What Drivers Said after Sunday’s Honda Indy Toronto

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Given the chaotic nature of Sunday’s Honda Indy Toronto, it’s not surprising that drivers had lots to say afterward.

Here’s What Drivers Said:

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda) — WINNER: “I’m worn out, man, that was a physical race. It was definitely easy to pick up lots of debris on the tires out there, and I think that’s what happened to Josef (Newgarden) on that restart where we took the lead. He tried to go a little bit fast into the last corner there in Turn 11, got into the gray and that was pretty much it. I can’t thank PNC Bank and the crew enough, we just needed some clear air and we were able to check out. What a great win for the team and everyone associated with this No. 9 car program.”

SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 22 DXC Technology Team Penske Chevrolet) – finished 2nd: “It was a good time. It was a great race, you know, Toronto supports the Verizon IndyCar Series so well. Thanks to the fans for showing up; it was packed today. The track was beautiful. Tough racing out there. You know, the (new aero) package is a lot less grip in the corners, it was a lot more straightaway speed. The tires really struggled in the heat. There was a lot of marble – a lot of dust. Restarts were ice racing. It was a lot of fun, and obviously, it turned out in our favor. I think we showed that we’re back this year. We’ve done a lot of work in the background. I want to thank Team Penske, DXC Technology and Chevy for doing all the work they do in the background to help me understand this (new aero) package. We saw it this weekend, all three Penske cars were in the (Firestone) Fast Six. It was a great improvement.”

ROBERT WICKENS (No. 6 Lucas Oil SPM Honda) – finished 3rd: “We did have a great car in the race. I don’t think anyone had anything for Scott (Dixon) today. Dixie was kind of in a class of his own, but to go punch for punch with him in the second stint…I thought we really showed some great strides, some great improvements on the Lucas Oil car from warm-up to now. The final stint, I don’t if it was damage from the fight with (Simon) Pagenaud, but I had too much understeer and I couldn’t maintain that pace. If not, I think it would have been a fun fight between Simon and I at the end. I thought maybe second (place finish) was in the cards for me, but it just wasn’t meant to be. Thankfully, I’m not an overly teary guy, but that (finishing on the podium in Canada) was really cool. I can’t thank these Toronto fans enough. I mean, this whole week has been such a whirlwind of emotions, and to stand on the podium in my first professional home race, I couldn’t ask for anything better.”

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 5 Arrow Electronics SPM Honda) – finished 4th: “Our start didn’t go great, and obviously we were battling for position with Robbie (Wickens) there and got shuffled back behind Marco (Andretti). That really was kind of the start of the end of a great result for us because we had pace, we just couldn’t get by him. We burned a lot of push-to-pass trying to get by him, but just couldn’t do it. It’s unfortunate to waste so much time in the beginning of the race. On that restart melee, we got tagged by Takuma (Sato), which I should know better than staying on the inside of him in a corner like that. I bent the toe link, and from there, it was a bit of a struggle to feel the car out and see how it was going to change with the bend in the suspension. Honestly, the Arrow Electronics car was still pretty great, and in that last stint, we were chasing down the leaders. Who knows what could have been, but ultimately happy with Robbie being on the podium and two SPM cars in the top five.”

CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 23 Novo Nordisk Chevrolet) – finished 5th: “I’m just really proud of the Carlin guys. They fight and work so hard, weekend in and weekend out. They’re the first ones here in the paddock in the morning and the last ones out at night. We struggled a little on Saturday, but on race day we were able to bring it. We showed up in Toronto with a great foundation from Detroit Race 2, a top-10 car, and we were able to make it a little better this weekend. The No. 23 crew had two fantastic pit stops – that second stop was just rock solid. To be able to come out with a top five, leaning on fourth at the end, was a great way to cap off the weekend. Really pleased to bring home Carlin’s first top-five in the Verizon IndyCar Series and my first top five of the season.”

