Simon Pagenaud may have led nearly every lap of the Honda Indy Toronto from start to finish, but Scott Dixon put up a fight as the laps began to wind down in Sunday’s 85-lap event.
Pagenaud saw his lead of over six seconds slowly become smaller and smaller as he had to slow his pace in order to save fuel. Dixon, in second place, began eating into Pagenaud’s lead, eventually coming as close as a half-second to the Indy 500 winner.
However with the help of lapped traffic and a last lap crash by his teammate Will Power that would end the race under caution, Pagenaud was able to claim his third victory of the season.
“[It’s] not the way I love to race, but Chevy did a great, great job of giving us an update this weekend and it really paid off,” Pagenaud told NBC Sports following the race. “Obviously, on the fuel, it was tremendous.
“The car was fast all day. I never really got in trouble with anyone, so I’m just delighted. It was a pure, perfect execution from the Penske team.”
Dixon, the 2018 winner of the race, would have to settle for second.
“It felt like once we go to the blacks [Firestone tire compound], our car was really good. We were able to close in on Simon,” Dixon said. “It’s just so hard to pass here.
“I felt like we really just weren’t able to get close enough to get a good run on the straights. The PNC guys are super strong, but we just didn’t have enough to make the pass.”
Alexander Rossi finished third, while series points leader Josef Newgarden finished fourth. Newgarden leaves Toronto with a four point lead over Rossi in the standings.
Dixon’s Chip Ganassi Racing teammate, Felix Rosenqvist, finished the race in the fifth position, with Canadian favorite James Hinchcliffe finished in sixth.
Colton Herta, Sebastian Bourdais, Graham Rahal and Marco Andretti rounded out the top 10.
The race that ended under a full-course caution also began with a caution on the first lap, when Will Power and Graham Rahal made contact in Turn 8. Matheus Leist, Marcus Ericsson, and Marco Andretti were also involved, though all driver’s cars suffered minimal damage and would continue to compete in the race.
For many fans, however, the highlight of the day came before the race even started, when Robert Wickens drove in public for the first time since a vicious crash at Pocono Raceway last year that seriously injured the 30-year-old Canadian.
With fiancée Karli Woods in the passenger seat, Wickens raced around the 11-turn, 1.786-mile Exhibition Place street course to the cheers of the crowd in an Acura NSX modified with special hand controls.
Wickens, who intends to someday race again, gave the starting command “future drivers of mine, start your engines!” before making another lap around the track as the field began the first pace lap.
The NTT IndyCar Series now returns to America’s Heartland for some Saturday night short track racing under the lights at Iowa Speedway on July 20. Live race coverage begins at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN.