Quick Quick Thoughts- Honda Indy Toronto https://t.co/6Qlbh0QPfN- Honda Indy Toronto

Indycar put together another good race. The Honda Indy Toronto was a great follow-up to the great race in Iowa last week. This was a street brawl. Cars banged together, fought for position, went wider than anyone thought possible at Toronto. The race played well on television.

The new aero kit has definitely improved the street course races. They have all seen more passing and action than in year’s past. I hope what we saw last weekend means they have finally figured out the oval configuration. Pocono and Gateway will provide those answers. I’m not sure if there is much to be done on road courses. At Road America Newgarden didn’t run away and hide from Hunter-Reay, but Hunetr-Reay couldn’t pass.

Good Days Spoiled

Marco Andretti had fourth place locked up until he pitted for fuel with two laps to go. Was there a fueling issue on his last stop?

Spencer Pigot was on his way to his second good finish when he hit the wall and had to retire.

Josef Newgarden had the race in hand, and would probably have had a close fight for the win with Scott Dixon when he brushed the wall on a restart. He clawed his way back to 9th, but lost a lot of ground to Dixon in the title chase.

Good Days Rewarded

Simon Pagenaud had his second podium of the season in what has been a frustrating year for the former series champion. The next race at Mid Ohio is a track where he done well. It will be interesting to see if his success carries over.

Tony Kanaan’s sixth place was AJ Foyt Racing’s best result of the year.

Robert Wickens reached the podium in his first home race. Teammate James Hinchcliffe finished fourth. This is the third straight year a Canadian driver has been on the Toronto podium. Hinchcliffe finished third the last two years.

Conor Daly stepped into the 88 Harding Racing car this week. He started 11th and finished thirteenth, Harding’s best overall weekend of the year. Daly is a master of jumping in a car at the last minute and doing well. Harding is looking to put a second car on the grid in 2019. Could Fall be a candidate for that seat?

Charlie Kimball in fifth was the best result for Carlin Racing this year.

Zach Veach finished seventh after starting 22nd.

Dixon in Control of the Title

Dixon’s quest for a fifth championship is looking better. he now leads Newgarden by 62 points. I believe this is the biggest lead this late in a season since Juan Pablo Montoya held a commanding lead in 2015. Dixon has done very little wrong this year, taking as high a finish as he could, then finally breaking through at Detroit for his first 2018 victory. He and Newgarden now lead the series with three wins each.

Dixon has now won 44 races, just 8 behind Mario Andretti. If you don’t appreciate this future legend yet, start now. He definitely belongs with the greats of old.

My full Toronto recap will be on wildfireradiosports.com Tuesday. Wednesday watch this column for a story on the 1956 Indianpolis 500.

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A Home Game for SPM Drivers- Honda Indy Toronto Preview

Photo above from Honda Indy Toronto website

The Verizon Indycar series makes its only trip outside the United States this weekend in Toronto. James Hinchcliffe gets to race at home coming off his victory in Iowa. Teammate Robert Wickens also can claim Toronto as his home track. Look for great results from this pair this weekend.  With Zachary Claman DeMelo also in the field, this is the first time in several years that three Canadian drivers have been in this race.

Indycar has had a long history at Exhibition Place beginning in 1986. The race was off the calendar in 2008, but returned the next year following the merger. This was one of the venues where double headers took place in 2013 and 2014.  Michael Andretti won at Toronto seven times, including three sets of back to back wins in 1991 and 92, 1994 and 95, and 2000 and 2001.

Active drivers who have won previously are Will Power, Sebastien Bourdais, Josef Newgarden, and  Scott Dixon. Power leads active drivers with three wins. Newgarden and Dixon each have won twice. Dixon swept the 2013 doubleheader for his two victories.

The event has the buzz of Indy about it, making it a fun race to attend. After track activity, there is Toronto to explore. This race is definitely worth a trip. Public transportation makes it easy to get to.

Does Honda Street Course Domination Continue?

Hondas have dominated on street circuits this season. Power has had the strongest Chevy on the streets with two seconds and a seventh place finish. He has qualified second twice and third once. Newgarden has not qualified well and although he has three top ten finishes, he hasn’t really been a factor in any of the street events.

Honda has won the pole for all four street races.  Alexander Rossi has won two poles.  This trend should continue. Hondas seem to like tracks with slow corners and short straightaways.

