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Simon Pagenaud dominates Honda Indy Toronto for third win of season

by racedaysaeditor | Posted on Sunday, July 14th, 2019

Simon Pagenaud. Photo by Shawn Gritzmacher

 

Courtesy of the NTT IndyCar Series

TORONTO  – French driver Simon Pagenaud of Team Penske showed the NTT IndyCar Series how to celebrate Bastille Day.

Start of the Honda Indy Toronto race. Photo by Chris Owens

Pagenaud capped a near-perfect weekend in Canada by dominating the Honda Indy Toronto, scoring his third victory of the season – the 14th of his career – on France’s national day.

The pole sitter led 80 of the 85 laps at Exhibition Place and held back five-time series champion Scott Dixon of Chip Ganassi Racing in the late going to score his first victory on the 11-turn, 1.786-mile temporary street circuit.

“I’m very proud to fly the French flag here in a cousin country, which is Canada,” said Pagenaud, the winner of this year’s Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge. “I guess (countryman Julian Alaphilippe) is leading the Tour de France today on the bike. I felt like I had to do the same.”

Official results: Honda Indy Toronto

Pagenaud was only threatened a couple of times, the first being in the opening-lap dash to Turn 1. Dixon challenged him but couldn’t execute the pass. From there, Pagenaud began building a lead, which became eight seconds before he incurred traffic in the final laps.

Simon Pagenaud. Photo by Joe Skibinski

“We took off and the car handled really well,” Pagenaud said, driver of the No. 22 DXC Technology Chevrolet. “We definitely had an advantage on the tire wear. I knew we had a really good race car. We were able to match the Honda power (of Dixon) pretty well; (it) helped us to perform even better, so thanks to Chevy.”

Said Dixon: “(Pagenaud’s) straight-line speed was ridiculous today, to be honest.”

Dixon’s No. 9 PNC Bank Honda was hampered by wall contact early in the race. He drove the rest of the way with the steering wheel misaligned.

“I made a mistake, a pretty big mistake, probably around Lap 12 or 15 where I hit the inside wall on (Turn) 9,” he said. “Bent the suspension pretty bad. I thought I had a (tire) puncture.”

Scott Dixon, Simon Pagenaud and Alexander Rossi. Photo by Joe Skibinski

Alexander Rossi of Andretti Autosport finished third, one position ahead of series points leader Josef Newgarden of Team Penske. The first four finishers are the top four drivers in the standings heading to Saturday night’s Iowa 300, a short-oval race at Iowa Speedway.

With Rossi, Dixon and Rossi finishing ahead of Newgarden, the championship race tightened. Rossi drew to four points with six races remaining. Pagenaud, who scored the maximum number of points in this race, is 39 points of the lead with Dixon 86 back.

Ontario native James Hinchcliffe of Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports finished sixth in his home race. He was the driver who advanced the highest number of positions (eight) among the entire field.

Another Toronto-area native – driver Robert Wickens, who finished third here last year – gave the race an inspirational start by driving a specially prepared Acura NSX. Wickens, who is rehabilitating use of his legs following a racing accident 11 months ago, used hand controls developed by Arow to drive around the track and gave the command to start the race.

Wickens’ fiancé, Karli Woods, rode with him during the two laps around the track.

To watch today’s race highlights in less than seven minutes, visit https://youtu.be/Q-KQ8xnK_fw0

‘What They’re Saying’ from Honda Indy Toronto

JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 2 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet): “It has been a tough weekend – hasn’t been my strongest weekend, for sure. I had a flat hit against the wall in Turn 11 there with a handful (of laps) to go. I was smelling blood on (Alexander) Rossi a little bit and trying to get another position. But I think I sealed our fate on the No. 2 car in qualifying. Starting fifth was tough. When a race goes green like that, where you are is where you are going to finish. You can make some up in the pit stops, but we just didn’t have enough today to overhaul Rossi and (Scott) Dixon. That was my goal coming into today, was trying to get up to second. We knew that if Simon (Pagenaud) had a clean start, that he was going to be tough to beat. Getting on the podium was our goal. But for having a tough weekend and to finish fourth isn’t a bad thing. The Hitachi car looked good and felt good. It just wasn’t enough. And thanks to Chevy. They gave us a good package this weekend and that’s how we fought so hard.”

