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INDYCAR: Newgarden takes Toronto pole, eyes third win there in last four years

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Despite scraping the Turn 8 wall heading to the checkered flag in the Fast 6 final round of qualifying Saturday, Josef Newgarden was not to be denied the pole for Sunday’s Honda Indy Toronto.

Watch the full qualifying session at 5 p.m. ET this afternoon on NBCSN.

Now Newgarden goes for his second consecutive win at Toronto and third in the last four races on Sunday.

MORE: Best way for Josef Newgarden to forget Iowa is to win at Toronto

Newgarden earned his fourth pole of the 2018 season (also at Barber Motorsports Park, Texas and Road America – he also won at Birmingham and Road America, as well as Phoenix) with a best time of 59.4956 seconds at 108.068 mph. It is also the sixth pole of his career.

Newgarden and the other 22 drivers in the field had to deal with intermittent rain throughout the overall qualifying session.

Josef Newgarden on the streets of Toronto. Photo: IndyCar

“It started drying up towards the end (of the Fast 6)” Newgarden told the IndyCar Network. “In the middle it started raining more intensely and then the last two laps got progressively better and that last lap was going to be the one to nail it. The car has been incredible this weekend.

“We’ve got all three of us (Team Penske drivers) in the Fast 6, that’s all you can ask for today, and now we go to tomorrow to focus on the race. … The last lap, I knew I had to go for it here. I knew we can get the pole, I gave it everything I could and we got it.”

Verizon IndyCar Series points leader Scott Dixon will start on the outside of the front row with a combination of 59.6920 seconds at 107.713 mph.

“We were up a ton on the last lap and probably got a bit too much on Turn 5 and almost spun,” Dixon told the IndyCar Radio Network. “It sucks. We had plenty to get the pole, but that’s what it is.”

As for the rest of the Fast 6, Simon Pagenaud took third (59.7630 seconds at 107.585 mph) and fourth was teammate Will Power (59.8818 seconds at 107.372 mph), followed by Alexander Rossi (1:00.6273 at 106.051) and Ryan Hunter-Reay (1:00.6615 at 105.991).

“We needed one more lap,” Power told ICRN with a laugh. “We’re disappointed because we should have been further up, but that’s racing.”

Rain had somewhat of an impact on the early part of the first session. But after moderate showers, they dissipated for the remainder of the first two groups of qualifying.

However, raindrops returned during the Round of 12 elimination qualifying, causing several drivers to pit during the session for sticker red tires.

James Hinchcliffe spun crossing the finish line in the final minutes of the Round of 12 session, and then slipped out of Turn 3 on the final lap, knocking him out of the Top 6. To add insult to injury, Hinchcliffe also received a penalty for the spin.

“That last lap was everything we had,” Hinchcliffe told the IndyCar Radio Network. “The Arrow car was getting better every session. The rain and conditions kind of threw us for a loop. It’s a shame, if we didn’t have that spin, I think we could have transferred into the Fast Six. Still, I think we can race from here and give the hometown fans here a good result.”

Hinchcliffe is a native of suburban Toronto and is coming off a win last Sunday at Iowa Speedway.

The Fast 6 were Dixon, Hunter-Reay, Pagenaud, Newgarden, Rossi and Power. Those that qualified seventh through 12th were Takuma Sato, Jordan King, James Hinchcliffe and Schmidt Peterson teammate Robert Wickens, Conor Daly and Matheus Leist.

“It’s a shame,” Sato told the IndyCar Radio Network. “Obviously, we tried. We went to the new reds and then the black tires. It was still drizzling, so the new reds had good grip, but unfortunately we lost it. It’s a pity but it’s a game, so we’re okay.

“We’re very positive for tomorrow. Through the weekend, we’ve been strong on the black tires. So I think tomorrow will be very interesting. We’ll keep our heads down, do our job and hopefully we’ll be strong.”

Added Wickens, who will start alongside teammate and fellow Canadian Hinchcliffe on Row 5, “That (Round of 12) session was pretty chaotic.

“Hindsight is always 20-20, you always could do things differently if you could re-do it again. We had to settle for P10 today but I think with the perfect storm, we could have made the Fast 6 … but Top 10 isn’t that bad, either.”

How each qualifying group played out:

In Group 1, those that moved on to the Round of 12 were Josef Newgarden, Alexander Rossi, Scott Dixon, James Hinchcliffe, Jordan King and Conor Daly.

Those that did not move on were Graham Rahal, Tony Kanaan, Sebastien Bourdais, Rene Binder and Ed Kones.

In Group 2, those that moved on were Will Power, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Simon Pagenaud, Takuma Sato, Robert Wickens and Matheus Leist.

Those that did not move on were Marco Andretti, Spencer Pigot, Ma Chilton, Charlie Kimball, Zach Veach and Zachary Claman De Melo.

Round 2 of qualifying – the top 12 in the first two sessions – featured Newgarden, Hinchcliffe, Dixon, King, Rossi, Daly, Leist, Wickens, Power, Pagenaud, Hunter-Reay and Sato.

There were several incidents during the overall session.

Ed Jones spun in Turn 11 during the first qualifying group, coming to rest backwards, bringing out a brief red flag stoppage.

Tony Kanaan also got loose but was able to gather the car back under control.

In the second qualifying group, Zach Veach spun as the session ended. To his credit, Veach did not hit anything, but was towed back to the paddock.

Sunday’s Honda Indy Toronto will be carried live at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN, followed by a replay of the Indy Lights at 6 p.m. ET.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

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.