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Newgarden saves best for last to win Honda Indy Toronto pole position

by Mike Haag | Posted on Saturday, July 14th, 2018

Josef Newgarden with the Verizon P1 Award flag after winning the pole position for the Honda Indy Toronto — Photo by: Chris Jones

 

Courtesy of the Verizon IndyCar Series

TORONTO – Josef Newgarden took greatest advantage of constantly changing conditions in Honda Indy Toronto qualifying to win the Verizon P1 Award and pole position for the 34th Indy car race to be conducted at Exhibition Place on Sunday.

Josef Newgarden affixes the Verizon P1 Award emblem to his car after winning the pole position for the Honda Indy Toronto — Photo by: Chris Jones

The reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion and defending Toronto winner was the last driver to take the track in the Firestone Fast Six, the third and final round of knockout qualifying on the 11-turn, 1.786-mile temporary street course. Newgarden’s final lap in the six-minute climactic session was the last lap run by anyone and, at 59.4956 seconds (108.068 mph), earned the No. 1 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet driver his fourth pole of the season and sixth of his seven-year Verizon IndyCar Series career.

HONDA INDY TORONTO: Official qualifying results

The three rounds of qualifying took place in varying conditions – starting wet from rain and drying out when it subsided, only to see light precipitation return for the Firestone Fast Six. Despite the slick track, drivers in the final round opted for Firestone’s dry-condition alternate tires, with Newgarden waiting as long as possible to begin his run.

Josef Newgarden hammers through Turn 1 during practice for the Honda Indy Toronto — Photo by: Matt Fraver

“We went out a little later which, I thought if we could keep the minimum amount of laps on the tires, the better,” said Newgarden, whose bonus point earned for winning the pole closed him within 32 points of championship leader Scott Dixon, who qualified second.

“The last lap, I could feel it was getting better and better,” Newgarden added of the track conditions. “I’m like, ‘I’ve got to go for it here. I know that we can get the pole so I’m going to go for it.’ I gave it everything I had and that’s what we came up with, man.”

Newgarden has won the Verizon P1 Award in three of the last four races this season and qualified second in the other race. His first Toronto pole is Indy car pole position No. 262 in the 51-year history of Team Penske – more than any other team.

Scott Dixon hammers the apex of Turn 1 during practice for the Honda Indy Toronto — Photo by: Matt Fraver

Dixon set a lap record for the current track configuration, 58.5546 seconds (109.805 mph), in Round 2, eclipsing the standard established last year by Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud (59.9124 seconds). The four-time Verizon IndyCar Series champion blamed himself for not putting the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda on the pole, with his lap of 59.6920 seconds (107.713 mph) in the Firestone Fast Six falling short of Newgarden’s pole-winning lap.

“I’m a bit disappointed and (mad) at myself for not putting the PNC Bank car on pole position,” Dixon said. “I feel bad for my team as well, as they gave me a car capable of doing it. I made a mistake in Turn 5 and that cost me a few tenths.

“All in all, it’s not terrible starting on the front row, but when you know you had one and then let it get away, it hurts a little bit.”

Simon Pagenaud dives into Turn 11 during practice for the Honda Indy Toronto — Photo by: Chris Jones

Pagenaud qualified third in the No. 22 DXC Technology Team Penske Chevrolet, with a lap of 59.7630 seconds (107.585 mph). Teammate Will Power was fourth in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet (59.8818, 107.372 mph).

Andretti Autosport teammates Alexander Rossi and Ryan Hunter-Reay will start in Row 3 on Sunday. Rossi qualified the No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda fifth (1:00.6273, 106.051 mph), with Hunter-Reay sixth in the No. 28 DHL Honda (1:00.6615, 105.991 mph).

Hometown favorites and Schmidt Peterson teammates James Hinchcliffe and Robert Wickens qualified ninth and 10th, respectively. Conor Daly, driving in his first race weekend since the Indianapolis 500 in May, qualified the No. 88 Harding Group Chevrolet 11th.

Sunday’s 85-lap race airs live at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN, SportsNet 360 and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network. A final 30-minute warmup practice starts at 11:40 a.m. and streams live on RaceControl.IndyCar.comyoutube.com/indycar and the INDYCAR Mobile app.

Mazda Road to Indy race recap

The Mazda Road to Indy development ladder sanctioned by INDYCAR has doubleheader weekends scheduled for all three levels at Toronto. The first race in each series took place Saturday.

