Newgarden uses strategy gamble for second Toronto win

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A year ago, Team Penske president Tim Cindric called Will Power into the pits at the Honda Indy Toronto. A yellow flag flew, and Power leapfrogged to the front of the field en route to winning the Verizon IndyCar Series’ lone Canadian race.

Sunday, Cindric called his new driver, Josef Newgarden, into the pits in Toronto… a yellow flag flew, and Newgarden leapfrogged to the front of the field.

It played into Newgarden’s advantage for his second win of the year – both after starting seventh (Barber) – and second win at Toronto (2015).

He made it home on fuel with Alexander Rossi unable to catch him behind him, and James Hinchcliffe able to bank his second straight Toronto podium.

Marco Andretti was fourth with polesitter Simon Pagenaud able to recover to fifth, one of several drivers caught out by the yellow when Tony Kanaan crashed at Turn 1, but restarted.

The critical point of the race came when Kanaan locked up and went in too deep at Turn 1 on Lap 23, in the midst of the first round of green flag pit stops.

Erstwhile dominant leader Helio Castroneves, who’d made a dynamic move off the start to pass Pagenaud and Graham Rahal into Turn 1 from third on the grid, along with the two drivers he passed, were all caught out as a result of this yellow as they hadn’t pitted yet. All three fell back to 14th or lower.

It promoted a train of others, led by Newgarden, to the front of the field. There was little shakeup from there, although the question was always going to be how much further Pagenaud, Castroneves and Rahal could recover to.

Newgarden won by 1.8704 of a second over Rossi with Hinchcliffe also benefiting from the yellow timing to end third.

Pagenaud survived a late-race scrap with Ryan Hunter-Reay to end fifth, with Castroneves coming home eighth and Scott Dixon ending 10th after a fraught day at the office.

Dixon and Will Power collided on the opening lap of the race heading for Turn 3, after Dixon appeared to have slight contact with Rahal. Dixon limped back to the pits and was able to continue while Power had his right front suspension break, affecting his steering. Though he made it back to the pits he was unable to complete any further laps and was done for the day.

It sees Castroneves close to within just three points of Dixon heading to Dixon’s proverbial happy hunting ground, Mid-Ohio, in two weeks.

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE? Beyond the top three, Marco Andretti’s fourth place was his first top-five finish since coming third at Fontana on June 27, 2015, 29 races ago. … Max Chilton recovered to seventh after losing a few positions on the opening lap. … Sebastian Saavedra was unlucky to lose a top-10 in the final laps in his stand-in drive for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports but finished 11th. … Esteban Gutierrez finished the race in Dale Coyne Racing’s built up new car in 14th.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE? Considering their pace, Pagenaud, Castroneves and Rahal were all unlucky to finish where they did, and with Power and Dixon’s first-lap dust-up, Newgarden was the major points beneficiary. … Another tough race happened for Indianapolis 500 champion Takuma Sato, ending 16th. After coming fifth, eighth and fourth in three of the first four street races this was a tough end for the lone Andretti driver outside the top six. … Spencer Pigot’s early race charge on black tires, up from 13th to fifth, came undone with contact with Sato and an extra pit stop with an ill-handling car on red tires. He was 18th. … Kanaan, who lost it in Turn 1, and Ed Jones, who had mechanical issues, ended 19th and 20th.

NOTABLE: Newgarden has four of his five career wins at two tracks, Barber and Toronto, having won at both in the same year in 2015 and 2017. Iowa, 2016, is his lone oval win. … Polesitter Pagenaud was the only top-five starter to finish in the top-five.

QUOTABLE: From race winner Newgarden: “I think that is twice I have had good calls and got into the pits at the right time. Thank you to the guys and thank you to Tim (Cindric) for making that call. We got it right, but it was all about managing the race after that. I thought we had a very fast car, we got a pretty good start, and stayed out of the mayhem.”