MATHEUS LEIST (No. 4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “Not the position we wanted to finish here in Toronto. We, unfortunately, got caught in the first lap incident. I just had nowhere to go and ended up crashing there, then stalled the car and then we ended up going a lap down. We came in, changed the tires, the front wing and everything, and we were waiting for a yellow so we could get our lap back, but it never happened. So, that was a shame, but it is what it is. The car was the best it’s been since Friday’s Practice 1 here. Car felt pretty good, pretty decent. I was comfortable driving it. I feel like I managed to improve and get used to it through the run because it was a totally different car from what we had been running through practice and qualifying. Overall, not the result we wanted, but there is a good sign that I think we might have found something – a good way and a good direction for the next couple races. Just happy to be here, it’s a nice place, a nice racetrack and looking forward to the next one.”

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda):“Obviously, the tire strategies across the board were pretty identical. The fuel strategy was pretty identical. There were no yellows to close the gaps and give us a chance on restarts. So, from starting 14th, picking up eight spots to finish sixth is a pretty solid day. The Arrow car was really strong and the guys were good in the pits. We had to save a little more fuel at the end there than other guys, so I didn’t have enough to attack (Felix) Rosenqvist there, but honestly, from where we started, to how the day played out, I think we can be pretty proud of that.”  

MARCUS ERICSSON (No. 7 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda): “Today was probably one of my better races of the year, to be honest, even though the result is obviously very disappointing and not where we want to be. I had a good start, passed one or two cars on the first lap and then there was an incident in Turn 8. I managed to avoid it and stop, and I was about to turn around when someone came and hit me, which broke the suspension in the rear. The Arrow guys did a great job to fix the car. Obviously, we lost a lot of laps, so it was a tough race from then on, but after that, the pace we showed was great; we were the fastest car for nearly the whole race and set the fastest lap. I think that shows the potential we had. We just need to keep believing in what we’re doing, keep working hard, put together a weekend and we’ll be right up there fighting for podiums and wins again.” 

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): “I had some heavy contact with the wall around Lap 12 or 15. That’s why I slowed down, and (Alexander) Rossi got right on me really hard, so the rest of the race, the steering was just on a big angle. It really wasn’t that bad in some corners, but then in others it was really loose on entry. And by that point, we were just trying to maintain; but I felt like once we got to the final stint, the car was really good and we were able to close in on Simon (Pagenaud). But it’s just so hard to pass here. I felt like we really just weren’t able to get close enough to get a good run on the straights. But, the black (Firestone primary) tires did really well today. The PNC Bank guys were super strong; we just didn’t have enough to make a pass. I think, had we got past him, we would’ve been able to drive away.”
  
FELIX ROSENQVIST (No. 10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): “Having been in the front all weekend in the NTT DATA/CESSNA car, I was hoping we’d have our first podium here. That was the target, but I tried to limit my expectations. We had a tough start. The start itself was not too bad, but I think I was just too cautious into Turn 3 and into Turn 5 and that hurt. Some guys were really aggressive there and I kind of didn’t expect them to be, so they took the opportunity. From there, it’s kind of hard to get back, and once you’re a second or so behind, it’s hard to make a difference in the dirty air. At the end of the day, we salvaged what we had and we managed to get back up to P5. Top five is always good and I think we have some momentum here.” 

WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “I got a good run on Graham (Rahal) and when I realized he was turning into the corner aggressively, I tried to back out of it. I wish I didn’t go for it that early. I feel bad for him. It was just a mistake and I didn’t realize someone was on the outside of him. Then, I just made a bad mistake there at the end. We just locked the rears up there. I have been having problems all weekend long with locking up the rears. I feel bad for the Verizon team. We had a reasonable comeback going, all the way up to eighth, I think. That wasn’t the way I should be driving. But I know how to come back from this. I just need to mentally keep in the right place and keep doing what I know.”

