It was far from a total domination of the action from start to finish, however when pit strategy showed itself in supreme formation during Sunday’s 30th anniversary edition of the Honda Indy Toronto at the Exhibition Place street circuit, Team Penske’s Will Power seized the opportunity and never looked back to secure his second consecutive Verizon IndyCar Series road course victory.
Starting from the fourth position on the starting grid Sunday, Power ran behind pole winner Scott Dixon and his Penske teammate Helio Castroneves in the opening fuel two runs, but when the opportunity to make the end on fuel arrived on lap 57 of the 85-lap event, the Australian took to the pit lane for fuel and tires and then was immediately gifted when a full course caution come out a lap later, when Josef Newgarden lost control at turn five and suffered hard contact with the barriers.
Newgarden, who prevailed in the most recent IndyCar Series event at Iowa Speedway last weekend, has been nursing injuries since suffering a serious crash in the aborted event at Texas Motor Speedway in June will be re-evaluated on Monday before being allowed by series officials and doctors to compete in two weeks time at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. The Tennessee native’s 22nd place finish on Sunday, also proved costly in terms of the ECR driver’s chances of winning the 2016 series title as he entered the Toronto event second in the championship.
Following the Newgarden caution, Tony Kanaan moved to the lead, yet was expected to have to pit late for fuel, which occurred eight laps from the conclusion as the lead shifted to Power, who held a comfortable ten second lead on Castroneves. The Brazilian however, would receive one final chance to take the win away from his teammate when the caution flag flew again four laps from the finish, when contact involving championship leader Simon Pagenaud and Jack Hawksworth occurred entering turn three. Hawksworth found the barriers, while Pagenaud’s teammate Juan Pablo Montoya was also involved in the shunt, continuing a difficult recent run of results for the Colombian veteran.
Despite losing his advantage, Power held off Castroneves on the final restart with a lap to run and then cruised on to take the victory, with his teammate settling for second. The large number of Canadian IndyCar fans would leave Exhibition Place satisfied though, as Ontario’s own James Hinchcliffe held on to finish third to complete the podium. The late yellow proved to be a potential race saver for the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ pilot who may have needed a late splash for fuel before the finish without it.
After his fuel only stop before the finish, Kanaan would come home in fourth, with Takuma Sato and Mikhail Aleshin completing the top six. Despite taking turns upfront early, Sebastien Bourdais and Scott Dixon were both caught out by the Newgarden caution that would jumble up the running order and as a result would finish seventh and eighth respectively, with points leader Simon Pagenaud placing ninth. After struggling through a difficult first half of the 2016 campaign, Marco Andretti fought strongly to complete the top ten after starting 22nd and last on Sunday.
With Mid-Ohio next up on the Verizon IndyCar Series slate in two weeks, Pagenaud currently holds a 47-point lead on Power his smallest edge since the Frenchman led following the third race of the season at Long Beach.