IndyCar Toronto Report: Dixon’s dream, rivals nightmare

While his title rivals faltered all around him, it was Scott Dixon who reigned supreme on the streets of Toronto to nearly double his championship lead, now standing at 62 points over defending champion Josef Newgarden. The #9 Chip Ganassi driver got lucky to get into the lead but once he was there, he never looked back.

Scott Dixon. Indycar 2018: Round Twelve – Toronto, Canada. Image courtesy of Hondanews.eu

Dixon did not start on pole, that accolade went to Newgarden, and spent the first half of the race in a firm second, occasionally challenging but ultimately looking like the lesser force of the two. Teammate Ed Jones did his bit to reduce Newgarden’s advantage; after a problem in the pit stops, he’d come out just ahead of the leading duo and made Newgarden’s life very difficult, allowing Dixon to close up but not pass. However, the complexion of the race changed drastically when, on the first restart, Newgarden got onto the marbles, going wide, hitting the wall and damaging his suspension – handing Dixon the lead and eventually the victory. Gifted or not, this was a very important one for Dixon who now boasts a large, but not insurmountable, championship lead.

Josef Newgarden. Image courtesy of Jake Galstad/LAT for Chevy Racing

On a day of struggles for all of Dixon’s rivals, the most self-inflicted pain probably came from Newgarden after he was entirely at fault for his wide moment that completely ruined his race. Following this, the defending champion was dropped down to thirteenth and then dropped further when he had to pit to repair the damage that the incident had caused. Newgarden found himself battling through the pack with a familiar face in Alexander Rossi, who’d had his own troubles, and managed to get up to ninth in what became a damage limitation race. He may have lost a lot of ground, but the #1 Penske driver refuses to lose hope of defending the #1.

Rossi, as previously mentioned, had his own problems – two incidents in fact, both of which left his car damaged and meant that he got through three front wings during the race. After fighting with Takuma Sato in the early stages of the race, Rossi had caught up to the back of Will Power and was clearly the faster of the two. On the back straight, Rossi went for an overtaking manoeuvre which was just about on however, Rossi misjudged the speed differential between the two and clipped Power’s rear left, breaking his front wing and causing some damage to Power’s suspension. This dropped Rossi down the order, but things were about to get worse.

On the second restart Graham Rahal locked up into Turn 1 and hit the back of Max Chilton before spinning and tangling with Ryan Hunter-Reay who in turn clipped the rear of Rossi’s car, sending the #27 Andretti flying and causing extensive damage to the floor of the car. Even through all that, Rossi managed to finish in a respectable position, coming come in eighth and ahead of Newgarden, gaining ground on him in the championship but all the while losing ground on Dixon.

With Newgarden and Power’s troubles, the latter of whom got caught up in the Rahal collision, it was Simon Pagenaud who was left to fly the Penske flag, finishing in his equal best result of the season in second. After the restart melee, Pagenaud found himself in third, just behind Robert Wickens who held second but that was about to change. Wickens came into the pits first and had a poor out lap, giving Pagenaud the opportunity to overcut him and, despite some fighting on the Frenchman’s out-lap, that was achieved. There was a bit of wheel-banging and Wickens very nearly ended in the wall but both drivers managed to get through it, declaring that there were no hard feelings after the race.

For Wickens, his impressive, season-long, run of form continues with a home podium that he was delighted to stand on, especially given that most his family were in attendance. In fact, it was another good race for the whole Schmidt Peterson team with Wickens in third and last week’s winner, James Hinchcliffe, in fourth – both drivers solidly in the top five is a decent result for the self-proclaimed ‘Team Canada’.

Perhaps one of the surprises of the race was Carlin’s Charlie Kimball who came home in fifth, after challenging Hinchcliffe for fourth in the latter stages of the race. This marks the best result so far for Carlin, who are new to IndyCar this season, and is Kimball’s best result since the 2016 Indy 500. Kimball’s teammate, Chilton, was less fortunate, ending as an innocent party in Rahal’s collision but even so, it was a brilliant weekend for the British team.

Charlie Kimball at Toronto 2018. Image courtesy of Phillip Abbott/LAT for Chevy Racing

Another surprise was who took the accolade of top Andretti; normally this is swapped between Rossi and Hunter-Reay with Marco Andretti and rookie Zach Veach not getting a look in, but it was in fact Veach who came out on top after various incidents for the others. Hunter-Reay had driven into the tyre barriers at the same time that Rossi had driven into Power which all amounted to the first caution before both of them were caught up in the Rahal restart collision. For a long time, it looked like Andretti was going to get a near season best finish of fifth however, there was a miscalculation on the fuel numbers which meant that the American had to come in at the end of the penultimate lap for a splash and dash, dropping him down the order and leaving Veach to claim the position of top Andretti in seventh.

The last mention goes to IndyCar returnee Conor Daly who qualified in a near season’s best for Harding in eleventh (only second to Gabby Chaves’ eighth at St Petersburg) before racing to a season’s best finish of thirteenth. Given that was his first race for Harding and only second of the season (the Indy 500 with Dale Coyne being the first), it was an amazing performance from Daly who is now firmly in the frame for a seat that he so richly deserves next season.

With the only international round of the season done, IndyCar are heading back to American soil with the next race at Mid-Ohio after a weekend off.

Full Race Result:

  1. Scott Dixon
  2. Simon Pagenaud
  3. Robert Wickens (R)
  4. James Hinchcliffe
  5. Charlie Kimball
  6. Tony Kanaan
  7. Zach Veach (R)
  8. Alexander Rossi
  9. Josef Newgarden
  10. Marco Andretti
  11. Jordan King (R)
  12. Ed Jones
  13. Conor Daly
  14. Zachary Claman De Melo (R)
  15. Matheus Leist (R)
  16. Ryan Hunter-Reay
  17. Rene Binder (R)
  18. Will Power
  19. Sebastien Bourdais

DNF – Spencer Pigot, Graham Rahal, Takuma Sato, Max Chilton

Featured image courtesy of by Phillip Abbott/LAT for Chevy Racing

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