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.

Zach Veach splits with Andretti Autosport for rest of IndyCar season

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Zach Veach will be leaving his Andretti Autosport ride with three races remaining in the season, choosing to explore options after the decision was made he wouldn’t return for 2021.

In a Wednesday release, Andretti Autosport said a replacement driver for the No. 26 Dallara-Honda would be named in the coming days. The NTT IndyCar Series will race Oct. 2-3 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and then conclude the season Oct. 25 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.

Veach was ranked 11th in the points standings through 11 races of his third season with Andretti. Since a fourth in the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, he hadn’t finished higher than 14th.

“The decision was made that I will not be returning in 2021 with Andretti Autosport in the No. 26 Gainbridge car,” Veach said in the Andretti release. “This, along with knowing that limited testing exists for teams due to COVID, have led me to the decision to step out of the car for the remainder of the 2020 IndyCar season. I am doing this to allow the team to have time with other drivers as they prepare for 2021, and so that I can also explore my own 2021 options.

“This is the hardest decision I have ever made, but to me, racing is about family, and it is my belief that you take care of your family. Andretti Autosport is my family and I feel this is what is best to help us all reach the next step. I will forever be grateful to Michael and the team for all of their support over the years. I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for a relationship that started many years ago with Road to Indy. I will also be forever grateful to Dan Towriss for his friendship and for the opportunity he and Gainbridge have given me.

“My love for this sport and the people involved is unmeasurable, and I look forward to continuing to be amongst the racing world and fans in 2021.”

Said team owner Michael Andretti: “We first welcomed Zach to the Andretti team back in his USF2000 days and have enjoyed watching him grow and evolve as a racer, and a person. His decision to allow us to use the last few races to explore our 2021 options shows the measure of his character.

“Zach has always placed team and family first, and we’re very happy to have had him as part of ours for so many years. We wish him the best in whatever 2021 may bring and will always consider him a friend.”

Andretti fields five full-time cars for Veach, Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and Colton Herta.

It also has fielded James Hinchcliffe in three races this season.