Heading into the final stages of the second Honda Indy Toronto race, the top four runners were Justin Wilson, Josef Newgarden, Carlos Huertas and Luca Filippi.
But unless Noah swept into the Exhibition Place street circuit with an ark and titanic level downpour, the top four were more or less sitting ducks on Firestone’s wet weather tires on a rapidly drying track.
Wilson held on as best he could in the No. 19 Boy Scouts of America Honda from the lead, before eventual race winner Mike Conway made it past on the exit of Turn 6 on Lap 50.
Caution for a multi-car accident on Lap 51 at Turn 3, triggered for contact between Huertas and Charlie Kimball, proved the nail in the coffin for the off-sequence strategy.
Wilson was second, Newgarden fifth, Filippi 11th, Huertas 12th prior to the caution. But they fell down the order rapidly following the final restart on the worn wet tires. Wilson ended 10th, Newgarden 13th, Huertas 15th and Filippi 16th – the latter earning a post-race 30-second penalty for working on the car under a closed pit.
“We just kept battling along and we opted to try to stay out and gamble and it didn’t really pay off,” Wilson said. “It was probably the right thing to do but it is just tough, you know, you are leading with five minutes to go and that red flag pushed things back. I guess that is just the way things go sometimes. We were really hoping for another on track incident and to go under yellow to the end which would have really helped us out.”
Like Dale Coyne Racing teammate Wilson, Houston Race 1 winner Huertas was hoping for an encore of the Houston strategy to pay dividends on this occasion.
“In Race 2 we went for strategy on the wet tires at the end and it was working well,” Huertas said. “At the end if we had the yellow period we expected I would have had another strong finish. We risked it and it didn’t pay off this time. I am really happy with the risk we took to try to get on the podium and the team did a great job. I hope we can have better luck at the end next time.”
Newgarden also used strategy to his advantage to finish second last weekend in Iowa. But an encore wasn’t in the cards for the driver of the No. 67 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Honda.
“Toronto just wasn’t kind to us this weekend. We had a fast car this weekend, crew was stellar, the team effort was really good, we just didn’t get anything put together,” Newgarden said. “Race two there was a lot of could have beens. Three different moments where were just needed circumstances to shake out for us and they didn’t work out. The red at the end really put the nail in the coffin. Without the red I think we would have still been ok, but that pretty much finished us off. Unfortunate weekend.”
Filippi’s pace has shown through in his four starts with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, but he’s battled bad luck in each race and hadn’t finished better than 16th.
“It was a bit of a difficult choice but we decided to stay on wets (rain tires) and got fourth again but unfortunately it stopped raining and the tires, in the end, weren’t the right choice. We tried the gamble though,” he said.