RESULTS

TORONTO-Results Sunday of the Honda Indy Toronto Verizon IndyCar Series event on the 1.786-mile Streets of Toronto’s Exhibition Place, with order of finish, starting position in parentheses, driver, chassis-engine, laps completed and reason out (if any):

1. (7) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 85, Running
2. (8) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 85, Running
3. (6) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 85, Running
4. (11) Marco Andretti, Honda, 85, Running
5. (1) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 85, Running
6. (16) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 85, Running
7. (9) Max Chilton, Honda, 85, Running
8. (3) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 85, Running
9. (2) Graham Rahal, Honda, 85, Running
10. (5) Scott Dixon, Honda, 85, Running
11. (20) Sebastian Saavedra, Honda, 85, Running
12. (17) Charlie Kimball, Honda, 85, Running
13. (12) JR Hildebrand, Chevrolet, 85, Running
14. (21) Esteban Gutierrez, Honda, 85, Running
15. (19) Carlos Munoz, Chevrolet, 85, Running
16. (10) Takuma Sato, Honda, 85, Running
17. (18) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 85, Running
18. (13) Spencer Pigot, Chevrolet, 84, Running
19. (14) Tony Kanaan, Honda, 83, Running
20. (15) Ed Jones, Honda, 75, Mechanical
21. (4) Will Power, Chevrolet, 0, Contact

Race Statistics:
Winner’s average speed: 95.790 mph
Time of Race: 1:35:05.3522
Margin of victory: 1.8704 seconds
Cautions: 2 for 9 laps
Lead changes: 4 among 4 drivers

Lap Leaders:
Castroneves 1-24
Newgarden 25-53
Chilton 54
Pagenaud 55-56
Newgarden 57-85

Verizon IndyCar Series point standings:
 Scott Dixon 423, Castroneves 420, Pagenaud 404, Newgarden 400, Power 359, Rahal 359, Sato 351, Rossi 330, Kanaan 306, Hinchcliffe 297.

Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Formula One embrace the United States

Verstappen Perez United States
Fatih Aktas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
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Last week, Red Bull Racing revealed its new car, the RB19, and a new relationship with Ford Motor Co. in an event in New York City complete with drivers Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and team principal Christian Horner.

It’s the first Formula 1 team to launch in the United States for 2023, but even that small move of the needle reflects a major shift in the attitude of both F1’s management and their teams – and the extent to which the American audience has fully embraced the sport.

“It’s something fantastic and unique, for the sport to be able to break it into the U.S,” Perez told NBC Sports. “The market is huge and it’s a huge opportunity for everyone involved, for the drivers, for the team. It’s always a huge market.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Sergio Perez finished fourth in the Unites States Grand Prix, but he was first with the fans.  – Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

In 2023, Formula 1 will race three times in the United States and five times in North America. The Circuit of the Americas will host their 11th consecutive race in October before heading south to Mexico City. Miami returns for a second time in May on a temporary street course around the Hard Rock cafe and the third addition is in downtown Las Vegas in November.

With the Canadian Grand Prix on the schedule for June and the Brazilian Grand Prix in November, American fans are now in the ballpark of Europeans, who have eight events on the continent and one in England.

In 2022, Verstappen won every race in North America. He was kept from sweeping the hemisphere only by George Russell, who won in Brazil. That fact is less remarkable when one considers that Verstappen won 15 times in the season – nearly two-thirds of the races on the schedule.

By the time Formula arrived in Austin, Texas, for Round 20 of 23, Verstappen already had wrapped up his second consecutive championship.

“Sometimes it can be hard to replicate the season, but I think it’s the same as with the car, right? You always try to improve it,” Verstappen told NBC Sports. “And I always look at the little details that even when you have had a good race, you could have done better. And then of course you also learn from the bad races. So we always try to look for these little improvements and general experience you gain year after year.

“You try to do better, but of course it also depends a lot on the package you have.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Max Verstappen United States Grand Prix win was one of 15 for the drivers and 17 for Red Bull.
(Gongora / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Now Verstappen’s thoughts inevitably will turn to establishing a dynasty, and America will again play a pivotal role.

“I just enjoy what I’m doing,” Verstappen said.  “After the years in Formula One, when you have to be on top of your game and you gain a lot on your experience – in that sense nothing really can get to you anymore. Every year you just try to do the best you can. But a lot depends on the material around you. It’s always a bit of a guess. Start the season as fit as you can be and be well prepared. But if you don’t have the car, you’re not going to win the championship.”

Perez added two wins to Red Bull’s total, at Monaco and the Marina Bay Street course. With two of the US 2023 races on street courses, Perez hopes to close the gap on Verstappen and potentially be his chief rival for the championship.

“The strategy is clear; it is to maximize the potential of the car – and we believe we have a good car, but how good?,” Perez said “We don’t know what the competition is doing. We just give our best in building this car and we hope that it’s good enough to get us to win races.

“I think we have to work together as a team. At the same time. We both want to win the championship. It’s just having good compromise. The competition will be really strong out there, so we really need everything we possibly can get from each other.”

Formula One returns to the United States for Round 6 and the Miami Grand Prix on May 7.