Newgarden uses strategy gamble for second Toronto win

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A year ago, Team Penske president Tim Cindric called Will Power into the pits at the Honda Indy Toronto. A yellow flag flew, and Power leapfrogged to the front of the field en route to winning the Verizon IndyCar Series’ lone Canadian race.

Sunday, Cindric called his new driver, Josef Newgarden, into the pits in Toronto… a yellow flag flew, and Newgarden leapfrogged to the front of the field.

It played into Newgarden’s advantage for his second win of the year – both after starting seventh (Barber) – and second win at Toronto (2015).

He made it home on fuel with Alexander Rossi unable to catch him behind him, and James Hinchcliffe able to bank his second straight Toronto podium.

Marco Andretti was fourth with polesitter Simon Pagenaud able to recover to fifth, one of several drivers caught out by the yellow when Tony Kanaan crashed at Turn 1, but restarted.

The critical point of the race came when Kanaan locked up and went in too deep at Turn 1 on Lap 23, in the midst of the first round of green flag pit stops.

Erstwhile dominant leader Helio Castroneves, who’d made a dynamic move off the start to pass Pagenaud and Graham Rahal into Turn 1 from third on the grid, along with the two drivers he passed, were all caught out as a result of this yellow as they hadn’t pitted yet. All three fell back to 14th or lower.

It promoted a train of others, led by Newgarden, to the front of the field. There was little shakeup from there, although the question was always going to be how much further Pagenaud, Castroneves and Rahal could recover to.

Newgarden won by 1.8704 of a second over Rossi with Hinchcliffe also benefiting from the yellow timing to end third.

Pagenaud survived a late-race scrap with Ryan Hunter-Reay to end fifth, with Castroneves coming home eighth and Scott Dixon ending 10th after a fraught day at the office.

Dixon and Will Power collided on the opening lap of the race heading for Turn 3, after Dixon appeared to have slight contact with Rahal. Dixon limped back to the pits and was able to continue while Power had his right front suspension break, affecting his steering. Though he made it back to the pits he was unable to complete any further laps and was done for the day.

It sees Castroneves close to within just three points of Dixon heading to Dixon’s proverbial happy hunting ground, Mid-Ohio, in two weeks.

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE? Beyond the top three, Marco Andretti’s fourth place was his first top-five finish since coming third at Fontana on June 27, 2015, 29 races ago. … Max Chilton recovered to seventh after losing a few positions on the opening lap. … Sebastian Saavedra was unlucky to lose a top-10 in the final laps in his stand-in drive for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports but finished 11th. … Esteban Gutierrez finished the race in Dale Coyne Racing’s built up new car in 14th.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE? Considering their pace, Pagenaud, Castroneves and Rahal were all unlucky to finish where they did, and with Power and Dixon’s first-lap dust-up, Newgarden was the major points beneficiary. … Another tough race happened for Indianapolis 500 champion Takuma Sato, ending 16th. After coming fifth, eighth and fourth in three of the first four street races this was a tough end for the lone Andretti driver outside the top six. … Spencer Pigot’s early race charge on black tires, up from 13th to fifth, came undone with contact with Sato and an extra pit stop with an ill-handling car on red tires. He was 18th. … Kanaan, who lost it in Turn 1, and Ed Jones, who had mechanical issues, ended 19th and 20th.

NOTABLE: Newgarden has four of his five career wins at two tracks, Barber and Toronto, having won at both in the same year in 2015 and 2017. Iowa, 2016, is his lone oval win. … Polesitter Pagenaud was the only top-five starter to finish in the top-five.

QUOTABLE: From race winner Newgarden: “I think that is twice I have had good calls and got into the pits at the right time. Thank you to the guys and thank you to Tim (Cindric) 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.”

RESULTS

TORONTO-Results Sunday of the Honda Indy Toronto Verizon IndyCar Series event on the 1.786-mile Streets of Toronto’s Exhibition Place, with order of finish, starting position in parentheses, driver, chassis-engine, laps completed and reason out (if any):

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

Race Statistics:
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.

Bruni, Snow win GT poles for IMSA at Lime Rock

Photo courtesy of IMSA
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A pair of first-time polesitters have the top spot for this weekend’s GT-only IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Northeast Grand Prix from Lime Rock Park. Gianmaria Bruni has his first pole for Porsche while Madison Snow has his first pole of the season.

