IndyCar

INDYCAR: What Drivers Said after qualifying for Sunday’s Honda Indy Toronto

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Here’s what drivers had to say after Saturday’s soggy qualifying session for Sunday’s Honda Indy Toronto (to be televised live at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN):

JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 1 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet, Verizon P1 Award winner): “I thought I steered us in the wrong direction for a moment. We went out a little later, which to me, I thought if we could keep the minimum amount of laps on the tires, the better. The risk is if it starts raining heavier during the session, then that’s the wrong choice because you need to be out there early getting a lap. But fortunately, it started drying up toward the end. In the middle, I thought I made the wrong decision because it was raining more intensely. And then those last two laps, it just got progressively better and I knew that last lap was going to be the one to nail it. And the car has been incredible this weekend. The Hitachi car has been fast. We haven’t had to do too much. We started a little bit slow, but then found our rhythm this morning. The guys did a great job. The team has been working well together. We got all three of us (Team Penske drivers) in the (Firestone) Fast Six, so that’s all you can ask for, I think, on a day like today. And so now we go to tomorrow and focus on the race.”

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda) – qualified 2nd: “I’m a bit disappointed and pissed at myself for not putting the PNC Bank car on pole position. I feel bad for my team as well, as they gave me a car capable of doing it. I made a mistake in Turn 5 and that cost me a few tenths. All in all, it’s not terrible starting on the front row, but when you know you had one and then let it get away, it hurts a little bit.”

SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 22 DXC Technology Team Penske Chevrolet) – qualified 3rd: “Well, I’ve had worse days, so this is nice. I mean, it’s obviously great for Team Penske because we’ve been struggling a bit on the street course package, and we’re showing this weekend the improvement brought to the team, so really glad to see all three of us in the (Firestone) Fast Six. The car was great, honestly, and the session was a lot of fun. Those are my favorite conditions when it changes, and you really have to adapt and take chances and it was a lot of fun. The track is really, really awesome to drive with this package and these cars. Could I have done better? For sure, I think we could both do better, but pretty satisfied with third and being with my teammate (Will Power) over here.”

WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet) – qualified 4th: “I just made a mistake on that one lap. I had a pretty good lap going, and caught the wet cement there that forced me out wide there. A little disappointing because we should have been further up, but that’s racing. No one makes mistakes these days. Qualifying means everything.”

ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda) – qualified 5th: “Pretty disappointed, really. I think the first session we were competitive. We were in the wet. We were out there with Scott (Dixon), and it was a pretty easy job to kind of do that lap and transfer. The second round was completely dry, and we weren’t mega, but we were kind of on a conservative setup still. We felt pretty confident in the No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS car going into Round 3. It started to rain a little bit again, but it didn’t completely take away the track from us and just didn’t have the pace for some reason. We were a second — me and Ryan (Hunter-Reay) were a second off of the front row. Very disappointing. I thought we had a car to fight for pole, especially after this morning, so row three is not great.”

RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda) – qualified 6th: “We’re just trying to make the car better and find the balance that I need out of it, but it’s so easy to touch a wall here and there. We got it closer today in the dry (qualifying) session when we were P2, but we just didn’t have it with a little bit of moisture and we were sliding around too much. We just have to pick up and make a good race car from here.”

TAKUMA SATO (No. 30 Mi-Jack / Panasonic Honda) – qualified 7th: “We were very competitive the entire weekend so far. Qualifying was tricky. It started off in rain conditions, then damp, then it started to dry. We decided to do a slightly different strategy, which was that we started off on new reds (Firestone alternate tires), then halfway through we changed to the new blacks (Firestone primary tires), which seem to be quite durable. We had a little degradation problem with the first set of the new tires. It seemed to be still drizzling, so the track conditions were not as good as we thought. Perhaps the softer compound, the red tire, had maybe a little more premium grip and we lost out by a tenth (of a second) to be P6 (sixth fastest; to advance to Round 3). It’s a pity, but we tried. What we know is we have a strong race car, so hopefully, we have a good pace tomorrow.”

