Sunday, July 16, 2017

First Impressions: Toronto 2017

1. Timing is everything and Josef Newgarden entered the pit lane at the right time, as Tony Kanaan slid into the tire barrier in turn one after locking it up after he had just made his pit stop. Newgarden went from fourth to first in a blink of an eye as the rest of the front-runners had yet to stop and no one who had stopped before the Tennessean leapfrogged him in the running order. Newgarden was also fortunate that Ed Jones and Charlie Kimball stayed out and created a buffer between himself and Alexander Rossi. Newgarden was never challenged once he got the lead. He didn't put a wheel wrong and it paid off with his second victory of the season and his second victory at Toronto.

2. Speaking of Alexander Rossi, he held on for a second-place finish. He had a good car but was stuck on the edge of the top five. He leapfrogged James Hinchcliffe on the first round of pit stops and he couldn't get by Jones after that restart, allowing Newgarden to pull away. It was a good day for Rossi after a rough stretch of races since the start of the summer.

3. Another year starting sixth at Toronto and another year finishing third at Toronto, as James Hinchcliffe stands on the podium again in his home race. He struggled on the first stint but, like Rossi, he benefitted when Kanaan put it in the tires. From that point on he was fine. He couldn't challenge Rossi for second but he wasn't challenged for third either. He ran much better on the primary tires and he got a good finish.

4. Marco Andretti picks up his first top five finish since Fontana in 2015. Andretti caught a break with the caution but he had a solid car and held his own at the front. He held off his teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay and then he held off a late charge by Simon Pagenaud. This was a really good weekend as a whole for Andretti.

5. Simon Pagenaud rounded out the top five. He didn't make the most of his pole position, as he was blown by at the start by his teammate Hélio Castroneves for the lead but Pagenaud got around the Brazilian during the middle stint of the race and was able to put some space between him and his teammate. This was a really good day for the Frenchman and he picked up fastest lap at 60.2357 seconds.

6. Ryan Hunter-Reay finished sixth after losing a tough battle with Pagenaud for fifth. He benefitted from the Kanaan caution but sometimes you catch a break. This is Hunter-Reay's first top ten finish at Toronto since he won the race in 2012. Hunter-Reay had some rotten luck at Toronto but he has also had some rotten luck in 2017 as a whole. He finished third at Iowa, he finished sixth today and maybe Hunter-Reay can put together some finishes at the end of the season to help him climb up the championship and maybe he steals a victory.

7. Max Chilton finished seventh in what was a quiet day. He didn't do anything flashy. He said he didn't overtake anybody on the race track all race. He benefitted from his teammate's misfortune, he kept his nose clean and he leapfrogged a few faster cars on the final pit stop. It might not be a performance to show off but it is a respectable result nonetheless.

8. Hélio Castroneves made a ballsy move on the inside of turn one from third on the grid to take the lead and led the first quarter of the race until the Kanaan caution shuffled him back in the running order. Once that happened, he never really had a shot at victory.

9. Graham Rahal was caught out by the Kanaan caution and he could only manage a ninth-place finish. He was running third at the time and he never really threatened Castroneves and Pagenaud for position. I am sure this is a frustrating result because the car was better than ninth but it is still a good day.

10. Scott Dixon may be the second winner of today because he was hit by Will Power in turn three on lap one, had to pit for a flat left rear tire and repairs to the brake duct and Dixon had to serve a penalty for pitting when the pit lane was closed and he still managed to finish tenth but even better than that he kept the championship lead with Dixon holding a three-point advantage over Castroneves. This day could have been much worse.

11. Sebastián Saavedra gets an 11th-place finish in a substitute role for Mikhail Aleshin. This was a good day for Saavedra. He kept his nose clean, he completed every lap and he was in contention for a top ten finish. I am not sure what this means for him. It seems like Aleshin was just benched for a race but if Aleshin puts a wheel wrong in another race or two before the season is out I wouldn't be surprised if Saavedra gets a call to do another race.

12. Charlie Kimball went off strategy at the start and could only manage a 12th-place finish.

13. J.R. Hildebrand had nothing all day and finished 13th.

14. Esteban Gutiérrez gets a 14th-place finish and finishes ahead of his teammate Ed Jones, who had a mechanical issue end his race ten laps early. Carlos Muñoz rounded out the top 15. Takuma Sato made contact with Spencer Pigot and both had to make unscheduled stops. It was a shame because Pigot was the darling of the first stint, driving from P13 to P5 by making audacious passes on the likes of Kanaan, Andretti and Hunter-Reay. Conor Daly had another long day.

15. Speaking of Kanaan, he lost two laps after getting into the tires and could only manage a 19th-place finish.

16. And now for Will Power. His race was over before turn four. Even worse is he won't even be credited with completing a lap because of where the pit lane is located. This is a tough blow to his championship hopes.

17. The rain somehow held off. It looked like it was going to start raining any time after lap 30 in this race. I still think this race should have started earlier. It started a half hour after the NASCAR race and that race started at 3:15 p.m. ET and both races were in the Eastern Time Zone. The weather was beautiful at noon in Toronto. The race could have started then and been completed with enough time for an hour pre-race show for the NASCAR race on NBCSN.

If the race started at noon, it would be over by 2:00 pm. If that was the case, since there would be so much time left in the day, IndyCar could put on a post-race party with driver appearances and a post-race autograph session while the Indy Lights race closed out the day. I understand why the race started as late as it did but I think there is an advantage to starting earlier and it could make for a fun event off the track for fans in attendance.

18. We get a week off before Mid-Ohio. It should be another good one.