Sunday, June 14, 2015

First Impressions: Toronto 2015

1. Sometimes they fall into your lap. That's what happened today. Race started in the wet, the track quickly dried and everyone switched to slicks. Josef Newgarden and Carlos Muñoz made pit stops, a caution came out for James Jakes stalling and they were in the catbird seat as the rest of the field had to pit. Muñoz unfortunately retired but Josef Newgarden went on to dominated and won his second race of his season and his career. Newgarden kept his nose clean, held everyone off and he wasn't caught by a caution. Sometimes they fall into your lap.

2. Luca Filippi finished second, his first career podium in IndyCar. He is a talented driver and this is what he can do. He has had some hiccups but he has four top tens this season. He made a very nice pass on Hélio Castroneves when it appeared Castroneves was going to come out behind Newgarden and it was a massive pass as Filippi's second gave CFH Racing their first 1-2 finish in the teams history.

3. Speaking of Hélio Castroneves, he finished third as he went somewhat off strategy and was able to pit and come out inside the top five. These are the races Castroneves puts together. He doesn't dominate races. He piles up top tens and that's what keeps him in the championship hunt. But while it keeps him in the hunt, it has yet to get him the title and only time will tell if it works this season. So far, though, Castroneves still has some ground to make up.

4. Will Power finished fourth. After everyone switch to slicks, Power wasn't a factor. He couldn't keep up with Newgarden and unfortunately for him, Castroneves was able to come out ahead of him after his pit stop. Power had a podium lined up and it just didn't come his way. He has had a good season after winning his championship but this isn't the Will Power we are use to seeing.

5. Sébastien Bourdais with a fifth at Toronto, his fifth consecutive top ten at Exhibition Place. It's been a solid season for Bourdais. He is constantly on the heels of the Penskes and he has a victory. It would not be surprising if he got another victory this season. As for the championship, it's probably just out of his grasp unless he wins out.

6. Tony Kanaan finished sixth. He led a few laps during the final pit cycle and that was it. Kanaan has never been a great road course driver. He is good on road courses and can run solidly in the top ten but he's not great. Look at the facts. He has two road/street circuit wins in his career and both came pre-reunification IRL. He can qualify in the top ten and stay there but he has never had it to turn a good car into a winning car on a road or street course. That might be tough for some of you to hear.

7. Juan Pablo Montoya scores his best career finish at Toronto with seventh. Prior to that, his best finish at Toronto was 18th. He loses a little ground in the championship but not a lot. Heading to three consecutive ovals (Fontana, Milwaukee, Iowa) could play right into his hand as he looks for his second IndyCar championship.

8. Scott Dixon finished eighth. He was never a factor in this one but he stayed out of harms way and he got a top ten.

9. Graham Rahal was the top Honda in ninth and he made some nice passes, including two in consecutive corners where he passed Takuma Sato in turn four after being side-by-side in turn three and then picked off Simon Pagenaud in turn five, a corner where passing is near impossible.

10. Takuma Sato finished tenth. Not bad. He kept his nose clean and it paid off.

11. Highlights from the back half of the field: Simon Pagenaud finished 11th after starting second. He needs a break. Conor Daly finished 12th after starting 19th. I understand why Schmidt Peterson Motorsports would hire Ryan Briscoe for the remainder of the season but someone has to give Daly a shot. Marco Andretti was the top Andretti car in 13th. As you know from above, Muñoz retired and Ryan Hunter-Reay had a problem on the final lap cost him a few positions. Jack Hawksworth finished 14th and Gabby Chaves was the top rookie in 15th.

12. After the disaster in NOLA, IndyCar has had three good races in the wet. Both Detroit races were pretty good and this one, which some predicted would be mostly laps under yellow, was pretty good. Now the teams get a much-deserved week off. Fontana rounds out June. It could be worse. It could have been Houston.