A Great Weekend for the Home Team?

The momentum SPM and Hinchcliffe have from winning Iowa and Honda’s strength on this type of track point to a great weekend for the team. Robert Wickens excelled at St. Pete and is one of the favorites to win his first career Indycar race Sunday.  Wickens has been in contention in most races this season and will be a factor on race day.

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Robert Wickens is one of the favorites for his hometown race. Photo: Mike Silver

Can Dixon Extend His Points Lead?

We are in the part of the season where points are as important as who wins the race. Dixon’s big lead suffered a slight drop last Sunday, but not enough to put his spot in jeopardy. It would be a shock if he had two bad races in a row. I’m not sure if he’ll extend his lead, but he may have a different runner-up chasing him to Mid-Ohio.

Is the Duel Back On?

My picks- Rossi on pole and Wickens winning the race. In a perfect world, they will both start on the front row. Rossi and Wickens could develop into a great rivalry with their different driving styles. Rossi has gained a reputation for his aggressive, unapologetic style on track, while Wickens drives steadily and doesn’t push the envelope.

Daly to drive for Harding

Conor Daly will drive the 88 Harding car this weekend, replacing Gabby Chaves. In a statement from Harding the team states they are looking to audition drivers for a second car next year and want some fresh input on the car. They are also looking at some Indy Lights drivers. Chaves will be back in the car at some point this season has a contract for 2019 with Harding.

Look for my Toronto recap on wildfirradiosports.com early next week. I will catch up on Indycar news in this space mid week, and I plan to have a feature story on a n historic turning point in 500 history.

Road America Thoughts and Other Musings

The race-

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A tight battle on lap 1 for fifth through ninth in Turn 5. Photo: Mike Silver

Not the best I’ve seen, but hardly the worst. I enjoyed watching Josef Newgarden turn in a flawless performance yesterday afternoon. He had pressure from Ryan Hunter-Reay all day long, but the Chevy was too strong on road America’s long straightaways. Alexander Rossi once again nearly stole the headlines from the winner, but not for the reason he usually does. More on the controversy later. Scott Dixon didn’t qualify as well as he hoped- he missed the Fast Six- but managed to be the only leader besides Newgarden to lead any laps. Dixon finished third and increased his points lead.

Best drama of the day happened just before the green flag when Will Power, who started second, was nowhere to be found as the field roared into turn one. An engine issue put him out of the race for his third DNF of the season. Outside of May, Power has really not had a great year. He drops from third to fifth in the title chase.

Tony Kanaan tried to use a four stop strategy to move up, but the caution free race didn’t allow that plan to work. Kanaan finished 14th.

Alexander Rossi- Series Villain?

Indycar has needed rivalries and villains to give the series some spark. Have they found them? The season began with hopes of a Rossi/Newgarden battle for the title. That hasn’t materialized, but a Rossi/Robert Wickens feud may be brewing. Wickens and Rossi collided in turn one at the start. After their collision on the white flag lap at St. Pete, the animosity seemed to have died down. It may be on again. Takuma Sato also took issue with Rossi’s driving in yesterday’s race. He and Rossi had contact in turn 5 later in the race.

Rossi had a suspension problem which dropped him to a 16th place finish. He is now tied with Hunter-Reay for second, 45 points behind Dixon.

I like Rossi’s style. He is bold and relentless and can pass anybody anytime it seems. He is also unapologetic. As long as he isn’t ruining other drivers’ races, I’m fine with his racing.

Road America Renews for Three More Years

Yesterday morning Road America President George Bruggentheis announced that Indycar will return to Elkhart Lake for three more years. This has been one of the more successful events on the calendar. Sunday’s crowd was equal to or may have topped the great attendance in 2016. The track instantly become my favorite road course the moment I entered the track.

On the Flip Side…

The not unexpected news that ISM Raceway in Phoenix would not return in 2019 became official over the weekend.  Crowds were virtually nonexistent and the racing was not great. There was little excitement or presence for the event the two times I went to the race.

It’s sad to lose such a classic track, but the newer cars don’t always perform well on the older tracks.

The series is looking for a replacement in that that calendar slot. Many fans have made many suggestions. It needs to be a warm weather locale, and preferably another oval.