JORDAN KING (No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet) – qualified 8th: “That was a really tricky qualifying session with it raining, then it got dry and then started raining again. We did a good job in the first session on the wet tires. We got through to the second round by a few tenths, but I knew that would be the hard one. Group 2 had already had some running on the slicks and had a feel for how the track was where we had just been out in the rain. Even with it being a bit greasy, I set my fastest time of the weekend, so I feel I upped my own performance a bit. We really worked on the car and ironed out a lot of the issues we’d had so far this weekend. The car is back up there where it should be, where we have been in the past. I think we could have snuck inside the top six, but I was taking a small margin because you could still see rain on your visor. I’m happy with it, but it was close.”

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 5 Arrow Electronics SPM Honda) – qualified 9th: “That last lap was everything we had. I made that mistake out of Turn 8 the lap before, which first lap on those sticker (tires), is usually the best. Who knows what that lap could have been… The lap after, we were kind of building on that and we got thrown a curveball, so that’s my fault. The Arrow Electronics car was getting better every session and the rain and these conditions kind of threw us for a loop. It’s a shame. I think if we hadn’t had that spin, we might have been able to transfer into the Firestone Fast Six. Proud of the SPM guys – it’s been a bit of a struggle this weekend. We’re keeping our heads honest. We can race from here and try to give the hometown fans a good result.”

ROBERT WICKENS (No. 6 Lucas Oil SPM Honda) – qualified 10th: “We ended up switching the Lucas Oil car back to a dry car setup before qualifying. I think being in Group 2 is a bit of a handicap because everyone in Group 1 didn’t end up using any alternates and were quicker in Round 2 with that leftover set of reds (Firestone alternate tires). We were the only car that went out there on blacks (Firestone primary tires) on the first run and it started raining. We maybe went a little too early on to the reds to make sure we could get a red lap in for the Firestone Fast Six, but it wasn’t enough today. Tomorrow is a new day, and I’m just looking forward to putting the helmet back on and racing in front of the hometown crowd.”

CONOR DALY (No. 88 Harding Group Chevrolet) – qualified 11th: “Well today was great. We saw some improvements in P3, but we just got balked on our fastest lap there. To go out on the rain tires that I’ve never driven on either, and it’s a new tire with a whole new situation on the street course, but I love the rain. We had one lap to do it and we did it, so I was over the moon happy. I have to thank Chevy for dialing us in there and all the No. 88 Harding Racing guys because we made improvements every session. We went half a second quicker than we’ve gone in the dry in Q2, so coming out 11th, as well, is just awesome. It’s such a big boost for the weekend because qualifying has always been a struggle of mine for sure, but to come out and do it like that is nice.”

MATHEUS LEIST (No. 4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet) – qualified 12th: “Pretty good qualifying. I have to say thanks to my team. We kept working hard since the first practice and kept developing and improving the car. We made it to the top 12, which I was not expecting. I’m pretty happy to be honest, I think we might have a great car for the race, too, and I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 Rousseau Honda) – qualified 13th: “The whole session was influenced by weather, but that’s not necessarily the reason we’re where we are. We didn’t have enough to advance to the next round, which is frustrating. Our car in the dry is really strong, but not in the wet. We’ll have to work hard overnight to make sure we have a good race car. The good thing is we do have six sets of new tires for the race. We’ve got three sets of reds (Firestone alternate tires) that are brand new and also three sets of blacks (Firestone primary tires), so we’ve got tires for days over these guys. And if the wear on the reds is a factor, it could play into our hands. And if it’s not and the reds do last and they are quicker, it could play into our hands even more. We’ll see how it goes in the morning warm-up. I’m clearly disappointed for both myself and Takuma (Sato) after the way this weekend started. I don’t think any of us saw ourselves in this position.”

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 98 Oberto Circle K / Curb Honda) – qualified 14th: “It’s definitely a disappointing result. We had a great car and should have definitely been fighting for the pole position. We came in for the Firestone reds (alternate tires) too early, and when the track was dry enough to give it our fastest lap, our tires had already past that point. Not happy that we didn’t get the result the Oberto/Circle K car deserved, but we’ll race our tails off tomorrow and fight for the win.”

