Toronto Race 1 Update: Bourdais leading after pit stops

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Sebastien Bourdais has been strong from the pole position and has re-taken control of Race 1 of the Honda Indy Toronto after mid-race pit stops under green.

Race 1 began inauspiciously when Luca Filippi clipped Simon Pagenaud and turned him around on the run up to Turn 5.

When the field behind them checked up, Josef Newgarden was hit from behind by Takuma Sato, and Mike Conway also spun backwards before coming to a stop away from the wall.

The incident brought out a red flag for cleanup, which forced a stop to repairs to Newgarden’s car behind the pit wall. That raised the ire of his team owner, Sarah Fisher, who brought up Will Power’s Team Penske crew being able to fix his car during yesterday’s red flags (Power had to start today’s race from the rear of the field).

“They got to fix the 12 car no problem, and everybody down here – we’ve got technical directors, we’ve got everybody not letting us work on our car,” Fisher told NBCSN.

“I just want to know what the rules are and stick to them. I’m just really frustrated right now because we were at the front of that. We would’ve gotten through it but we got hit from behind and it is what it is.”

However, the Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing team eventually decided to go ahead with their repairs under the red flag.

As for others involved in the first-lap incident, Sato did not return to the race and no action was taken by race control on Filippi and Pagenaud’s contact; Pagenaud continued on but took the restart at Lap 4 at the rear of the field along with Newgarden and Carlos Munoz.

After the field returned to green flag racing, Newgarden came back to the pits for a drive-through penalty due to said repairs. Bourdais got a good jump at the restart and started to stretch his lead, while behind him, Hunter-Reay passed Castroneves for second in Turn 5 after the two went side by side through the tight Turn 3/4 complex.

On Lap 11, Pagenaud’s team decided to go off-strategy by bringing in the Frenchman for a set of sticker primary “black” tires.

Six laps later, Filippi ran wide and hit the wall as he was working his way onto the front-stretch. A few turns later, the Italian was spotted going slow down Lakeshore Boulevard, while ahead of him, Carlos Huertas went into the tire barriers at Turn 3 to bring out yellow No. 2.

Filippi told NBCSN that the extra understeer caused by his damaged front wing from the Pagenaud incident helped lead to his accident.

“I had so much understeer because of the downforce levels that I was losing, so I was always struggling…In that lap, I went a little off the line because of the extra understeer and basically, I went in the marbles and hit the wall slightly – actually, more than slightly – and that was it,” he said.

A couple of drivers chose to pit under this caution, but Bourdais and the rest of the leaders stayed out for the restart at Lap 20. The Top 5 – Bourdais, Hunter-Reay, Castroneves, Kanaan and Dixon – stayed in that order until just before halfway, when Castroneves got past Hunter-Reay in Turn 1 for second at Lap 33.

The leaders headed to pit road shortly afterwards with Bourdais pitting from the lead at Lap 34. Pagenaud eventually rose up to the lead ahead of Bourdais by virtue of his strategy play at Lap 11, but eventually gave way for his own stop at Lap 41.

Just before that, Hunter-Reay and Kanaan made contact going into Turn 3 that sent the former into the wall exiting the turn. NBCSN replays showed that Bourdais hit the debris from the accident, but a report said that the Frenchman’s tire pressures were OK after the contact.

Heather Lyne, Dennis Erb Jr. make history in the World of Outlaws Late Model Series

Lyne Erb Outlaws Late
Jacy Norgaard / World of Outlaws
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More than two decades in the making, the pairing of Heather Lyne and Dennis Erb Jr. produced a historical milestone in Dirt Late Model.

Last month, Erb and his long-time crew chief Lyne won their first World of Outlaws Late Model Championship and with this achievement, Lyne became the first female crew chief to win in a national late model series. Their journey together goes back 21 years and tells the story of hard work, persistence and belief in oneself.

After a career-best season with the World of Outlaws, Erb and Lyne secured the points championship at US 36 Raceway in Osborn, Mo. with three races remaining in the season. The consistency and success of their season came down to pinpoint focus. Lyne and Erb are a team of two living out a David vs. Goliath tale. In order to be as successful as possible this year the duo knew they had to do as much as possible with the resources they had.

