Pit stop strategy and a well-timed full course caution allowed Will Power to earn the top spot as the Verizon IndyCar Series took to the sprawling streets of Exhibition Place, Toronto, Ontario. The 11th round of the 2016 series championship did not disappoint race fans as pit strategy and exciting passes dominated Canada’s Honda Indy Toronto, but not without heartbreak and plenty of breaks in action.
Many unknowns lingered going into the event where circuit layout changes were cause for concern for a number of drivers. With the pit lane being moved from driver’s right to driver’s left on the front stretch, the final complex of corners was narrowed to accommodate the changes. With a variety of drivers complaining about the lack of room coming to the start/finish line, IndyCar made changes overnight leading into Saturday to improve the situation.
It was Scott Dixon’s race to lose as the 22-car field took to the green flag in Toronto. From pole position, the Kiwi led most of the day in typical Ice Man fashion as Dixon controlled the gap to second place for a majority of the event.
The first yellow came out immediately for a spin resulting from contact between Graham Rahal’s No. 15 Honda and Charlie Kimball’s No. 83 Chevrolet. Ryan Hunter-Reay hit the spinning No. 83 while Rahal pitted for a cut tire.
Power’s prediction of a caution-riddled race became validated early as the second yellow came out for debris after contact between Juan Pablo Montoya and Josef Newgarden. Montoya’s pass on the young American driver was less-than-immaculate and left a rear bumper-pod on track.
While few took to pit lane early in the race, proper green flag stops began on Lap 16 with Tony Kanaan’s No. 10 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet diving in for fresh rubber at fuel. Dixon, Power, and points leader, Simon Pagenaud, were the last to pit in the opening stint, coming in on lap 27. The trio preserved their lead as they left pit lane while the green stayed out until lap 45.
The surface of the street circuit began to succumb to the immense amount of downforce produced by the manufacturer aero kits used by IndyCar as curbing from Turn 5 began to crumble and release debris on track. The third caution of the day allowed for many teams to show the first few cards of their hands as the leading machines of Dixon and Pagenaud stayed out, despite many opting for refreshments during the intermission. Green flag action resumed on Lap 52 with a hectic start from the mid-pack. In order to avoid hitting Alexander Rossi’s No. 98 Honda, Kanaan dove to the inside of Turn 5, almost knocking the attacking Marco Andretti out of competition.
Making pit strategy even more interesting, Newgarden made contact with the wall for caution number four. With 13 pins holding his clavicle together from his massive shunt at Texas Motor Speedway, Newgarden made significant contact with the retaining barrier, but was checked and released from the infield care center. Newgarden’s has not been cleared yet to drive at Mid-Ohio. With most of the field already pitted for the final time, Dixon was forced to pit from the lead, relinquishing the position to Kanaan. Dixon and Pagenaud would finish 8th and 9th, respectively after the ill-timed incident. Power benefitted from a well-timed pit stop as he was entering pit lane as the Newgarden-caused yellow began to wave.
Kanaan led the field to the green, but needed one last stop to make it the rest of the distance. He pitted under green, leaving the top spot to Power, and re-joined the field in fourth position, where he would finish.
The final full course yellow came for the Honda of Jack Hawksworth leading Montoya into the tires, ending the day for post racers. A final lap dash for the checkered required perfect timing from Power as he jumped the field to victory. The 28th win of his career is the third win in the last four events for the Australian driver, further cementing Power’s return to form after health issues early this season.
A great run for hometown favorite, James Hinchcliffe, resulted in a podium finish for the Canadian. The No. 5 Arrow Electronics Honda currently sits in eighth place in the championship.
Coming out of the Honda Indy Toronto, Pagenaud’s championship lead is reduced to 47 points over Will Power, within the 50-point award for winning a Verizon IndyCar Series regular-season event.
The Verizon IndyCar Series picks back up in two weeks’ time at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for the Honda Indy 200 on Sunday, July 31. Newgarden’s DNF drops him down to fifth place in the championship, behind Helio Castroneves and Dixon.
Featured Image: Chris Owens