I’m wondering if other schedule changes are in the offing for next season.

On to Iowa

Next up for Indycar is Iowa, the most fun oval on the schedule. You may have heard this before in this space, but I hope this the last daytime race and beginning in 2019 this is again a night race.

I have a couple features planned for later this week and next week. Enjoy the week off.

 

 

Tires, Heat, and Hondas after Sundown- Texas 2018

Remember a few years ago when Texas decided to have twin races on the same night? Last night’s one scheduled race at Texas was two races in one, as Scott Dixon and the other Honda teams came to life after the sun set . Team Penske Chevrolets had swept the first three spots in qualifying and led early, but tire issues affected all three cars. Pole sitter Josef Newgarden and teammates Will Power and Simon Pagenaud had to make early stops to replace blistered tires. Only Pagenaud would be contending at the end.

Dixon, Robert Wickens, and Alexander Rossi showed speed early, and when the Penske cars faded they went to the front. The cooling track favored the Hondas. Pagenaud came back to finish second, fighting off a strong challenge from Rossi. Newgarden faded to 13th, three laps down, and Power crashed into Zachary Claman de Melo just past the 200 lap mark and ended in 18th.

The results again shook up the point standings. Dixon now leads Rossi by 23 points and Power is 36 behind. The fight for the championship will continue until the end. This is a fun battle. Dixon is the third different leader since the 500.

Thoughts and Notes

The early part of the race was processional and not very interesting, but as the track cooled it became turned into a good show. I think the oval aero package needs a tweak or two, hopefully by Pocono.

I appreciate Indycar’s mandate that cars had to use scuffed tires on their first three stops. This is a much better plan than last year requiring a stop every 30 laps.

Rossi and Wickens can pass anyone, anytime, anywhere. These two continue to be the highlight of every race. Rossi had passed more than 50 cars halfway through the race. Wickens looked to have the fastest car of the night, but Ed Carpenter collided with him as Wickens tried to pass on the low side. I still think Wickens will catch a break and win a race this year. Hard to believe he hasn’t broken through yet.

Rossi apparently learned his lesson from Race 2 in Detroit as he conceded second to Pagenaud in the last few laps. Pagenaud came on strong after getting his last set of tires and Rossi’s car didn’t seem to work as well in the high groove as it did early in the race.

Tire wear seemed to affect the Penske cars more than it did the rest of the field.

The pack race many feared never developed. There was, however, some good close racing throughout the field.

Newgarden was the points leader after barber, but now is fifth in points with three finishes outside the top ten in the five races since May.

Good for Ed Carpenter and Will Power for admitting that their mistakes caused the crashes.

It was very cool to see Rossi go to Pagenaud after the race and shake his hand. That was a great battle for second.

Dixon, Power, and Newgarden have each won twice this year.

Pagenaud and James Hinchcliffe, who finished fourth, both needed good results. They had been struggling this season.

Scott Dixon now has 43 victories and now is third on the all time list behind Mario Andretti and A. J. Foyt. Enjoy watching this new legend race while you can. I think with another win or two this season, Dixon has a shot at passing Mario.

Cara Adams- Believe in Yourself

 

Cara Adams, chief engineer for Firestone Racing, has a message for young girls and women. She encouraged them to have a positive mindset and believe in themselves. Adams (center in photo) spoke to members of the Indycar Nation Fan Club today as part of the Fast Cars Fast Girls podcast series.

“Don’t believe people who tell you you can’t do something,” she advised.

Adams came to racing in a roundabout way. Her father was an engineer working for NASA and her mother was a science teacher. Early on she leaned toward science. Neither of her parents were sports fans. She got interested in racing her husband won tickets to the Cleveland Grand Prix. She was most fascinated by the cars. The fascination led to engineering school and eventually a job with Firestone.

Adams contributes to the STEM program which encourages young women to pursue careers in the sciences. She sees herself as having two responsibilities. One is making sure the racing tires are safe. The other is talking to young girls about engineering.

She finds Indycar drivers are “down to earth” people. The only driver she was ever star struck by was Mario Andretti.

Developing tires for the Indianapolis 500 is a project that takes more than a year. Adams said they are already working on next year. She described her May days as 12 nonstop hours.

The drivers rely on Firestone tires. Adams and her team have consistently provided a safe dependable product that has helped Indycar grow.