TONY KANAAN (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “There was an accident in front of us on the first lap in Turn 8 and I got hit trying to avoid it. From then on, we had something that was a little bent on the car and on our (first) stop we had to stop and take a look at it. We lost a ton of time, obviously, because we thought something was wrong and they wanted to check, so we pitted earlier (than planned), then we had to save fuel for the entire rest of the race and that didn’t help. But the (main) problem was getting hit on the first lap.”

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 United Rentals Honda): “I just think Will (Power) made a move on me, I made a move on Marco (Andretti) and everybody just piled up. It’s disappointing. In hindsight, it’s even more disappointing because I think we have a car that was extremely fast today. We legitimately passed 10 cars for position today from 19th all the way up. It was frustrating. I think he (Power) was way overly aggressive for Lap 1. When you can see Will in the mirror, you can damn near see his eyeballs as big as the moon. You know what’s coming. I should have just let him go, to be honest. He probably would have just punted Marco no matter what, he would have punted Marco and I probably would have been collected anyway, but look, it’s over. We got going, our race car was absolutely phenomenal today. We passed a ton of cars. We finished ninth. Honestly, this is going to be one that stings a little because I think we had a car that was easily a podium car. I could see (Alexander) Rossi coming out of the pits and I was catching him on old tires. Pace-wise, we had more pace than anybody today. Good job to Honda and everybody on our team. Everybody did a good job. It’s just unfortunate.”

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 18 Mouser-Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan Honda): “We got the Mouser Molex car in a pretty decent groove. It was a car you could compete with. Obviously, we should have finished fifth today, but I made one mistake and it cost us big. It was definitely more fun and we’ll try and keep making it better. It’s the last street course of the season, but I think we are headed down the right path. Hopefully, we can extrapolate from the work we have done and improve our overall performance through the rest of the season.”

SANTINO FERRUCCI (No. 19 Cly-Del Manufacturing Honda): “This street course is definitely more unique than most. I found it pretty hard to stay super consistent, but the crew did an amazing job. The No. 19 Cly-Del Manufacturing Honda was on rails today at the Honda Indy Toronto. We just unfortunately got shuffled back a bit due to lapped traffic, which wasn’t necessary. At the end of the day, we learned and completed another race. We almost finished in the top 10, we’ll have to try again next weekend on the short oval in Iowa.”  

ED JONES (No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Scuderia Corsa Chevrolet): 
“We had a great first stint. The Ed Carpenter Racing Scuderia Corsa car was really fast. We were able to pass (Josef) Newgarden and (Felix) Rosenqvist in those first few laps and may have even had better pace than (Alexander) Rossi. It all started off really well, but as soon as we had to start saving fuel we didn’t have the balance to keep pace. It cost us a lot, and unfortunately, we fell down the order. We definitely found a few things this weekend that are going to help us everywhere. If we can keep building on that, we should be in good shape when I am back in the car in Mid-Ohio.”

SPENCER PIGOT (No. 21 Autogeek Chevrolet): “Obviously, this was a frustrating race. We had a really well-handling car this weekend. We may have had some issues with re-fueling and may not have been getting all of the fuel in. That put us on the back foot and caused us to have to make a third pit stop. We had to drive most of the race with the front wing damage as well. Overall, this was not a result that shows the potential of the Autogeek Chevy and our team this weekend. We had a good race in Iowa last year, so we are hoping to turn it around next weekend.”

SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 22 DXC Technology Team Penske Chevrolet): “I needed that time off (between Road America and Toronto) to just reorganize my team around me – my personal team, not Team Penske – and find time for myself to refocus on the game and we did just that. Ben Bretzman (engineer) has been really good at steering me in the right direction, also. I think it was a team effort, really. It looked like we were dominating today and I can’t thank these guys enough because they come in in the morning with big smiles on their face, every day same thing. We just are working together and that is why you have days like today. The whole race I was waiting for that yellow. For sure there is going to be a yellow with five laps to go; we’re going to have a restart. But no matter what, we had the best car. When we had to push, we could go faster than (Scott) Dixon, match anyone, save the fuel. It was just an amazing day. Dixon made it interesting in the end and that was fantastic for the fans. I also want to say a special “Hi” to France, it’s obviously Bastille Day and I’m so proud to fly the French flag so high this year. It’s time. It’s time to go and we need to be aggressive now. This race we had to win and we did it. I think this team shows when it’s time to execute, we’re always there. There’s no question about that.”