• Patricio O’Ward (Andretti Autosport) led all 35 laps of the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires race, avoiding incidents and spinning cars behind him as the latter stages encountered wet track conditions from rain. O’Ward started second and passed teammate and pole sitter Colton Herta on the opening lap.

Herta, who sustained a non-displaced fracture at the base of his left thumb when he crashed into a tire barrier at the conclusion of morning qualifying, made hard contact with the wall in the race and finished seventh. He will be evaluated by the INDYCAR medical staff Sunday to determine his status for the second weekend race.

• Rinus VeeKay (Juncos Racing) won a wild Pro Mazda Championship presented by Cooper Tires race which included a spectacular incident that sent the car of Harrison Scott airborne into the Turn 3 runoff after it made contact with the car of Sting Ray Robb. Scott emerged unhurt. More than half of the 14-car field was eliminated in incidents throughout the 25-lap race.

• Kyle Kirkwood (Cape Motorsports) passed pole sitter Dakota Dickerson (ArmsUp Motorsports) heading into the first turn of the opening lap and drove on to his fifth consecutive win in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship powered by Mazda. Kirkwood won the 20-lap race by 0.3613 of a second.

‘What They’re Saying’ from Honda Indy Toronto qualifying

JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 1 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet, Verizon P1 Award winner): “I thought I steered us in the wrong direction for a moment. We went out a little later, which to me, I thought if we could keep the minimum amount of laps on the tires, the better. The risk is if it starts raining heavier during the session, then that’s the wrong choice because you need to be out there early getting a lap. But fortunately, it started drying up toward the end. In the middle, I thought I made the wrong decision because it was raining more intensely. And then those last two laps, it just got progressively better and I knew that last lap was going to be the one to nail it. And the car has been incredible this weekend. The Hitachi car has been fast. We haven’t had to do too much. We started a little bit slow, but then found our rhythm this morning. The guys did a great job. The team has been working well together. We got all three of us (Team Penske drivers) in the (Firestone) Fast Six, so that’s all you can ask for, I think, on a day like today. And so now we go to tomorrow and focus on the race.”

MATHEUS LEIST (No. 4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “Pretty good qualifying. I have to say thanks to my team. We kept working hard since the first practice and kept developing and improving the car. We made it to the top 12, which I was not expecting. I’m pretty happy to be honest, I think we might have a great car for the race, too, and I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 5 Arrow Electronics SPM Honda): “That last lap was everything we had. I made that mistake out of Turn 8 the lap before, which first lap on those sticker (tires), is usually the best. Who knows what that lap could have been… The lap after, we were kind of building on that and we got thrown a curveball, so that’s my fault. The Arrow Electronics car was getting better every session and the rain and these conditions kind of threw us for a loop. It’s a shame. I think if we hadn’t had that spin, we might have been able to transfer into the Firestone Fast Six. Proud of the SPM guys – it’s been a bit of a struggle this weekend. We’re keeping our heads honest. We can race from here and try to give the hometown fans a good result.”

ROBERT WICKENS (No. 6 Lucas Oil SPM Honda): 
“We ended up switching the Lucas Oil car back to a dry car setup before qualifying. I think being in Group 2 is a bit of a handicap because everyone in Group 1 didn’t end up using any alternates and were quicker in Round 2 with that leftover set of reds (Firestone alternate tires). We were the only car that went out there on blacks (Firestone primary tires) on the first run and it started raining. We maybe went a little too early on to the reds to make sure we could get a red lap in for the Firestone Fast Six, but it wasn’t enough today. Tomorrow is a new day, and I’m just looking forward to putting the helmet back on and racing in front of the hometown crowd.” 

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): “I’m a bit disappointed and pissed at myself for not putting the PNC Bank car on pole position. I feel bad for my team as well, as they gave me a car capable of doing it. I made a mistake in Turn 5 and that cost me a few tenths. All in all, it’s not terrible starting on the front row, but when you know you had one and then let it get away, it hurts a little bit.”

ED JONES (No. 10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): “It was a tough session for us. It was the first time we ran in the wet all weekend in the NTT DATA car. The No. 9 team elected to go with a full wet setup, and we went full dry. It obviously started raining, and we struggled with traction. On my lap, I just lost the rear end of the car and there was nothing I could do about it. So, it was super frustrating and we had time in the car to advance, for sure. Now we have a lot of work to do tomorrow, but I’m sure the team is up for it.”

WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): 
“I just made a mistake on that one lap. I had a pretty good lap going, and caught the wet cement there that forced me out wide there. A little disappointing because we should have been further up, but that’s racing. No one makes mistakes these days. Qualifying means everything.”

TONY KANAAN (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet):
 “We had a dry setup on, and then with the rain, I don’t think we responded accordingly, so we paid the price. Tomorrow is the race, so we’ll try to make something out of it.”

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 Rousseau Honda): “The whole session was influenced by weather, but that’s not necessarily the reason we’re where we are. We didn’t have enough to advance to the next round, which is frustrating. Our car in the dry is really strong, but not in the wet. We’ll have to work hard overnight to make sure we have a good race car. The good thing is we do have six sets of new tires for the race. We’ve got three sets of reds (Firestone alternate tires) that are brand new and also three sets of blacks (Firestone primary tires), so we’ve got tires for days over these guys. And if the wear on the reds is a factor, it could play into our hands. And if it’s not and the reds do last and they are quicker, it could play into our hands even more. We’ll see how it goes in the morning warmup. I’m clearly disappointed for both myself and Takuma (Sato) after the way this weekend started. I don’t think any of us saw ourselves in this position.”

ZACHARY CLAMAN DE MELO (No. 19 Paysafe Honda): 
“We made the right call by going out with the Firestone reds (alternate tires) on our No. 19 Paysafe car immediately at the start of qualifying. There were only a few of us on dry tires and the times were definitely faster on those. Unfortunately, everyone else had the time to come in and change tires and we ended up at the bottom of the timesheet when all was said and done. That said, it’s been extremely fun to drive an Indy car here. The fans are great, the course is great and I’m really excited for the race tomorrow.”

JORDAN KING (No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet): “That was a really tricky qualifying session with it raining, then it got dry and then started raining again. We did a good job in the first session on the wet tires. We got through to the second round by a few tenths, but I knew that would be the hard one. Group 2 had already had some running on the slicks and had a feel for how the track was where we had just been out in the rain. Even with it being a bit greasy, I set my fastest time of the weekend, so I feel I upped my own performance a bit. We really worked on the car and ironed out a lot of the issues we’d had so far this weekend. The car is back up there where it should be, where we have been in the past. I think we could have snuck inside the top six, but I was taking a small margin because you could still see rain on your visor. I’m happy with it, but it was close.”

SPENCER PIGOT (No. 21 Preferred Freezer Service Chevrolet): “We just put the red (Firestone alternate) tires on too soon. We started the session with them, and by the end of it, when the track was at its best and its driest, we had already used the tires up. We were pretty high up throughout most of the session, but times picked up pretty quick there at the end. The timing wasn’t right to put on a second set; but in hindsight, we should have done blacks (Firestone primary tires) then reds. That was the original plan, but the weather threw a curveball at us. It’s a little disappointing, as we’ve been so quick. We know the car can be fast, so tomorrow we’ll get the Preferred Freezer Services car moving in the right direction. We’ll have a lot of work to do in the race, we were pretty confident we would be advancing today. We were just a little too eager on the dry tires and wore them out too quick.”

SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 22 DXC Technology Team Penske Chevrolet): “Well, I’ve had worse days, so this is nice. I mean, it’s obviously great for Team Penske because we’ve been struggling a bit on the street course package, and we’re showing this weekend the improvement brought to the team, so really glad to see all three of us in the (Firestone) Fast Six. The car was great, honestly, and the session was a lot of fun. Those are my favorite conditions when it changes, and you really have to adapt and take chances and it was a lot of fun. The track is really, really awesome to drive with this package and these cars. Could I have done better? For sure, I think we could both do better, but pretty satisfied with third and being with my teammate (Will Power) over here.”

CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 23 Novo Nordisk Chevrolet): “It was another learning experience for the team today with the session going from wet to dry, but I think we definitely made the right call starting on the Firestone alternates. When we came in and put the second set of alternates on and went back out, we unfortunately just caught the checkered flag first, and with the track rubbering in and getting faster every lap, we lost a few tenths, which could’ve made the difference in where we ended and advancing to the second round. Regardless of how it ended, it was a great learning experience for the team especially with us and the No. 59 car splitting strategies with tires. It’s not where we wanted to be and it’s not where the speed of the No. 23 Novo Nordisk Chevrolet is, but I think tomorrow with good pit stops and a good strategy we can move forward.”

