Scott Dixon was fastest in first practice, fastest in second practice and fastest in the morning warmup. He qualified second, and he was disappointed.
But Dixon didn’t let that disappointment get the better of him when he hit the race track for the race on the Streets of Toronto.
“I was disappointed in myself yesterday [in qualifying] to kind of give that one away,” Dixon said post-race. “I think we really had the speed to get it done, and I made a mistake.”
Today’s race, though, was an event where Dixon didn’t put a wheel wrong, even when his competitors did.
Following the first caution period on Lap 28 for Ryan Hunter-Reay’s contact with the wall, race leader Josef Newgarden got into the marbles in turn 11 as the drivers approached the restart. Newgarden smacked the wall, damaging the car and allowing Dixon to glide past the race leader. It was a move that helped Dixon scoot away with the win.
“It’s quickly thinking ‘I can’t believe this is happening,’ to I get to one and three and I’m like ‘I don’t want to do the same thing.’,” Dixon said. “It’s very nerve-racking. Backing up into the restart, we had been under caution for three or four laps and it didn’t seem like Josef was in any hurry to warm up his tires which I thought was kind of bold.”
Newgarden was able to continue but limped his car home to a less than stellar ninth-place finish for the man who came into the race second in points.
Meanwhile, after Newgarden’s incident in turn 11, the action picked up again in turn one.
Graham Rahal locked up his tires, making contact with Max Chilton. The incident resulted in a five-car pileup that made already bad days for Hunter-Reay and Will Power, who had been battling a suspension issue, worse. Alexander Rossi was also caught up in the incident.
From then on, Dixon’s biggest rival for the race win in Newgarden was out of contention but he wasn’t able to sail on smoothly home, yet.
Dixon found himself stuck behind Hunter-Reay for several laps as he fought to stay on the tail end of the lead lap. Being held up by the No. 28 DHL Honda allowed second-place Simon Pagenaud and third-place Robert Wickens to catch up. Unfortunately for them, they couldn’t close enough and Dixon won his third race in the last six events.
Wickens, the Guelph, Ont. native, finished on the bottom step of the podium just behind Pagenaud in his first foray at street racing in his home country. With hundreds of friends and family at the track, Wickens delivered in front of the home crowd.
“All in all, I thought it was a great day. Little bit of a loss words to be on the podium here. It’s just so cool,” Wickens said.
Wickens wasn’t the only Canadian to harbor a great result. His Schmidt-Peterson Motorsports teammate James Hinchcliffe wound up fourth after finishing on the podium the last two years in his hometown. For Hinchcliffe, it’s a humbling experience every time he gets to race in front of his fellow Torontonians.
“Before I was a driver I was the kid with a hero card and a sharpie chasing Greg [Moore], Mario and Michael [Andretti] and all those guys around the paddock,” he said. “For me to be on the other side of it now is a huge privilege. Giving back as best I can and trying to share the experience with as many people as I can is what I love doing.”
Rounding out the top-five finishers was Charlie Kimball. Kimball’s top-five was his best result of the season, and the first top-five ever for Carlin Racing. Kimball even led a lap in the middle of green-flag pit stops, another first for the Trevor Carlin-led team.
Strong races also propelled Tony Kanaan and Zach Veach to much needed sixth- and seventh-place finishes. Rossi and Newgarden were eighth and ninth, while their Andretti Autosport teammate Marco Andretti finished 10th after pitting on the white flag lap for a splash of fuel. Andretti was running an impressive fourth when he pulled into the pits.
The other Canadian in the race, Zachary Claman de Melo, finished 14th. It was his second best finish of the season in his last scheduled start for Dale Coyne Racing.
“I had a strong year. The results weren’t always there but the pace has been good. I improved every race as a driver,” Claman de Melo said after starting shot gun on the field. “I think I showed I have the pace. Kept the car out of the wall most of the year which is always good. Makes team owners happy. The goal is to be back maybe this year and hopefully do a full year next year.”
Japan’s Takuma Sato finished 22nd after starting seventh and making progress through the field early. Sato showed consistent speed all weekend near the top of the charts, but contact with the wall in turn 11 on Lap 66 ended his day early.
Dixon increased his point lead to 62 over Newgarden after the race. The next time the Verizon IndyCar Series will hit the track will be at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course where Dixon has won five times.