ZACH VEACH (No. 26 Gainbridge Honda): “Overall, it was just a tough weekend. I feel like we got some momentum back in the race to be able to go from 18th to 13th and lead some laps that just happened because of strategy along the way. There’s still a lot more that we need to do – or I need to do – a little better. But compared to the past couple of races we’ve had, we’ll take it and have an even better one at Iowa.”

ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda): “I think that we knew going into today that we didn’t have a race-winning car and it would take a little bit of luck to get that. The two in front of us drove a great race, so to be able to finish in front of Josef (Newgarden) and get a trophy is a good day. Huge hats off to the No. 27 NAPA Andretti Honda boys – great pit stops, good strategy and we did what we needed to do today.”

RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): “It was a nightmare of a day. We got dumped on Lap 1 and went to last. We came in early to pit for primary tires and get on an off strategy. We started to settle into a rhythm and then my seat belts came loose, so we had to come in. From there we were just doomed; hoping for a Hail Mary or some type of yellow to come at the right time. We just missed the balance today overall. Hoping for a better weekend in Iowa.”

TAKUMA SATO (No. 30 Mi-Jack / Panasonic Honda):   “We had a good start and were settling into the race. We were still moving up places and on plan for our pit stop strategy and running strong in fifth, so it’s sad that I lost the drive and had to come in. It’s a real pity. The boys did a great job, we had great pit stops, we were really strong and had everything under control.  And nobody retired today, so it really hurts in the points, but we have to take some positives away.”

SAGE KARAM (No. 31 SmartStop Self Storage Carlin Chevrolet): “That wasn’t the most ideal result for us, but I learned so much on my end throughout the race. I had a mistake on my end in Turn 11, which has been biting a lot of people all weekend, where I was running with some of the faster guys who were on new tires and I was on old. I was trying to keep up with them and got some dirty air making the front hook, and just barely rubbed the outside wall enough to bend the toe link. The guys in pit lane did a great job getting me back out on track, and from there, we really just turned the race into a big practice session. The No. 31 SmartStop Self Storage Carlin Chevrolet was just so fast – we were one of the fastest cars on track all day. This Carlin team has done such a great job sticking with me all weekend long with my slow, but steady improvements. We came a long way from that first practice being three seconds off the pace, to the end of the race today being within a second of the leaders. I’ve just had so much fun this weekend and I can’t thank Smart Stop Self Storage and Carlin for giving me the opportunity to get back in the car here in Toronto.”

MAX CHILTON (No. 59 Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet): “I’d say that was a good day for us. We’ve been in that P13 to P16 range all weekend, so with a 14th-place finish I feel like I got everything out of the No. 59 Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet that I could. We had decent pace all weekend and the Gallagher crew had really solid stops during the race, it was just very difficult to overtake anyone. It was a fun, physical race today and I think we can leave Toronto proud of our progress.”

COLTON HERTA (No. 88 Capstone Turbine Honda): “Pretty solid race for everyone on the team. The strategy was there, we were fast and the car was great. The pit stops were perfect. The No. 88 Capstone Turbine Honda did great under the conditions we were in, so going from 16th to seventh was awesome. Hopefully, we can qualify towards the front at Iowa Speedway next weekend, so it can be easier to move up through the field.”

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 98 UniFirst / Curb Honda): “Decent day for the UniFirst team. We salvaged something after we got spun by (Graham) Rahal on the start. To salvage a top 10 after being spun isn’t bad. We had higher hopes, but we got spun on the start. On to Iowa.”

Robert Wickens on his parade lap prior to the start of Sunday’s Hondy Indy Toronto:“The fans here in Toronto did not disappoint. The whole Honda Indy Toronto event has been one I’ll always remember. I never thought I’d be able to drive here this year, but with the hard work from Honda, Arrow, INDYCAR and Green Savoree, they have given me an amazing memory, and hopefully, something the fans here really enjoyed.”

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