ZACH VEACH (No. 26 Relay Group 1001 Honda): 
“We started off on wet (tires) and put on a set of Firestone reds (alternate tires) and went for it. The track just kept going faster and faster and I think we used our reds a couple laps too early. The only option I had to try and transfer was to try and make something big happen on the last lap. I must have hit the wall three times before I even got to the last corner, and I needed probably one more tenth and just pushed too hard and lost the car. Unfortunately, we lost our lap, so we should be starting from 14th, but we’re starting on the back row. We have a long day ahead of us tomorrow, but if it’s meant to happen, it will.”

ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda): “Pretty disappointed, really. I think the first session we were competitive. We were in the wet. We were out there with Scott (Dixon), and it was a pretty easy job to kind of do that lap and transfer. The second round was completely dry, and we weren’t mega, but we were kind of on a conservative setup still. We felt pretty confident in the No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS car going into Round 3. It started to rain a little bit again, but it didn’t completely take away the track from us and just didn’t have the pace for some reason. We were a second — me and Ryan (Hunter-Reay) were a second off of the front row. Very disappointing. I thought we had a car to fight for pole, especially after this morning, so row three is not great.”

RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): 
“We’re just trying to make the car better and find the balance that I need out of it, but it’s so easy to touch a wall here and there. We got it closer today in the dry (qualifying) session when we were P2, but we just didn’t have it with a little bit of moisture and we were sliding around too much. We just have to pick up and make a good race car from here.”

TAKUMA SATO (No. 30 Mi-Jack / Panasonic Honda): “We were very competitive the entire weekend so far. Qualifying was tricky. It started off in rain conditions, then damp, then it started to dry. We decided to do a slightly different strategy, which was that we started off on new reds (Firestone alternate tires), then halfway through we changed to the new blacks (Firestone primary tires), which seem to be quite durable. We had a little degradation problem with the first set of the new tires. It seemed to be still drizzling, so the track conditions were not as good as we thought. Perhaps the softer compound, the red tire, had maybe a little more premium grip and we lost out by a tenth (of a second) to be P6 (sixth fastest; to advance to Round 3). It’s a pity, but we tried. What we know is we have a strong race car, so hopefully, we have a good pace tomorrow.”

RENE BINDER (No. 32 Binderholz tiptop timber Chevrolet): “It was a really short and tricky qualifying session due to the red flag. We did a great job in the first outing running P7 until the red flag. We only had time for one lap for the second outing and I was not going to risk too much. We will start P19 tomorrow and we look forward to a solid race.” 

MAX CHILTON (No. 59 Gallagher Chevrolet): “It was a hectic qualifying session. We started out on wets (rain tires) and decided quickly to come back in for Firestone reds (alternate tires), which I think was absolutely the right decision. We just kept getting quicker throughout the session, but unfortunately, so did most everyone else. It just didn’t come together for us in qualifying, but I’m still very confident in what we can do tomorrow during the race with the No. 59 Gallagher Chevrolet.”

CONOR DALY (No. 88 Harding Group Chevrolet): “Well today was great. We saw some improvements in P3, but we just got balked on our fastest lap there. To go out on the rain tires that I’ve never driven on either, and it’s a new tire with a whole new situation on the street course, but I love the rain. We had one lap to do it and we did it, so I was over the moon happy. I have to thank Chevy for dialing us in there and all the No. 88 Harding Racing guys because we made improvements every session. We went half a second quicker than we’ve gone in the dry in Q2, so coming out 11th, as well, is just awesome. It’s such a big boost for the weekend because qualifying has always been a struggle of mine for sure, but to come out and do it like that is nice.”

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 98 Oberto Circle K / Curb Honda): “It’s definitely a disappointing result. We had a great car and should have definitely been fighting for the pole position. We came in for the Firestone reds (alternate tires) too early, and when the track was dry enough to give it our fastest lap, our tires had already past that point. Not happy that we didn’t get the result the Oberto/Circle K car deserved, but we’ll race our tails off tomorrow and fight for the win.”

About the Author

Mike Haag has covered motorsports in San Antonio and South Texas for more than 30 years. In addition to working for the San Antonio Express-News for nearly 28 years, Mike also has co-hosted TrackSmack with Dawn Murphy for 15 race seasons. In addition to being a writer, Mike also teaches English at Floresville High School.