“It’s always a challenge when you only have two people, both at the racetrack and at the shop,” Lyne told NBC Sports. “I also work full time, so during the day, Dennis has to do a significant amount of work so that when I get down there I can start working and maintaining. It’s planning ahead. It’s having that system in place and making sure that you’re prepared ahead of time.

“When you have a problem at the track, making sure you have all that stuff ready so it’s a quick change and not a lengthy process to make a repair. We had zero DNFs in the World of Outlaws, we had only one DNF out of 96 races [combined among all series].”

Dennis Erb clinched his 2022 championship before the World of Outlaws World Finals. Jacy Norgaard – World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Taming Time

This was not an easy feat. Between a full travel schedule and Lyne’s full-time job as an engineer, time comes at a premium. What they lack in time and resources they made up for in patience and planning.

“We buckled down, and we got all the equipment that we needed back, motors freshened, and things of that nature,” Lyne said about the mid-point of last season. “We were able to keep up with that. We just had a higher focus. I tried to reduce my hours at my day job as much as I possibly could while still maintaining what I need to get done at work. I got rid of a lot of the other distractions and got a more refined system in place at the shop.

“We did certain tasks on certain days so we had time to recover. We were on the road a little bit more, as opposed to coming home to the shop. So we had to be more prepared to stay out on those longer runs. It was just really staying on top of things a little more. It was a heightened sense.”

This was Lyne and Erb’s fourth full season with the Outlaws, but they’ve been on the road together for the last 21 seasons starting in 2001. Their partnership began with Lyne’s bravery. When one door closed, she was quick to open another. In 2001, Lyne’s dad was ready to stop racing. Her mother wanted to regain her weekends, but Lyne knew this was her life path and wasn’t prepared to lose it.

“I’ve always been a tomboy at heart,” Lyne said. “I watched racing with my dad. Growing up he watched NASCAR. In high school, I got tired of playing at the lake house, so I went to the local dirt track and fell in love with it. I just couldn’t get enough. It took a year for me to convince my dad to come to the track with me. He finally did and we sponsored a car that year, the following year he started to race limited cars. He ran hobby stocks and limited late models.”

At some point, Lyne and her father’s level of commitment drifted apart.

“He did it for about five years,” Lyne said. “And then my mom said: ‘I’m done racing. I want my weekends back. It’s just not fun anymore.’ I wasn’t ready to hang up my wenches and Dennis raced out of the same hometown so I, on a dare, went down and introduced myself; told him if you ever need any help, I’ll drill out rivets, I’ll help wash, whatever you need. Twenty-one years later here I am.”

Heather Lyne became the first female crew chief to secure a national touring late model championship in 2022. Paul Arch / World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Breaking Through

Lyne entered a male-dominated job in a field that is also male-dominated – and where there were few examples of women creating these places for themselves. In this way, Lyne became a blueprint for other women as they strive to find a place for themselves in racing and in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) overall. She has her mother to thank for providing a strong role model, her father for sharing her passion, Erb for taking a chance on an unknow entity and most importantly herself.

“I was raised to believe that I can do anything, I want to do, as long as I put my heart and soul into it.” Lyne replied when asked about role models in the sport growing up. “My parents did not raise me to have that limitation. But from a racing role model perspective, I went in there completely green and just introduced myself to Dennis, the fact that he was brave enough to take that risk and bring a girl to the racetrack. Someone he didn’t know at all speaks volumes for him.”

Lyne and Erb have learned how to survive and succeed with each other on the road. They do this by leveraging decades of combined experience and an ability to adapt to the everchanging landscape of dirt late models. Next year the World of Outlaws visits nearly a dozen new tracks and Lyne sees it as an opportunity for continued success.

“I just want to do it again,” Lyne says going into next season, “I’m looking forward to the competition, I always do. I wouldn’t do it if I wasn’t competitively driven.

“There are some new tracks on the schedule that I’m looking forward to trying for the first time that I haven’t been to myself,” Lyne said of the 2023 season, “Dennis seems to do well on those first timers. We won out at Marion center, we finished second at Bloomsburg. We have a good solid notebook of information to tackle them over the last three years with these rocket race cars that we’re running. It’s good to have that information and leverage it to try some new things.”