Photo: IndyCar

Early yellow bites Pagenaud, Castroneves, Rahal in Toronto

Leave a comment

The Honda Indy Toronto showed promise for Simon Pagenaud, Helio Castroneves, and Graham Rahal. Castroneves rocketed into the lead with a bold, three-wide move on the inside entering turn one as the race started, and he led teammate Pagenaud and Rahal through the opening stint.

All told, the three were beginning to draw away from the field as the first round of pit stops began, but a Lap 23 caution for Tony Kanaan, who overshot turn one and nosed into the tire barrier, put Castroneves, Pagenaud, and Rahal behind the eight ball.

With several drivers having stopped before the caution flew, the former lead trio restarted outside the top ten on Lap 26, with Castroneves running the highest in 14th. From there, they played catch-up as best as they could.

In the end, all three made it back into the top 10, with Pagenaud finishing fifth, Castroneves eighth, and Rahal ninth. But, all three were disappointed to miss out on chances to win.

Pagenaud masked his disappointment in acknowledging that the race win went to fellow Team Penske driver Josef Newgarden.

“We managed to fight back on the (primary black tires). The car was phenomenal. Such a shame we got caught out by the yellow. But glad we kept (the win) in the family,” he said to NBCSN’s Jon Beekhuis regarding his comeback to fifth and Newgarden’s triumph.

Castroneves, too, remained upbeat post-race. “When Roger (Penske) called me to pit I was already off Turn 10 and I couldn’t come in. It’s a shame that it came out that way but at least one of our guys ended up winning the race. Our Hitachi Chevy was really strong and we keep collecting points and getting closer in the championship,” he told Beekhuis.

Rahal was somewhat more vocal in his frustration.

“I got the call after we passed pit in. Newgarden was just lucky because he was falling off the train of the three of us (Castroneves, Pagenaud and Rahal). He was 2.5 seconds behind us, or just enough to get the call. When (my team) said to me ‘Pit, pit’ I was turning into Turn 9. Obviously I can’t see what’s going on in Turn 1. We played it right today but got unlucky. The three best cars didn’t win the race or finish 1-2-3,” Rahal lamented.

Graham Rahal saw a chance to battle for a win go by the wayside after an untimely caution. Photo: IndyCar

Rahal added that he missed an opportunity to gain a lot points in the championship as well, due to a lap one crash involving Scott Dixon and Will Power.

“Obviously I’m disappointed for the Rousseau team. I’m happy for our United Rentals Turns for Troops (lap completed) program. We raised another several thousand dollars to help our veterans. But I’m frustrated because today was a day we should have easily gained a lot of points on Dixon, Newgarden and everybody else but unfortunately the way the officials have decided to close the pits these days, luck plays a huge factor and today it bit us,” he finished.

Still, all three drivers remain in championship contention. Castroneves sits in second, only three points behind Dixon, with Pagenaud 19 points out of the lead in third. Rahal sits tied for fifth with Will Power, 64 points behind Dixon.

Follow Kyle Lavigne.

Tequila Patron to end ESM and IMSA partnerships after 2018 season

Photo courtesy of IMSA
1 Comment

Earlier on Monday, Tequila Patron, a long-time sponsor in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, both at the team level – they have a long standing partnership with Tequila Patron ESM – and the series level, announced that they will be ending their sponsorships at the end of the 2018 season.

After sponsoring Highcroft Racing in 2008 and 2009 in the American Le Mans Series, Tequila Patron and ESM formed a partnership in 2010 to launch their own team. Since then, they have scored overall wins in the Rolex 24 at Daytona, Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring, and the Petit Le Mans. They have also competed internationally, in both Prototype and GT categories.

“On behalf of the entire Extreme Speed Motorsports organization, it has been an honor to represent such an amazing brand for the past 13 years,” said team co-owner Scott Sharp via a team release.

“I have the deepest gratitude for all of (Patron CEO and ESM co-founder) Ed Brown’s support. Together we have tackled various challenges, won races at each step, and built ESM into such an incredible team. Simultaneously, it has been thrilling to watch Ed and his team build the Patrón brand in a meteoric fashion and along the way become an icon in the motorsports world! We will miss not carrying the now infamous green and black livery, but the same passion for excellence will remain!”

IMSA President Scott Atherton also expressed gratitude toward Patron for their long-time involvement.

“IMSA and Patron Spirits have enjoyed a fantastic partnership for more than a decade. Tequila Patron rose through the IMSA ranks, from a high-profile team sponsor with Patron Highcroft Racing beginning in 2008, through its entitlement sponsorship of the Patron GT3 Challenge starting in 2009, and its presenting sponsorship of the American Le Mans Series beginning in 2010,” Atherton detailed.

He continued, “Tequila Patron continued in a prominent position as the American Le Mans Series merged with GRAND-AM to create the new IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and has been our entitlement partner for the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup since 2014 in addition to its longstanding support of the Tequila Patron ESM race team and its pair of Nissan DPi race cars.

“All associated with IMSA – competitors, promoter partners, series officials and fans – will miss the iconic Tequila Patrón brand next year. On behalf of IMSA, we thank CEO Ed Brown and Tequila Patron for all they have done over the many years to help us grow IMSA and the sport as a whole. We’re more proud than words can express to have counted Tequila Patron among our family of premium brand partners.”

Team co-owner Scott Sharp, in a story posted on SportsCar365, asserted that the ESM team has every intention of continuing in 2019.

“We’re working on a number of options,” Sharp said. “Obviously I think we’ve singly got the best team we’ve ever had, personnel-wise. Having been refining over the years and making selected additions, we’ve gotten ourselves to be super strong. The goal is keeping everyone together. We’re working through a few different options that will hopefully allow us to do that.”

Follow@KyleMLavigne