GT LE MANS

Just 0.535 of a second covered the four manufacturers and eight cars in GT Le Mans in qualifying, but up front, Gianmaria Bruni has his first pole as a Porsche factory driver.

The Italian, in only his third weekend as a factory GT driver and second ever at Lime Rock and sharing the No. 912 Porsche 911 RSR with Laurens Vanthoor, posted the ultimate pole time of 50.404 seconds around the 1.53-mile circuit.

“I’m very happy to do my first pole with Porsche, first qualifying. This team has taught me good things and gets the most out of it,” Bruni told IMSA Radio’s Shea Adam after the checkered flag. He’s the 23rd different GTLM polesitter in IMSA since the 2014 merger, this surprisingly his first pole in the series.

Richard Westbrook took the No. 67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT into second at 50.540 in the car he shares with Ryan Briscoe.

The No. 911 Porsche and No. 24 BMW M6 GTLM are third and fourth, with the pair of Corvettes next.

The No. 4 Corvette C7.R is back in action this week following its accident at the end of the Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. Per Corvette Racing, repairs to the car included: the entire front-right corner (components, bodywork), steering rack, diffuser, wing and changed a chassis tube due to a crease. There were no other cracks or damage to the frame. That car qualified fifth in the hands of Tommy Milner, who shares the car with Oliver Gavin. The pair won Corvette Racing’s 100th race as a team this race last year.

GT DAYTONA

After a run of seven manufacturers scoring pole positions in the first seven races in GTD, the streak was broken Friday at Lime Rock Park.

Not too far from its New Jersey base, the No. 48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3 was the first car to score a second pole this year, this time in the hands of Madison Snow. Snow joins Bryan Sellers (Long Beach) as polesitters for this car this season, and this at least keeps the streak of different drivers alive.

The Nos. 54 CORE autosport and No. 28 Alegra Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R in the hands of Colin Braun and Patrick Long were next. Snow’s 52.508 best lap edged Braun’s 52.699 and Long’s 52.836, with Jack Hawksworth best of the 3GT Racing Lexus RC F GT3 brigade in fourth and Jens Klingmann taking the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3 into fifth.

The top 15 of the 17 cars in GTD were separated by only 0.992 of a second around the 1.53-mile bullring.

The two-hour, 40-minute race runs late Saturday afternoon, from 3:05 to 5:45 p.m. ET.

Mid-Ohio, Honda Racing go galactic for 2017 at-track camping theme

Photo: IndyCar
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Honda Racing will channel a galactic theme for this year’s camping festivities at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, a popular camping venue on the Verizon IndyCar Series calendar.

This marks the third year of a contest for best campground site, with various Honda Indy 200 gifts on offer. The theme name this year is “May the G-Forces Be With You,” and the hashtag is #CampingWithHonda.  Last year’s was a “Christmas in July” theme, complete with Santa Claus. The full release from the track is linked here.

As this year’s event alludes to a very popular galactic film series in all but name, it will see a number of participants in the weekend festivities by to judge the campsites at the track – potentially in character!

Graham Rahal, driver of the No. 15 Steak ‘n Shake Honda for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing in IndyCar, will visit the sites Saturday after qualifying to choose the winners. He did so last year as well.

Photo: PWC

Others, such as last year’s Mid-Ohio race winner Simon Pagenaud and RealTime Racing Acura NSX GT3 factory driver in Pirelli World Challenge, Ryan Eversley (right), are expected to attend as well – though whether as themselves or potentially in a special character remains to be seen.

“It’s always a thrill and a special part of the Mid-Ohio weekend to take part in Honda Racing fun festivities like ‘May the G-Forces Be With You,'” Eversley told NBC Sports; the Atlanta native finished second in the second PWC GT race here last year in the previous generation TLX-GT, in one of his best drives of the season. “These guys always know how to cook up some fun activities and so if there’s an opportunity to dress up, have fun and play along with it, I’m down!”

Photo: IndyCar

Pagenaud, who was a longtime member of the Honda and Acura family before his move to Team Penske’s Chevrolet-powered, IndyCar program (right), added, “For me, as a fan, this film series is just the best. I love the battle between the light and dark side of the force, because I feel like we can all identify with that. I try to channel the force when I’m in my race car, so this will be a really fun weekend in Mid-Ohio.