TONY KANAAN (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet) – qualified 15th: “We had a dry setup on, and then with the rain, I don’t think we responded accordingly, so we paid the price. Tomorrow is the race, so we’ll try to make something out of it.”

SPENCER PIGOT (No. 21 Preferred Freezer Service Chevrolet) – qualified 16th: “We just put the red (Firestone alternate) tires on too soon. We started the session with them, and by the end of it, when the track was at its best and its driest, we had already used the tires up. We were pretty high up throughout most of the session, but times picked up pretty quick there at the end. The timing wasn’t right to put on a second set; but in hindsight, we should have done blacks (Firestone primary tires) then reds. That was the original plan, but the weather threw a curveball at us. It’s a little disappointing, as we’ve been so quick. We know the car can be fast, so tomorrow we’ll get the Preferred Freezer Services car moving in the right direction. We’ll have a lot of work to do in the race, we were pretty confident we would be advancing today. We were just a little too eager on the dry tires and wore them out too quick.”

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS – qualified 17th: No comments available.

MAX CHILTON (No. 59 Gallagher Chevrolet) – qualified 18th: “It was a hectic qualifying session. We started out on wets (rain tires) and decided quickly to come back in for Firestone reds (alternate tires), which I think was absolutely the right decision. We just kept getting quicker throughout the session, but unfortunately, so did most everyone else. It just didn’t come together for us in qualifying, but I’m still very confident in what we can do tomorrow during the race with the No. 59 Gallagher Chevrolet.”

RENE BINDER (No. 32 Binderholz tiptop timber Chevrolet) – qualified 19th: “It was a really short and tricky qualifying session due to the red flag. We did a great job in the first outing running P7 until the red flag. We only had time for one lap for the second outing and I was not going to risk too much. We will start P19 tomorrow and we look forward to a solid race.”

CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 23 Novo Nordisk Chevrolet) – qualified 20th: “It was another learning experience for the team today with the session going from wet to dry, but I think we definitely made the right call starting on the Firestone alternates. When we came in and put the second set of alternates on and went back out, we unfortunately just caught the checkered flag first, and with the track rubbering in and getting faster every lap, we lost a few tenths, which could’ve made the difference in where we ended and advancing to the second round. Regardless of how it ended, it was a great learning experience for the team especially with us and the No. 59 car splitting strategies with tires. It’s not where we wanted to be and it’s not where the speed of the No. 23 Novo Nordisk Chevrolet is, but I think tomorrow with good pit stops and a good strategy we can move forward.”

ED JONES (No. 10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda) – qualified 21st: “It was a tough session for us. It was the first time we ran in the wet all weekend in the NTT DATA car. The No. 9 team elected to go with a full wet setup, and we went full dry. It obviously started raining, and we struggled with traction. On my lap, I just lost the rear end of the car and there was nothing I could do about it. So, it was super frustrating and we had time in the car to advance, for sure. Now we have a lot of work to do tomorrow, but I’m sure the team is up for it.”

ZACH VEACH (No. 26 Relay Group 1001 Honda) – qualified 22nd: “We started off on wet (tires) and put on a set of Firestone reds (alternate tires) and went for it. The track just kept going faster and faster and I think we used our reds a couple laps too early. The only option I had to try and transfer was to try and make something big happen on the last lap. I must have hit the wall three times before I even got to the last corner, and I needed probably one more tenth and just pushed too hard and lost the car. Unfortunately, we lost our lap, so we should be starting from 14th, but we’re starting on the back row. We have a long day ahead of us tomorrow, but if it’s meant to happen, it will.”

ZACHARY CLAMAN DE MELO (No. 19 Paysafe Honda) – qualified 23rd: “We made the right call by going out with the Firestone reds (alternate tires) on our No. 19 Paysafe car immediately at the start of qualifying. There were only a few of us on dry tires and the times were definitely faster on those. Unfortunately, everyone else had the time to come in and change tires and we ended up at the bottom of the timesheet when all was said and done. That said, it’s been extremely fun to drive an Indy car here. The fans are great, the course is great and I’m really excited for the race tomorrow.”

