grand Prix at Road America on Sunday.

He was a rocket off the initial start, jumping from sixth on the grid up to fourth exiting turn 1, but was almost immediately ordered to surrender a position for blocking. He quickly slipped back to sixth, and then began plummeting down the order as he battled an oversteer condition that saw his car chew through its rear tires more quickly than others.

Forced to abandon the planned three-stop strategy, he and the No. 15 Gehl Honda team switched to a four-stop plan that saw him drop well outside the top ten at times.

However, they kept plugging away and rebounded nicely in the second half of the race to eventually finish in eighth. While he would have liked to finish higher up the order, Rahal knows that he and the team got everything they could out of it.

“The car was a handful today. I knew about five laps in that I didn’t have the pace for a three-stop strategy,” Rahal revealed post-race. “We tried as best we could to work with what we had during the race and overcome it. I would have obviously liked to have finished better, but eighth is about as good as we could do today. We struggled with a very loose race car all weekend and just couldn’t put a dent in the problem. We worked awfully hard but just missed it this weekend.”

The eighth-place finish keeps Rahal in the championship hunt. Rahal now sits seventh in the standings, 11 points behind fifth-place Josef Newgarden and 72 behind championship leader Scott Dixon.

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Ed Jones continues steady run with seventh at Road America

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Dale Coyne Racing’s Ed Jones has made waves in the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season with a string of solid performances that belie his rookie status.

And Sunday’s Kohler Grand Prix at Road America was no different.

The 22-year-old battled an oversteering car most of the weekend at Road America, and had to navigate a little carnage late in the race as Alexander Rossi and Ryan Hunter-Reay both fell through the field with front wing problems.

However, Jones weathered all storms to finish an impressive seventh, his fifth finish inside the top 10 this year, and his best finish since his third place at the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade MotorOil.

“It was a really tough race,” Jones said of the effort. “We had a loose car yesterday. It was loose, but fast, for qualifying, and today again the car was really loose. I was hanging on the whole race, but the team had some good pit stops and we were able to move up.

“Obviously, the strategy was pretty similar to everyone else. Everyone was aggressive out there. It was hard racing but we came out with a seventh place and we moved up a little bit in the points.”

The seventh-place run sees Jones maintain his position in the top ten in the championship. He currently sits tenth in the standings, three points ahead of Chip Ganassi Racing’s Max Chilton.

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