TONY KANAAN (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet) – finished 6th: “Great day for the ABC Supply team – we finally had everything going our way. We had good stops, good passing and obviously, we had a couple people do us some favors on the racetrack – that’s the way this race goes. It’s the best result for the team so far – top six on a street course where we’d been improving our car all weekend. Really happy for ABC, Larry (Foyt, team president) and for A.J. (Foyt, team owner). He’s (A.J.) not here, so I wanted to give him a good result.”

ZACH VEACH (No. 26 Relay Group 1001 Honda) – finished 7th: “It was a heck of a fight today, honestly. Starting 22nd, we knew we had our work cut out for us to get to the front, but we had great pit stops and great strategy. The guys did exactly what I needed them to do on the car on each pit stop, as far as adjustments, and it just came to us at the end. I’m really thankful for Andretti Autosport and Relay to be able to have such a good run up here in Canada. I’m ready to go to my hometown now and see if we can get into the top five.”

ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda) – finished 8th: “It’s a pretty disappointing result. I don’t think we had the car to beat Scott (Dixon), but for sure with the problems that everyone had, we could’ve finished second. It’s been a difficult string of races. We had contact with Will (Power), and he had a bit of a problem going into Turn 3 and I misjudged the closing rate, so I had a front-wing change that put me to the back of the field. Then (Graham) Rahal spun around and I stopped to avoid it, but then Ryan (Hunter-Reay) hit me and I went airborne. We changed the wing again and stopped a couple more times. The fact that we finished eighth is a huge testament to the NAPA AUTO PARTS team and I’m so thankful for them. It was a difficult day and they kept me in it. We’ve had a lot of mistakes lately and there’s not a lot of time off, so we have a lot of work to do.”

JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 1 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet) – finished 9th: “It was a tough race. Making contact with the wall didn’t help. I don’t know what it was to be honest with you, it was either marbles or dust from the sweepers; they’re trying to clean off the track and that yellow, when we already had tons of marbles 27 laps in. I don’t know what to tell you, I went straight into the wall. And part of that is my fault, just making a mistake, but I didn’t expect it; I’ll tell you that. I just had no idea the car was going to do that. I knew it would be low grip, but not zero grip. I just lost the front end completely. I feel terrible, it’s not fun to make a mistake. This No. 1 Hitachi Chevy was quick today, I think it was capable of being in the top three or potentially winning the race if I didn’t make the mistake, but you have days like this in racing. We have to move on now and try to pick it back up. With the championship battle, we’ve got a long way to go. This doesn’t help but look, we have plenty of racing. We need to keep our head up here. We’re going to be just fine, we’ve got fast cars and the best in the business. If we get our mistakes sorted out, we’re going to be just fine.”

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 98 Oberto Circle K / Curb Honda) – finished 10th: “I’m really disappointed. I just hate it for the Oberto boys because we had top-four pace all weekend and the only time we didn’t show it was in qualifying. We should’ve maybe had a shot at podium, but definitely fourth. We were pretty good on cold tires. Everybody had a ton of pick up, so it made it a lot of fun when people were sliding around so we were able to capitalize. I saw the collector light come on with two laps to go and my heart sunk. We’ve had street course pace all year, we’re just not doing what we need to do as far as results and I’m pretty disappointed with that, to be honest.”

JORDAN KING (No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet) – finished 11th: “The first few laps were quite tricky, being on blacks (Firestone primary tires) while everyone was on reds (Firestone alternate tires). With the incident this morning, we weren’t 100 percent sure where we were with the car. I maybe struggled a bit more in the first stint than I did at the end of the race, I’ll put my hand up for that one. We got to the lead on strategy and once we were in clean air, the pace was quite good. Tim (Broyles, ECR General Manager) was telling me what was happening, so I was quite happy. And literally, just about as we were going to come into the pits, no more than 100 meters from the pit commit line, the yellow came out and my heart just sank. It was almost perfect. That dropped us to the back of the field, but I had a couple of good restarts with the yellows that were later. On the last restart, I got pushed a little bit wide and it took me about three laps to recover, just trying to get the dirt off the tires. Those two things were a little bit annoying, but overall, I thought our pace was good. It was a great job by the Fuzzy’s Vodka guys to get me back out in time for the race and I am glad I could perform for them. It was a decent result, but if the dice had rolled differently for us as we came into the pits, I think we could have been set for a solid Top 10, maybe even a bit higher.”