IMSA Prototype Season in Review

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IMSA Wire Service

It was a year of change for the IMSA Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda. The longtime sprint series evolved in 2018 to six one-hour, 45-minute endurance races that allowed teams to run single or two-driver combinations with a required minimum-time pit stop. The result: record-high car counts in the LMP3 class with Kris Wright ultimately winning the series championship for Extreme Speed Motorsports, while Cameron Cassels took home the LMP3 Masters title. In the MPC class, meanwhile, series veteran Jon Brownson won his first championship in the final season for the class with a breakthrough win one week ago in the season finale at Road Atlanta.

This season-in-review takes a look back at the path each of the three champions took on their way to history.

1. Daytona International Speedway, January 6

Winners
LMP3: Roman De Angelis, No. 4 ANSA Motorsports Ligier JS P3
LMP3 Masters: Gary Gibson, No. 44 Ave Motorsports Ave-Riley AR2
MPC: Robert Masson, No. 11 Performance Tech Motorsports Elan DP02

How the Champions Fared
Not only was the season-opener during the Roar Before the Rolex 24 weekend the first endurance race for the IMSA Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda, it also was the first race for the series at the iconic Daytona International Speedway. Wright, driving the No. 30 Extreme Speed Motorsports Ligier JS P3 scored his first podium of the season alongside co-driver Daniel Morad with a third-place finish behind Porsche GT3 Challenge driver and winner Roman De Angelis and co-drivers Austin McCusker and David Droux, finishing second for the upstart Forty7 Motorsports team. Masson scored the MPC win, lapping all but one car, while Brownson came home fifth.

2. Sebring International Raceway, March 16

Winners
LMP3: Leo Lamelas / Pato O’Ward, No. 7 Charles Wicht Racing Ligier JS P3
LMP3 Masters: James McGuire Jr., No. 26 K2R Motorsports Ligier JS P3
MPC: Dave House, No. 86 ONE Motorsports Elan DP02

How the Champions Fared
The round at Sebring featured a late-race restart that saw eventual 2018 Indy Lights champion and 2017 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Prototype Challenge champion O’Ward drive from fourth to first in the closing laps to secure the win for full-time driver Lamelas. Wright, meanwhile, finished third for the second consecutive time to start the season with a new co-driver, Michael Whelden. The No. 47 Forty7 Motorsports entry again finished second with McCusker now joined by TJ Fischer, who would go on to run the full season with the team. Coming out of Sebring, McCusker would lead Wright by four points, 64-60. Between Sebring and the next round at Barber Motorsports Park, Wright would decide to contest the full season for Extreme Speed Motorsports.

It was a special victory in the MPC class with House becoming IMSA’s oldest race winner at the age of 75. Foreshadowing a points race that what would ultimately come down to the season finale at Road Atlanta, the top five in the MPC standings are separated by two points leaving Sebring, with Brownson seventh, 12 points out, after a ninth-place finish.

3. Barber Motorsports Park, April 21

Winners
LMP3: Kris Wright / Yann Clairay, No. 30 Extreme Speed Motorsports Ligier JS P3
LMP3 Masters: Rob Hodes, No. 51 K2R Motorsports Ligier JS P3
MPC: Michal Chlumecky, No. 31 Eurosport Racing Elan DP02

How the Champions Fared
The only standalone event for the IMSA Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda would prove to be the turning point in the LMP3 class. Leading all but one practice session on the weekend and starting the race from the pole, Wright and co-driver Clairay dominated the event, only losing the lead briefly on a cycle of green flag pit stops. Wright’s biggest competition for the championship, meanwhile, the No. 47 Forty7 Motorsports team, seemed poised to score its third consecutive runner-up finish of the season to hold onto the LMP3 points lead, but contact between Fischer and an MPC car with five minutes remaining relegated the team to a 16th-place finish. Entering the weekend down four points in the standings, Wright left Barber up six points, 95-89, over Lamelas.

