IndyCar: Title contender Hunter-Reay suffers setback in Toronto Race 1 (VIDEO)

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Ryan Hunter-Reay was seeking to get closer to the top of the Verizon IndyCar Series championship today, but was knocked out early in today’s Race 1 of the Honda Indy Toronto after an incident with Tony Kanaan.

On Lap 39 of 65, Hunter-Reay and Kanaan were racing for fifth position as they both went into Turn 3. On the outside, Hunter-Reay tried to go side-by-side through the corner but contacted Kanaan’s rear wheel guard, which then pitched him into the outside wall.

The No. 28 Andretti Autosport crew tried to make repairs to the car and get Hunter-Reay back in the race, but ran out of time.

Per IndyCar rules, teams are not allowed to push a car out of the paddock area with less than 10 laps remaining.

“I was next to T.K. through the corner, and then just kept coming left,” Hunter-Reay told NBCSN.

“I knew I was getting the squeeze job, but I thought he’d leave me a little bit of room there and we just ran out of real estate.”

With that, Hunter-Reay lost 32 critical championship points and fell back to fourth in the standings. He is now 64 points behind leader Helio Castroneves as the second Toronto race looms later today (coverage starts at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra).

Hunter-Reay added that he was looking forward to the final stages of the race after some early struggles.

“We had some issues with the first set of tires there,” he explained. “We just overshot the pressures on them and it really fell off. We were running second, really happy with the car, and then just started struggling with it. But I got on new reds and I was really looking forward to that stint.”

Kanaan went on to finish third and claim his third podium of the season for Chip Ganassi Racing. After the race, he felt that he was in the clear regarding blame for his incident with Hunter-Reay.

“I think we’ve been coming here for many years, and we all know that only one car’s gonna fit through that turn,” he said of the deceptive Turn 3. “I was the car in front, so – whatever happens behind me, I have no idea.

“I felt a little bump and I look in my mirror, and he was gone. I kept my line and I move forward. Obviously, he doesn’t have the same opinion…But I’m not worried about it.”

Josef Newgarden dominates from pole to win KOHLER Grand Prix at Road America

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There’s a reason why Josef Newgarden calls Road America his favorite racetrack – and he showed why Sunday, dominating to victory in the KOHLER Grand Prix at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisc.

Newgarden led all but two laps from the pole and was in a class of his own throughout the 55-lap caution-free race on the 4.048-mile, 14-turn road course in central Wisconsin, defeating runner-up Ryan Hunter-Reay by 3.3759 seconds.

“(I wanted this one) really bad,” Newgarden told NBCSN in victory lane. “I wanted to win here since last year. This car has been a rocket all weekend. It wasn’t easy. Ryan was very quick and I knew Dixon was right behind him, so we were working for it the entire race.

“I kind of knew what I had to do, but it was a lot of work. Ryan was really pushing me. It’s good to get a win. It doesn’t matter what car, as long as it’s Team Penske.”

It was Newgarden’s series-leading third win of the season in the first 10 races (also won at ISM Raceway in Phoenix and Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama), pushing him past Team Penske teammate and Indy 500 winner Will Power and Scott Dixon, who both have two wins in the 2018 campaign.

“I was hoping to make it more interesting for the fans here at Road American and on TV,” Hunter-Reay said. “The last two stints, when he put on used red and I had blacks, he was really hooked up. … I was pushing 110 percent, that’s for sure.

“Unfortunately, I just couldn’t catch up to Josef. I was able to close up the gap a little bit here and there, but not like I was early in the race. He found his own way for sure. Definitely, the clean air out front helps, but hats off to him: he had a great race and deserves the win.”

Dixon finished third, followed by Takuma Sato, Robert Wickens, Graham Rahal, Simon Pagenaud, Spencer Pigot (his best finish of the season), Ed Jones and James Hinchcliffe.

Dixon (393 points) maintains the Verizon IndyCar Series points lead, Hunter-Reay (348) moved up two spots to second place, Alexander Rossi (tied with Hunter-Reay for second at 348) dropped one spot to third, Newgarden (343) climbed one spot to fourth and Will Power (328) dropped two spots to fifth in the standings.

“It’s so tight … so tough,” Dixon said. “The Verizon IndyCar Series, right now, the competition is through the roof. To get a podium these days is tough enough, yet to get a win. But we’ll keep pushing and see what we get.”

There was action right from the opening lap, including misfortune for Indianapolis 500 winner Will Power, who suffered engine issues that sent him to the pits after the opening lap.

After trying to work on his car in the pits, Power’s team pushed it back to the paddock to attempt further repairs, but those efforts failed and the car was retired.

Power was third in the IndyCar points standings coming into the race, 36 points behind series leader Scott Dixon. He finished last (23rd) in Sunday’s race and will likely drop to fifth in the standings.

“They replaced the exhaust, and it just blew straight back out,” Power told NBCSN’s Marty Snider. “So, there’s obviously something going on in there that’s gone wrong.

“I feel bad for all the guys. It’s just one of those things, you know – you’ll get that every now and then at some point. No good, but we’ll move on to the next one.”

Also, 2016 Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi had an issue with what appeared to be brakes- or suspension-related that resulted in a lengthy pit stop after 38 laps. Rossi finished 16th in the 23-car field.

“Hugely disappointing,” Rossi told NBCSN. “It was good enough for fourth … but I guess it just wasn’t meant to be.”

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