Some other news, nuggets and tidbits from Toronto Race 1

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Ordinarily, we’d be able to take time after an IndyCar race and really analyze some of the key storylines in further detail.

After today’s Honda Indy Toronto, and everything that’s happened in post-race, that’s not really possible. So here’s some of the other little nuggets that have gone unwritten up to this point:

  • The actual finishing order. Scott Dixon beats Sebastien Bourdais and Dario Franchitti. That much you knew. Marco Andretti, now, goes back to fourth, with Tony Kanaan fifth. The rest of the top 10: Helio Castroneves, Mike Conway, James Hinchcliffe, Simon Pagenaud and Simona de Silvestro. Here’s a link to the full box score.
  • A few other stats. In 10th place, Simona de Silvestro has her first top-10 finish since Brazil early May (eight races ago). Mike Conway improved the most positions, from 20th to seventh in the second Dale Coyne Racing Honda. James Hinchcliffe has his best career Toronto finish of eighth. Also, Ed Carpenter improved from 23rd to 13th, and for him, that’s not a half bad result on a road or street course, at all.
  • Four cautions for 14 laps. The number of laps under yellow, 14, is the same as occurred at Detroit, race one. Go figure.
  • Power outage. Twice, Will Power outbraked himself going into Turn 3 after a deep dive passing attempt. The first was on Dixon, the second on Franchitti. Unfortunate given how he ran, but the Team Penske driver finished only 15th.
  • Sensor drama. So you’re wondering what the reason is why Josef Newgarden’s car failed to engage for the standing start? Unfortunately for the Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing team and its talented sophomore driver, it was an engine sensor malfunction outside the team’s control.
  • Rahal vs. Vautier. Bobby Rahal took to Twitter to explain his frustration with rookie Tristan Vautier after Vautier contacted Rahal’s son – and driver – Graham. “Simply put Vautier is over his head- desperate to make an impression regardless. If I was advising him I’d suggest finishing w/o drama,” the senior Rahal wrote.
  • Briscoe on the mend? This from Panther Racing’s Ryan Briscoe, who got caught up in the Lap 65 four-car pileup: “Sitting at med centre now getting ready to go to the hospital for X-rays on my right wrist. Thanks for all the nice messages.”
  • Points! My colleague Chris Estrada just expanded on this, but Castroneves survived the usual calamities of race one for yet another top-10 finish. Heading into race two, Castroneves (384) leads Ryan Hunter-Reay by 39 points, with Dixon now third, only three points behind “RHR.”
  • The sun will rise again, tomorrow. After today, we get a second race, tomorrow at 3 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Network. What’s not to love?

Coyne transitioning from underdog to Indy 500 threat

Photo: IndyCar
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For most of the team’s existence, Dale Coyne Racing has been the Chicago Cubs of American Open Wheel Racing – a team whose history was more defined by failures, at times comically so, than success.

The last decade, however, has seen the tide completely change. In 2007, they scored three podium finishes with Bruno Junqueira. In 2009, they won at Watkins Glen with the late Justin Wilson.

The combination won again at Texas Motor Speedway in 2012, and finished sixth in the 2013 Verizon IndyCar Series championship. That same year, Mike Conway took a shock win for them in Race 1 at the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit.

Carlos Huertas scored an upset win for them in Race 1 at the Houston double-header in 2014, and while 2015 and 2016 yielded no wins, Tristan Vautier and Conor Daly gave them several strong runs – Vautier’s best finish was fourth in Race 2 at Detroit, while Daly finished second in Race 1 at Detroit, finished fourth at Watkins Glen, and scored a trio of sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, Race 2 at Detroit, and the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

And 2017 was set to possibly be the best year the team has ever had. Sebastien Bourdais gave the team a popular win in the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, and then rookie Ed Jones scored back-to-back top tens – 10th and sixth – at St. Pete and the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach to start his career.

But, things started unraveling at the Indianapolis 500. Bourdais appeared set to be in the Fast Nine Pole Shootout during his first qualifying run – both of his first two laps were above 231 mph –  before his horrifying crash in Turn 2.

While Jones qualified an impressive 11th and finished an even more impressive third, results for the rest of the season became hard to come by – Jones only scored two more Top 10s, with a best result of seventh at Road America.

But, retooled for 2018, the Coyne team is a legitimate threat at the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.

Bourdais, whose No. 18 Honda features new sponsorship from SealMaster and now ownership partners in Jimmy Vasser and James “Sulli” Sullivan, has a win already, again at St. Pete, and sits third in the championship.

And Bourdais may also be Honda’s best hope, given that he was the fastest Honda in qualifying – he’ll start fifth behind Ed Carpenter, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, and Josef Newgarden.

“I think it speaks volumes about their work, their passion and their dedication to this program, Dale (Coyne), Jimmy (Vasser) and Sulli (James Sullivan) and everybody from top to bottom. I can’t thank them enough for the opportunity, for the support,” Bourdais said of the team’s effort.

Rookie Zachary Claman De Melo has been progressing nicely, and his Month of May has been very solid – he finished 12th at the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the IMS Road Course and qualified a strong 13th for the “500.”

“It’s been surreal to be here as rookie. I’m a bit at a loss for words,” Claman De Melo revealed after qualifying. “The fans, driving around this place, being with the team, everything is amazing. I have a great engineer, a great group of experienced mechanics at Dale Coyne Racing.”

While Conor Daly and Pippa Mann struggled in one-off entries, with Mann getting bumped out of the field in Saturday qualifying, Daly’s entry essentially puts three Coyne cars in the race – Daly’s No. 17 United States Air Force Honda is a Dale Coyne car that has been leased to Thom Burns Racing.

Rest assured, the days of Coyne being an “also ran” are long gone, and a Coyne car ending up in Victory Lane at the biggest race of the year would complete the Chicago Cubs analogy – the Cubs won a World Series title in 2016, and an Indy 500 triumph would be the crowning achievement in Coyne’s career.

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