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.

Meyer Shank Racing wins Petit Le Mans to take final DPi championship in dramatic finale

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Meyer Shank Racing outdueled Wayne Taylor Racing to win the Petit Le Mans and clinch the championship in a thrilling final race for the DPi division.

Tom Blomqvist, who started from the pole position, drove the No. 60 Acura ARX-05 to a 4.369-second victory over Pipo Derani in the No. 31 Action Express Cadillac.

“That was incredible,” Blomqvist told NBC Sports’ Matt Yocum. “I’ve never dug so deep in my life. The adrenaline. I did that for the guys. I was so motivated to win this thing this weekend. But I’ve got to thank everyone on the whole team.”

With co-drivers Oliver Jarvis and Helio Castroneves, Blomqvist helped MSR bookend its season-opening victory in the Rolex 24 at Daytona by winning Saturday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season finale at Michelin Road Atlanta.

In between those two victories, the No. 60 earned five runner-up finishes to stay in the thick of the championship hunt and trail WTR’s No. 10 Acura by 14 points entering Saturday’s race.

WTR’s Filipe Albuquerque had a lead of more than 10 seconds over Blomqvist with less than 50 minutes remaining in the 10-hour race.

But a Turn 1 crash between the Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillacs brought out a yellow that sent both Acuras into the pits from the top two positions.

Though he entered in second, Blomqvist barely beat Albuquerque out of the pits, and he held the lead for the final 45 minutes.

Blomqvist said he gained the lead because of a shorter fuel fill after he had worked on being efficient in the second-to-last stint.

“The team asked a big job of me with the fuel; I had a big fuel number to hit,” Blomqvist said. “We knew that was probably our only chance. The yellow came at the right time and obviously we had a bit less fuel to fill up, so I was able to jump him and then it was just a matter of going gung-ho and not leaving anything on the line. And obviously, the opposition had to try too hard to make it work. I’m so thankful.”

Albuquerque closed within a few car lengths of Blomqvist with 14 minutes remaining, but he damaged his suspension because of contact with a GT car in Turn 1.

It’s the first prototype championship for Meyer Shank Racing, which also won the 2021 Indy 500 with Castroneves.

“We’ve had in the last four years, three championships for Acura, the Indy 500 win and the Rolex 24, it doesn’t get any better,” team co-owner Mike Shank told NBC Sports’ Kevin Lee.

It’s the third consecutive runner-up finish in the points standings for Wayne Taylor Racing, which won the first Daytona Prototype international championship in 2017. The premier category will be rebranded as the Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class with the LMDh cars that will establish a bridge to racing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Kamui Kobayashi finished third in the No. 48 Cadillac of Action Express that also includes Jimmie Johnson and Mike Rockenfeller.

The podium showing marked Johnson’s last scheduled race in IMSA’s top prototype division. The seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion has raced in the No. 48 Ally Cadillac lineup as the Action Express entry has run the Endurance Cup races.

Johnson said a lack of inventory will preclude him having a 2023 ride in the top category. But he still is hopeful of racing the Garage 56 Next Gen Camaro in next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans and possibly running in a lower class for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

“I’d love to be at Le Mans next year,” Johnson told NBC Sports’ Dillon Welch after his final stint Saturday. “I’d love to be at the Rolex 24. The series is going through a shake-up with the reconfiguration of the rules and classes, so I don’t have anything locked down yet, but I’m so thankful for this experience with Action. The support Ally has given us, Mr. Hendrick, Chad Knaus, all of Hendrick Motorsports. It’s been a fun two years, and I certainly hope I’m on the grid again next year.”