For the second straight Verizon IndyCar Series race, I wasn’t on site. But, that should change in two weeks at Mid-Ohio. But, with modern technology, I was able to follow along in my command center here in Indy.
Here are my five takeaways from Sunday’s Honda Indy Toronto.
Dixon’s Well On His Way To 5th INDYCAR Championship
It pretty clear now that unless Scott Dixon faces his worst five race stretch of any during his storied career, the New Zealand native is set to cruise to his fifth Verizon IndyCar Series championship. Dixon, led a race high 49 of 85 laps in Sunday’s Honda Indy Toronto en route to his third win of the season and third of his career on the streets of Toronto. I think he was going to win without any help but boy did he sure get some in Sunday’s race.
It all started on Lap 28 when teammates Ryan Hunter-Reay and Alexander Rossi made contact on the track and forced both to pit for damage. The first caution flag would fly because of that. Then, on the ensuing restart, Josef Newgarden, the current leader of the race, brushed the wall on the exit of the final corner which allowed Dixon to overtake him coming to the green. Newgarden, would lose a ton of spots because of the damage suffered to his No. 1 Chevrolet. Heading into this weekend, Newgarden, Rossi and Hunter-Reay were 2-3-4 in the points standings and in five laps, all three were taken out of contention for the win. Rossi would finish eighth, Newgarden ninth and Hunter-Reay 16th as a result.
If that wasn’t good enough for Dixon, try this on for size. Fifth place in the standings Will Power was collected in a crash that took out seventh place at the time in the standings Graham Rahal when he got into Turn 1 too hot and sparked a chain reaction crash collecting Power, Hunter-Reay, Rossi, Sebastien Bourdais and Max Chilton in Turn 1 on that same Lap 34 restart.
In a span of five laps, all of Dixon’s main contenders for this year’s championship had problems while Dixon took over the lead as well.
Dixon, leaves Toronto with a 62 point lead over Newgarden heading into the next race at Mid-Ohio in two weeks. Rossi (-70), Hunter-Reay (-91) and Power (-93) are the only other drivers that are within 100 points of Dixon with just five races to go in the season. Think you can make up at least 62 points in five races on a driver of that caliber? Good luck. Dixon, has seven top four finishes over his last eight starts on the year and has seen 10 of his 12 starts in 2018 wind up with a top six result.
Newgarden’s Repeat Hopes Likely Dashed In 2018 On Street Courses
If you take away the five street course races in 2018, Josef Newgarden would likely be the one heading towards his second straight INDYCAR title. In the seven “other” races, Newgarden has three wins which if luck went his way, would have had four if he could have won last weekend in Iowa.
But, on street courses, Newgarden has finishes of seventh (St. Pete), seventh (Long Beach), ninth (Belle Isle 1), 15th (Belle Isle 2) and now ninth (Toronto). Compare that to Scott Dixon’s sixth (St. Pete), 11th (Long Beach), first (Belle Isle 1), fourth (Belle Isle 2) and first (Toronto) and you can see where the gap has started to build.
Daly Takes Harding To Best Finish Of 2018 Season
Conor Daly was called to replace Gabby Chaves for this weekend’s race in Toronto. No, Chaves isn’t going to leave the team as he’s under contract for the rest of this season and next. This was Harding’s effort to prepare for 2019 in hopes of bringing a second car and driver combination to team with Chaves’ program next year.
First up, Daly.
He impressed too.
Daly, would bring his No. 88 Chevrolet home 11th for the teams best finish of the entire year. Previously, Chaves’ best finish in 2018 was a 14th place run in St. Pete and the Indy 500 too. On Sunday, Daly without having raced this new car anywhere other than Indy, jumps into a Chevy (he drove at Honda in the Month of May) with a new team that he’s never raced for and finishes better than their full time driver. Oh, by the way, Daly qualified 11th too, the teams’ best qualifying effort since Chaves qualified eighth for the season opener in St. Pete.
Safe to say that Daly set the bar high for anyone else getting a look.
Kimball Races To Best Finish Of Season
Max Chilton may have finished last on Sunday for Carlin, but his teammate Charlie Kimball gave the team something to smile about. The California native gave them their first lap led in INDYCAR when he crossed the finish line in first place on Lap 57. He also gave them their first top five finish too bringing his No. 23 Chevrolet home fifth on Sunday. That was his fourth top 10 finish of the season and coincidentally enough, three of which have come on street courses. The organization is really starting to find their stride.
SPM Hometown Heroes Shine, RLL Sees Potential Good Runs End In Wrecks
There may not be a hotter organization in INDYCAR right now than Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. Last weekend, James Hinchcliffe earned his first win of the season in Iowa while his rookie teammate Robert Wickens came home fifth. But, if not for pitting and never going back to green, they likely would have had a double podium.
On Sunday, the two Toronto natives nearly did it again. Wickens, did get his No. 6 Honda on the podium in his hometown race with a third place run, while Hinchcliffe finished one spot behind in fourth.
Where one team shined, another faltered.
RLL had high hopes with both Graham Rahal and Takuma Sato entering this weekend’s race hot. They were also very fast in practice all weekend too. Unfortunately, both saw their races end in the wall.
Rahal, got in a crash on Lap 34 and he’d finish the race in 21st place, 17 laps down. Sato, would crash on Lap 66 and come away 22nd. It was their worst efforts on the year.