ED JONES (No. 10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda) – finished 12th: “Well that wasn’t the day we wanted to have. We knew the car had good speed, but things just didn’t seem to go our way this weekend with the NTT DATA car. With some early pit stop strategy and the way the race played out we were able to make up 9 positions, but we want more than that. Hopefully we can come back stronger in Mid-Ohio in a few weeks.”

CONOR DALY (No. 88 Harding Group Chevrolet) – finished 13th: “I just want to thank Harding Racing and Chevy for this opportunity, it’s so nice to be back in a car. There’s something about this car that we need to sort out mechanically on heavy fuel loads, the car was really beating me up. I think we had good race pace. I got shoved into the wall a few times, which I didn’t really like, but it is what it is. I could have used a bit more cooperation from the No. 18 car, as he was a few laps down. But anyway, I’m just so thankful to be back out here and we made a lot of progress technically this weekend, so hopefully that helps the team in the future.”

ZACHARY CLAMAN DE MELO (No. 19 Paysafe Honda) – finished 14th: “It was a fun race, we had quite a bit of yellow today and I think that helped us with our pit strategy. I let the race come to us, and I didn’t take any unnecessary chances in my No. 19 Paysafe car. A lot of people had different issues and I stayed out of trouble and it led to a decent finish. It’s been a fun season and I want to thank Dale Coyne Racing and Paysafe for giving me the opportunity to do these nine races with them this year. Now I get to cheer on Pietro (Fittipaldi) when he comes back for the next race.”

MATHEUS LEIST (No. 4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet) – finished 15th: “I’m a bit disappointed with the result we had today. I got hit on Lap 20 and got hit again after a restart, so we had to do two extra pit stops. From then on, my day was over-not much we could do. It’s a pity because I think we could have finished in the top 10.”

RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda) – finished 16th: “It’s was a very unfortunate day and a big loss for us in points. The DHL Honda was running comfortable in third and pushing hard, but I had too much front brake lock and found the tire barrier – that’s my fault. Then after that, we got caught up in a wreck, which put us a lap down. From there we just fought to stay in front of the leader.”

RENE BINDER (No. 32 Binderholz tiptop timber Chevrolet) – finished 17th: “The first stint of the race on Firestone red (alternate) tires went pretty well. We had good pace and were running as high P11 at one point in the race. Unfortunately, I lost positions after one of the restarts and my tires got dirty in the marbles. I was not able to recover the positions and had to settle for 17th. I am ready to move past this event and focus on Mid-Ohio in two weeks.”

WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet) – finished 18th: “That was definitely a very physical race. In the last corner, I brushed the wall and bent a rear toe link, so the car was a little bit out of whack. I didn’t even know that (Alexander) Rossi and I touched. I was just kind of trying to hang on until we got a yellow and could pit. I’ve never had so many DNFs; not DNF for this race, but like a DNF in a season. Still, it’s kind of how this sport can go. We’re just going to keep pushing away with the No. 12 Verizon Chevy and focus on the double points in Sonoma. That can be a 100 point swing, so we’re still in the game.”

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 18 Team Mouser/Molex Honda) – finished 19th: “It was a tough weekend all around for the Mouser Electronics/Molex team. I thought we had something pretty good in qualifying that could help us accomplish the usual good starting position in Toronto, but I wasn’t comfortable enough with the conditions (wet track) to challenge the car for the one lap. I didn’t do a good job, we didn’t make it through and that put us at the back of the field. We tried something for the warm-up this morning and the car was far worse than it had been. So, we un-winded that and threw a Hail Mary at it for the race, but the car still wasn’t quite there. It was OK on the Firestone red (alternate) tires, then we made a couple of changes during the first stop and put black (Firestone primary) tires on. As soon as we put on the blacks, the car became extremely catchy, snappy and unpredictable. I made a couple of mistakes where I almost crashed, then I got into Turn 1 and I have no idea what happened. It felt like I didn’t really slow down. The car started to crab and go sideways under braking and from there I couldn’t recover. I went backward into the tires, not bad enough to put us out of the race, but bad enough that I had to come in and change the rear wing. We lost two laps, and from there it was just about collecting data and bringing it home. It was just a very disappointing weekend. I really wanted to do a lot more for the Mouser Electronics, Molex guys, but I guess it wasn’t meant to be this weekend.”

SPENCER PIGOT (No. 21 Preferred Freezer Service Chevrolet) – finished 20th: “I got a lot of marbles on my right front tire and it just took off on me. I was along for the ride. It is a shame, we had moved up quite a lot. The Preferred Freezer Services car was handling pretty well, so it’s frustrating because we threw away a lot of points. It is what it is, but it’s really frustrating. I feel bad for my guys.”

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 Rousseau Honda) – finished 21st: “I’m disappointed; there isn’t anything else to say. Obviously, as we showed there at the end once we got back in the race, the car was fast. The start was awful; we got boxed in and just couldn’t go anywhere, so that was disappointing. The blacks (Firestone primary tires) were OK to start, it was really that we just got boxed in and that was my fault. I just didn’t get the right lane and it bit us a little bit. Overall, the Rousseau car was fast and I feel bad for the guys. We wanted better and we expected better and it hurt us a lot in the championship. We go on to Mid-Ohio after opportunities lost again.  We’ve just got to make one (win) happen soon.” (About the Lap 34 restart): “I had a really good run and was going to the right, and then (Jordan) King popped out and hit the brakes. I went left to try to avoid him, got into the back of (Max) Chilton just a little bit, but we were kind of OK. We started to get to mid-corner and were OK, and then, wham, I got absolutely drilled from behind. I don’t really know by whom, but ultimately, obviously, I started the whole train of it. I just don’t know what happened behind me.”

TAKUMA SATO (No. 30 Mi-Jack / Panasonic Honda) – finished 22nd: “All weekend we were competitive. Obviously, the weather situation for qualifying was tough for us, but still, we were competitive again in the warm-up before the race.  Then, in the race we had some issues, but the car was fast all day.  I feel sorry for the boys who gave me a great car the whole weekend.  I think we have great momentum. I’m looking forward to going to Mid-Ohio.”

MAX CHILTON (No. 59 Gallagher Chevrolet) – finished 23rd: “It was just a really unfortunate day for the No. 59 Gallagher Chevrolet and the whole Carlin Gallagher Racing crew. We were given a penalty under yellow that I’m not sure I completely agreed with, and then when we did go back green, everyone’s tires were still so dirty from driving through the caution zone that the contact was somewhat inevitable. A car spun out in front and then we were hit from behind, causing quite a considerable amount of damage. We were able to limp back around to pit lane, but once we got there, the team decided the damage was too extensive to continue. Just a tough break for the team, especially with how much I love racing here in Toronto.”

Behind the scenes of how the biggest story in racing was kept a secret

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In a world where nobody is able to keep a secret, especially in auto racing, legendary business leader and race team owner Roger Penske and INDYCAR CEO Mark Miles were able to keep the biggest story of the year a secret.

That was Monday morning’s stunning announcement that after 74 years of leadership and ownership of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the Hulman George Family was selling the track, the Indianapolis 500 and INDYCAR to Penske.

In an exclusive interview with NBC Sports.com on Thursday, Miles revealed the extreme lengths both sides went to so that nobody found out about this deal ahead of time. That included meeting with Penske at his Detroit offices early on Saturday mornings and late on Sunday nights.