Chlumecky scored his first MPC class win since 2012, while teammate Brownson, the Sebring pole winner, capped off a Eurosport Racing 1-2 finish placing second in the team’s No. 34 entry. Masson rounded out the podium with a third-place finish in the No. 11 Performance Tech Motorsports Elan DP02 to regain the class lead. Brownson left Barber eight points behind Masson, fifth in the standings.

4. Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, July 8

Winners
LMP3: Austin McCusker / TJ Fischer, No. 47 Forty7 Motorsports Norma M30
LMP3 Masters: Dean Baker, No. 4 ANSA Motorsports Ligier JS P3
MPC: Howard Jacobs / James French, No. 77 Performance Tech Motorsports Elan DP02

How the Champions Fared
The long overdue first victory for Forty7 Motorsports finally came at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park for McCusker and Fischer, but a second-place finish for Wright meant McCusker could only gain three points on the series leader, with Wright keeping the deficit at 13 points. Dean Baker would score the LMP3 Masters win, the fourth winner in four races following Gibson at Daytona, McGuire Jr. at Sebring and Hodes at Barber. Cassels finished on the LMP3 Masters podium for the first time in 2018 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, finishing the race seventh overall and third in LMP3 Masters.

Leading the MPC standings coming into Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, Robert Masson enlisted son and defending series champion Kyle Masson as a co-driver for the remainder of the season. The plan appeared to work with the duo crossing the line first, but upon post-race analysis of drive-time requirements, it was concluded that Kyle Masson did not record the minimum 40 minutes of drive time and the car was moved to the back of the MPC results. That penalty elevated Jacobs and French to the race win in Performance Tech’s No. 77 entry and moved Brownson, who finished second for the consecutive race, to the class championship lead. Coming out of Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, the top six in points were separated by just two points with two races remaining.

5. VIRginia International Raceway, August 18

Winners
LMP3: Kris Wright / Stephen Simpson, No. 30 Extreme Speed Motorsports Ligier JS P3
LMP3 Masters: Dean Baker, No. 4 ANSA Motorsports Ligier JS P3
MPC: Howard Jacobs / James French, No. 77 Performance Tech Motorsports Elan DP02

How the Champions Fared
Wright enlisted IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship regular Stephen Simpson as co-driver at VIR and delivered a knockout punch in the LMP3 title fight, scoring the win and opening a 23-point lead over McCusker, who finished sixth. Baker would win his second consecutive race in LMP3 Masters with a second-place finish overall alongside Zacharie Robichon. Hodes would lead the LMP3 Masters points by two points over Jim Garrett, eight points over Cassels and nine points over Joel Janco.

Robert Masson seemed poised to take the points lead and win alongside Kyle Masson as the duo drove brilliantly in the rain, building a nearly one-lap lead. A mechanical issue with 17 minutes remaining, however, set up a late-race sprint to the finish with French winning on the last lap for Jacobs.

With only one race remaining, House moved into the class lead by three points, 143-140, over Jacobs. The top seven teams were mathematically eligible for the championship and separated by a mere eight points.

6. Road Atlanta, October 12

Winners
LMP3: Austin McCusker / TJ Fischer, No. 47 Forty7 Motorsports Norma M30
LMP3 Masters: Cameron Cassels, No. 75 Performance Tech Motorsports Ligier JS P3
MPC: Jon Brownson, No. 34 Eurosport Racing Elan DP02

How the Champions Fared
The second win of the season for the No. 47 Forty7 Motorsports entry and co-driver McCusker and Fischer was not enough to take the championship away from Wright, who finished second at Road Atlanta to sweep podiums in all six races on the series schedule.

Cassels scored his first LMP3 Masters win of the season, and despite entering the weekend eight points behind in the standings, would also win the LMP3 Masters championship after each of the title contenders ran into various issues on-track.

Brownson called it an “honor” to win the final race for the MPC class. Brownson, who started in the first race for the series in 2006, scored his first win of the season in the No. 34 Eurosport Racing entry to win the final championship for the class.