IndyCar: Coyne, SFHR, RLL tire gambles come up snake eyes in Toronto

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Heading into the final stages of the second Honda Indy Toronto race, the top four runners were Justin Wilson, Josef Newgarden, Carlos Huertas and Luca Filippi.

But unless Noah swept into the Exhibition Place street circuit with an ark and titanic level downpour, the top four were more or less sitting ducks on Firestone’s wet weather tires on a rapidly drying track.

Wilson held on as best he could in the No. 19 Boy Scouts of America Honda from the lead, before eventual race winner Mike Conway made it past on the exit of Turn 6 on Lap 50.

Caution for a multi-car accident on Lap 51 at Turn 3, triggered for contact between Huertas and Charlie Kimball, proved the nail in the coffin for the off-sequence strategy.

Wilson was second, Newgarden fifth, Filippi 11th, Huertas 12th prior to the caution. But they fell down the order rapidly following the final restart on the worn wet tires. Wilson ended 10th, Newgarden 13th, Huertas 15th and Filippi 16th – the latter earning a post-race 30-second penalty for working on the car under a closed pit.

“We just kept battling along and we opted to try to stay out and gamble and it didn’t really pay off,” Wilson said. “It was probably the right thing to do but it is just tough, you know, you are leading with five minutes to go and that red flag pushed things back. I guess that is just the way things go sometimes. We were really hoping for another on track incident and to go under yellow to the end which would have really helped us out.”

Like Dale Coyne Racing teammate Wilson, Houston Race 1 winner Huertas was hoping for an encore of the Houston strategy to pay dividends on this occasion.

“In Race 2 we went for strategy on the wet tires at the end and it was working well,” Huertas said. “At the end if we had the yellow period we expected I would have had another strong finish. We risked it and it didn’t pay off this time. I am really happy with the risk we took to try to get on the podium and the team did a great job. I hope we can have better luck at the end next time.”

Newgarden also used strategy to his advantage to finish second last weekend in Iowa. But an encore wasn’t in the cards for the driver of the No. 67 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Honda.

“Toronto just wasn’t kind to us this weekend. We had a fast car this weekend, crew was stellar, the team effort was really good, we just didn’t get anything put together,” Newgarden said. “Race two there was a lot of could have beens. Three different moments where were just needed circumstances to shake out for us and they didn’t work out. The red at the end really put the nail in the coffin. Without the red I think we would have still been ok, but that pretty much finished us off. Unfortunate weekend.”

Filippi’s pace has shown through in his four starts with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, but he’s battled bad luck in each race and hadn’t finished better than 16th.

“It was a bit of a difficult choice but we decided to stay on wets (rain tires) and got fourth again but unfortunately it stopped raining and the tires, in the end, weren’t the right choice. We tried the gamble though,” he said.

F1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on NBCSN, NBC Sports App this week

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After five years and 98 Grands Prix broadcast since 2013, NBC Sports Group’s coverage of Formula 1 concludes with the 2017 season finale from Abu Dhabi at the Yas Marina Circuit this week.

The lights come on for the day-into-night Grand Prix of the year as the sun sets on five years of broadcasts, original content and additional digital specific features such as Paddock Pass.

For Abu Dhabi this week, all of the race, qualifying and second free practice will be live on NBCSN with first and third free practice live on the NBC Sports App. The race returns is back in the usual morning a.m. time slots after three mid-day races in Austin, Mexico City and Sao Paulo, and a pair of overnight affairs in Kuala Lumpur and Suzuka. Formula 2 coverage of its season finale from Abu Dhabi also airs both on NBCSN and online.

With this the final race of the season before F1’s winter break, there’s still a handful of things to get sorted even though Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes have wrapped their respective championships.

Sebastian Vettel (Brazil) and Max Verstappen (Mexico) have won the last two races, with Hamilton’s most recent win coming at Circuit of the Americas. Will it be any of these three that wrap the year on a high or could any of their teammates – Kimi Raikkonen, Daniel Ricciardo or Valtteri Bottas – upend the script?

Mercedes has won the last three races in Abu Dhabi, Hamilton winning in 2014 and 2016 with Nico Rosberg taking the 2015 crown.

Vettel and Hamilton have three wins apiece in Abu Dhabi, Vettel having taken all of his with Red Bull in 2009, 2010 and 2013, and Hamilton adding a 2011 McLaren triumph to his last two with Mercedes. Raikkonen (2012, Lotus) and Rosberg are the other Abu Dhabi winners, and while both Vettel and Raikkonen have won in Abu Dhabi, Ferrari never has in the first eight races here.

The last place up for grabs in the constructor’s battle is for sixth, with Toro Rosso (53 points), Renault (49) and Haas (47) separated by only six total points. Toro Rosso and Renault got into a nasty war of words in Brazil, and will part ways after the weekend.

Felipe Massa signs off his career in F1 for the second and expected final time at Williams, and with Toro Rosso having confirmed Pierre Gasly and Brendon Hartley last week, his seat is one of only three left to fill for 2018, and the most attractive.

McLaren and Honda also bring to an end their partnership after three troubled seasons, but on the bright side will look to score points for a third straight race together, which hasn’t happened since the Hungarian, German and Belgian Grands Prix of 2016.

As ever, and perhaps for the final time as a collective unit, Leigh Diffey, David Hobbs and Steve Matchett will be on the call with Will Buxton reporting from the pits and paddock.

Here’s the F1 schedule, with stream links and TV network if applicable:

  • Practice 1: Friday, Nov. 24, 4 a.m.-5:30 a.m. ET (Streaming)
  • Practice 2: Friday, Nov. 24, 8 a.m.-9:30 a.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Practice 3: Saturday, Nov. 25, 5 a.m.-6 a.m. ET (Streaming)
  • Qualifying: Saturday, Nov. 25, 8 a.m.-9:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Pre-Race: Sunday, Nov. 26, 7 a.m.-8 a.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Race: Sunday, Nov. 26, 8 a.m.-10 a.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Post-Race: Sunday, Nov. 26, 10 a.m.-10:55 a.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Race (Replay): Sunday, Nov. 26, 7 p.m.-9 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • F2 Race: Sunday, Nov. 26, 6 a.m.-7 a.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • F2 Race (Replay): Sunday, Nov. 26, 9 p.m.-10 p.m. ET (NBCSN)