The most important way of keeping it confidential was containing the number of people who were involved.

“We thought it was important to keep it quiet until we were ready to announce it,” Miles told NBC Sports.com. “The reason for that is No. 1, we wanted employees and other stakeholders to hear it from us and not through the distorting rumor mill.

“That was the motivation.

“We just didn’t involve many people. For most of the time, there were four people from Roger’s group in Michigan and four people from here (IMS/INDYCAR) involved and nobody else. There were just four of us. We all knew that none of the eight were going to talk to anybody about it until very late.”

Even key members of both staffs were kept out of the loop, notably Indianapolis Motor Speedway President Doug Boles, who admitted earlier this week he was not told of the impending sale until Saturday when he was at Texas Motor Speedway for the NASCAR race.

Both Penske and Miles realize the way a deal or a secret slips out is often from people far outside of the discussions who have to get called in to work to help set up an announcement.

Miles had a plan for that scenario, too.

“On Saturday, we had to set up a stream for Monday’s announcement,” Miles said. “We came up with an internal cover story so if anybody saw what was going on, there was a cover story for what that was, and it wasn’t that announcement.

“The key thing was we kept it at only those that needed to know.”

It wasn’t until very late Sunday night and very early Monday morning that key stakeholders in INDYCAR were informed. Team owner Bobby Rahal got a call at 7:30 a.m. on Monday. Racing legend Mario Andretti was also informed very early on Monday.

At 8 a.m. that day came the official word from Hulman & Company, which owns the Indianapolis 500, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and INDYCAR as well as a few other businesses, that Penske was buying the racing properties of the company. It was an advisory that a media conference was scheduled for 11 a.m. at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

It was a masterful move by both Penske and Miles.

Penske is already famous for keeping one of greatest secrets in racing history in 1993 and 1994. That is when his famed racing team along with Ilmor Engineering created “The Beast” – a 209 cubic-inch, pushrod engine that was designed, developed and tested in total secrecy. A small, select group of Team Penske mechanics were involved in the top-secret project and were told by Penske that if word of the engine leaked out, “it would be like cutting your paycheck.”

Nobody talked.

History repeated itself with the biggest racing story of the 21st Century, the sale of the world’s most famous race course that hosts the largest single-day sporting event in the world – the annual Indianapolis 500.

When INDYCAR held its “Victory Lap” award ceremony on Sept. 26 in Indianapolis, Miles told the crowd of an impending announcement that would be big news for the sport.

Was he coming close to giving away Monday’s announcement?

“No, that was about a sponsor announcement that will be coming along later,” Miles said on Thursday night.

Penske is one of America’s greatest and most successful business leaders. He is also the most successful team owner in auto racing history with 545 wins in all forms of racing including a record 18 Indianapolis 500 wins, a record 16 NTT IndyCar Series championships as well as two Daytona 500 wins and two NASCAR Monster Energy Cup championships just to name a few.

Penske was not the only bidder, but he was the one who made the most sense to the Hulman George Family, because it was important to find an owner who believed in “stewardship” of the greatest racing tradition on Earth more so than “ownership” of an auto racing facility and series.

“There were a number of parties that were engaged in thinking about this with us,” Miles revealed to NBC Sports.com. “There were a couple that got as far as what I call the ‘Red Zone.’

“Then, Tony George reached out to Roger Penske on Sept. 22.

“Price and value were always important, but the thing that nobody could match was the attributes that Roger could bring to the table, in terms of his history of the sport, his knowledge of the sport, combined with his business sense.

“He was viewed as the leader from a legacy or stewardship perspective, which was a very important factor.”

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500 

McLaren IndyCar boss breaks down team’s first test since missing Indy 500

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McLaren Sporting Director Gil De Ferran left Sebring International Raceway last Tuesday with a much happier outlook than when he left the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 19.

That was when McLaren and famed two-time Formula One World Champion Fernando Alonso arrived at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway ill-prepared. They failed to make the 33-car starting lineup for the 103rd Indianapolis 500.

