Josef Newgarden stunned Scott Dixon to take pole for the Honda Indy Toronto event and stunned the championship leader once again on Sunday when he made a costly mistake that handed victory to the Chip Ganassi Racing Honda team.
Dealing with understeer behind the Team Penske driver during his opening stint on Firestone’s alternate tires, Dixon’s car came to life once primary tires were installed. He’d quickly work his way up to Newgarden’s gearbox before the first caution of the race flew for three drivers chasing the lead duo.
A nose-first crash into the Turn 3 tires by Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay on Lap 28 was compounded by contact a few hundred feet behind him between Penske’s Will Power and his attacking teammate Alexander Rossi. With Rossi appearing to mis-time a pass on Power, he broke the front wing main plane from its mounting plates by hitting the back of Power’s car, and with errant bodywork and a stalled Hunter-Reay to resolve, the field was slowed behind the pace car.
With three front-runners taken out of contention, the Lap 34 restart was filled with more insanity as Newgarden pushed too hard coming out of the final corner and understeered from the lead into the wall as Dixon streaked by. Chaos ensued behind them as Rahal Letterman Lanigan’s Graham Rahal hit Carlin Racing’s Max Chilton under braking for Turn 1, and then Rahal was hit while trying to pull away which left his car and those of Chilton, Power, Rossi, Hunter-Reay, and Dale Coyne Racing’s Sebastien Bourdais stalled or damaged — or both — in the middle of the corner.
Prior to the Lap 34 restart melee, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ Robert Wickens executed a daring pass down the inside into Turn 1 and captured second place. Excellent driving by Simon Pagenaud and pit work during the final stop by his Penske team leapfrogged the Frenchman to second where he went after Dixon, who was slowed as Hunter-Reay fought to keep from being lapped.
With his five-second lead over Pagenaud cut to under two seconds, Dixon’s path to Victory Lane was eased once the Andretti driver made a late final stop and he cruised home ahead of the Penske man (+5.2701s) and Wickens who starred in front of his home crowd (+6.7753s).
At the finish line, Dixon also collected plenty of spoils for the CGR team with his third win of the year and a big addition to his points lead over Newgarden who placed ninth as the series heads to the New Zealander’s personal playground at Mid-Ohio.
“Can’t thank everybody enough on the team,” he said after nearly doubling his points lead from 33 to 62. “I don’t do it by myself. The team has done a fantastic job. Yes, we got lucky there with Josef making a mistake, but had we had clean air, I think we would have checked out as well. Focus is definitely on the championship right now. Everyone’s working really well and the mood’s changing in the team.”