“I plan to bring something to show my pride at the track, but I won’t ruin the surprise for you guys in advance!”

Expect similar characters to be present on site on Saturday evening. There’s also going to be a bonfire, live band (Columbus group MidLife Crisis) and s’mores, plus branded lighted batons which should display well at the bonfire on Saturday.

And for James Hinchcliffe, another Honda driver who is no stranger to having fun, he’s also part of the buildup to this event, as evidenced by the event teaser below.

Wehrlein nonplussed by Sauber-Honda speculation

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Pascal Wehrlein is not paying any attention to speculation that Sauber’s planned Formula 1 engine deal with Honda for 2018 could be on the rocks, saying his future remains open as he focuses on his current duties with the team.

Mercedes junior Wehrlein was placed at Sauber for 2017, and led the team to its first points finish of the year at the Spanish Grand Prix in May.

Sauber had been given a boost two weeks earlier when it announced a deal to become Honda’s second customer team for 2018, including technical and financial support.

However, the deal was put in doubt following Sauber CEO and team principal Monisha Kaltenborn’s departure, leading to speculation that it had not been finalized.

Kaltenborn’s replacement Frederic Vasseur has made it a priority to resolve the matter, but it has made for a bleak outlook at Hinwil for the future.

With the 2018 driver market beginning to stir, Wehrlein has stressed he is not yet thinking about next season, nor is he paying any attention to the speculation about Sauber’s deal with Honda.

“I have no idea what is happening next year. Of course, I have heard all these rumors as well,” Wehrlein told the official F1 website.

“I cannot influence any of these things, so why worry about them? Whatever rumors there are in the air, it is no distraction for me – that is the bottom line.

“I have a contract for this season so I am only focusing on this year. Decisions are made by others and I am only here to drive, to perform as well as I can.

“Of course I want to see Sauber do well. They have the potential and have already been in good positions in the past and I want them to get back there. How and when? That is on another page.”

Wehrlein expressed his confidence in Vasseur’s leadership, although he expects the team to shift focus to its 2018 plans.

“I do have expectations of Fred and the team. I don’t know how fast Fred can change things or how he can change them, but we now have one race left before the summer shut down,” Wehrlein said.

“In the second half of the season the team will focus on next year, so I don’t think you will see his touch too much this year. So let’s see what we can still do with the tools that we have right now.

“I really respect Fred. I used to work with him in DTM. He had a team when I drove there in 2015. He has so much experience in motorsport and in many other ventures outside racing.

“He is a very successful man. He could help Sauber. He could be very good for the team.”

Keeping Grosjean, Magnussen for 2018 ‘a given’ in Gene Haas’ eyes

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Gene Haas is planning to field an unchanged line-up for his Formula 1 team in 2018, believing it to be “a given” that Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen will continue beyond the end of the season.

NASCAR team co-owner Haas took his eponymous F1 operation onto the grid in 2016, pairing Grosjean with Esteban Gutierrez.

While Grosjean scored a fifth-place finish in Haas F1 Team’s second race and picked up 29 points across the course of the season, Gutierrez failed to record a single top-10 result.

The Mexican was replaced by Magnussen for 2017, with the Dane taking 11 points through the first 10 races of the season.

Despite the fluidity of the driver market for 2018, Haas revealed in an interview with the official F1 website that the team is planning to race with Grosjean and Magnussen together once again next year.

“We will run with the same drivers that we have this year again next year. That is a given,” Haas said.

“And given the other continuity aspects, we should be better racers next season.”

Haas had been tipped to take on a Ferrari junior such as Antonio Giovinazzi or Charles Leclerc for 2018 given its technical ties to the Italian marque.

Grosjean is understood to be a target for Renault should it miss out on re-signing Fernando Alonso, while Magnussen penned a multi-year deal upon arrival at Haas at the start of the season.

Reflecting on Magnussen’s contribution, Haas believes the team has benefitted from his greater race performance that has allowed it to match its debut season points total in just 10 races in 2017.

“Esteban was a good driver. He was as fast as Romain in practice, but I think that Kevin has an edge in terms of race experience,” Haas said.

“He can score points and that was the key for bringing him on board. Kevin can grab points and Romain can too.

“We now have 29 points. Last year around this time we also had 29 points, but did not score for the rest of the season.

“So now if we can score another 29 points by Abu Dhabi, that would be a great position.”