That day in May, De Ferran vowed that McLaren would return.

Last Tuesday, what is now known as Arrow McLaren Racing SP after purchasing into Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, De Ferran was back to evaluate the team’s NTT IndyCar Series effort.

Instead of Alonso in the cockpit, it was the team’s recently named full-time drivers for 2020 at the test. That included 20-year-old Pato O’Ward of Monterrey, Mexico, the 2018 Indy Lights champion and 22-year-old Oliver Askew of Jupiter, Florida, the 2019 Indy Lights champion.

O’Ward was in the car for the test with Askew watching from the pit area.

“Pato did a great job, did not put a foot wrong, got on to it straight away and it was all good,” De Ferran told NBC Sports.com. “It was a positive day on all fronts. To work together, to build the team together and embark on this team together was very positive.”

De Ferran is a two-time CART champion with titles in 2000 and 2001 when he was with Team Penske. He also won the 2003 Indianapolis 500 for Team Penske before retiring as a driver at the end of that season.

Since then, he has been involved in numerous Formula One, IndyCar and Sports Car efforts. As McLaren’s Sporting Director, De Ferran is involved in both Formula One and IndyCar.

Arrow McLaren Racing SP also includes partners Sam Schmidt and Ric Peterson. Arrow also has a financial stake in the team in addition to serving as sponsor.

The chance to work with two young drivers is something that has De Ferran excited.

“They are both very young, but they have been around for a while,” De Ferran said. “It’s not like these guys are completely clueless about racing. They have been racing ever since they were kids. Generally speaking, as a trend in motorsports, they start much younger than I did. They move to cars at a younger age and tend to reach this level of the sport at a younger age then when I was coming up.

“Although they don’t have a lot of experience in IndyCar, several members of the team can help in their development. These guys are very accomplished and top-level guys. They have won a lot of races and championships before getting the nod from our team.”

Last week’s test was part of INDYCAR’s evaluation of the new aeroscreen that will be on all cars beginning in 2020. Arrow McLaren Racing SP is a Chevrolet team. Honda team Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser and Sullivan also participated in the test with four-time Champ Car Series champion Sebastien Bourdais as the driver.

This was the only test that Arrow McLaren Racing SP will conduct in 2019. Testing time is severely limited De Ferran said it won’t be back on track until the 2020 regulations take effect.

Arrow McLaren Racing SP has already experienced some controversy after the team said several weeks ago that popular driver James Hinchcliffe would not be driving for the team. He remains on the payroll and is expected to be at the track in a public relations capacity.

That has angered many IndyCar fans who are huge fans of the popular Canadian driver.

“I have nothing more to add to this than what was said at the time,” De Ferran told NBC Sports.com. “As far as I’m concerned, it’s head-down. We have to go racing. We are on a journey here together with this partnership and two young drivers that are very accomplished and have a lot of talent. Our job is to deliver the results on the track.

“That is where my focus is. I’m completely focused on improving every aspect of everything that we do trackside.

“One thing I guarantee you, whatever we start, to have that focus to improve everything that we do we will continue to move forward. It was like that when I was driving, and it was like that throughout my professional career away from the cockpit. We will keep looking for opportunities to improve.

“Eventually, good things will happen.”

It was just Day One on the track, but after seeing this team struggle at last year’s Indianapolis 500, McLaren took its first step in returning as a full-time NTT IndyCar Series team.

“This is the beginning of a journey that we embarked on several months ago now and you do a lot in the background,” De Ferran said. “The guys from SPM and us have put a lot into this partnership. Behind the scenes, we have been working hard together.

“We’re all racers, man. We want to see cars on track. This has been like a little check off the box and it feels good that we were on track.

“We have a long journey ahead, but it’s good to be working together, at the race track, how the car is handling, the engine is working and how the drivers do.

“First day on the track for Arrow McLaren Racing SP. It’s a good day.”

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500