IndyCar – Three Up, Three Down: Toronto

Teammates Josef Newgarden and Luca Filippi go nose-to-tail entering Turn 1 during the Honda Indy Toronto -- Photo by: Shawn Gritzmacher
Teammates Josef Newgarden and Luca Filippi go nose-to-tail entering Turn 1 during the Honda Indy Toronto -- Photo by: Shawn Gritzmacher

Last year, the Hondy Indy Toronto was a double-header weekend, but this year Detroit is the only such event and the drivers of the Verizon IndyCar Series ran their race on Sunday afternoon. With weather being a huge factor in the day, the race start was advanced from their advertised start time and the opening laps were contested on a very wet, but drying, track. This was also the last street race of the season now that Houston is off the schedule. Next week, IndyCar begins a series of three oval races beginning on the 2.0-mile Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, CA. For now, however, let’s take a look at the ups and downs from the tricky Toronto tarmac.

Three Up

1-2 Finish for Carpenter Fisher Hartman Racing
There’s lots of feel-good happening here. Josef Newgarden is proving to be the amazingly talented IndyCar driver his earlier efforts in Indy Lights and in previous IndyCar seasons had promised. The win at Toronto gives the ever-smiling kid from Tennessee his second win of the season and moves him up to 8th in the championship. His teammate, Luca Filippi, put the Fuzzy’s Vodka car in second and recorded his best IndyCar finish. This was a huge triumph for a small, locally-grown (to Indianapolis) team who has had good talent, but not always a huge budget, to take on the giants of the sport that are Team Penske and Chip Gannasi Racing.

Great Drives by Chaves and Daly
Conor Daly drove the #5 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports machine that belonged to James Hinchcliffe before his violent crash at Indianapolis. Daly, who many including myself feel should have had a full-time ride from the beginning of the season, proved to the paddock that he definitely belongs in the series. Starting from P19, he fought his way through the field to gain seven spots and posted the third-best finish for Honda in one of their hallmark races. Gabby Chaves, who won the 2014 Indy Lights championship, also gained seven spots from this P22 starting position after driving brilliantly in what I think all will admit is subpar equipment. Bryan Herta Autosport has been able to put a good race together here and there, the 2011 Indianapolis 500 comes to mind, but this has not been a great year for the team. It was nice to see Chaves demonstrate that whatever they haven’t sorted out with the car, the driver isn’t the problem.

On-Track Passing Abounded
Toronto has a reputation, like most street races, of being a parade when it’s not busy being a demolition derby, and it’s a rightfully earned reputation at that. This year, however, we saw only two full-course caution periods, and only one of those was for contact. So with little contact, one might think that the remainder of the race was a parade with the only passing happening in the pits, but one would be wrong. The racing action was fantastic! There was lots of great racing throughout the field, and clean, respectful racing at that!

Three Down

Chevrolet Dominates
Just when it looked like Honda was gaining some ground, Toronto happened. Graham Rahal and Takuma Sato were the only Honda drivers to finish in the Top 10, and they were in P9 and P10. The top eight finishers were all using Chevrolet power to shove the car. Only four Chevrolet cars finished outside of the Top 10. The Honda-powered machines, only Rodolfo Gonzalez driving the #18 Dale Coyne Racing machine managed to lead the race, and that was only due to the process of cycling through the final pit stops. Honda is not happy with the current situation, and they’ve still not signed an agreement to contest the 2016 season. Part of me looks at the situation and sees a manufacturer given an opportunity to measure themselves against a competing company and has been found wanting, but the other side is that there’s been minimal testing permitted, and there’s no mid-season testing or development allowed.

Andretti Autosport Underperforms …again
Once a powerhouse team along with Gannasi and Penske, Andretti Autosport has had an extremely disappointing season. Carlos Muñoz is the only Andretti driver to score a victory this year, and one of only two Honda victories this season. Marco Andretti has the most points for the team and sits in seventh. That placement is primarily due to his being the only remaining driver in the series to have completed every lap of every race this season. He still has only one podium to show for all those miles. You have to go all the way down to twelfth to find the next nearest teammate, Carlos Muñoz, and last year’s Indianapolis 500 winner, Ryan Hunter-Reay, is languishing in fourteenth. Michael Andretti is upset and vocal about the disparity between the two platforms, and I don’t blame him, but such is the nature of manufacturer-based motorsport. It could be worse, they could be McLaren!

Early start means many missed the opening laps
My last negative point will resonate most with those who DVR the races and watch them later in the day. I understand why IndyCar moved the start time up given the weather and the numerous other series on track, but the race start is always one of the most exciting moments of an IndyCar race, or any race for that matter, and by missing out on the drop of the green flag and the first few laps, I feel a bit cheated. Is it a rational complaint? No, not really, but it’s still irritating.


So those are my thoughts on the 2015 Honda Indy Toronto. Agree? Disagree? What did you think of the race? Leave your comments below, but as always do so with decorum and civility.

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Coji

Definite points for the Americans across the globe this weekend. Daly is a strong driver who can certainly improve. Newgarden’s standing tells the real story of his season. Drivers want race victories but if they can’t compete in the table, it’s unfortunate that seats will be scarce if wanting to look elsewhere. Andretti’s teams are so unbelievably poor this year, but it’s not entirely their fault. Being a Marco fan, it’s sad that the only way there is a glimmer of hope is by gambling on strategies in a rainy race. It’s not like my fandom is based on delusions… Read more »

lionstorm

Honda’s dissatisfaction with the status quo is reasonable. They bear some responsibility for their own timing and preparation, but the administration of the series has sometimes been like it was guided by shouted-out comments from the Howdy-Doody Peanut Gallery. (The recent qualifying mess for that 500-mile race in Indianapolis comes to mind.) The bottom line, however, is that Honda wasn’t, and isn’t, adequately prepared to contest for wins on the circuit with any regularity, let alone winning the season crown. They should be able to improve things during the off season, but the moving-target phenomenon will make things a continuing… Read more »

xorpheous

Oy… Thinking about the Indy500 quals still gets me steamed. The series needs a third player, but if they’re going to allow manufacturer competition, then they need to allow mid-season development.

lionstorm

Yay! on the mid-season development question. No doubt that should be a given. That would benefit especially those who find that the engine they start the season with er, uh, . . . sucks.

oregonwings

I think you hit all the high points and I mostly agree. Yes there should be some testing / development mid-season, to both the aero kits and the engines. Limited maybe to keep costs down? Usually such cost cutting concepts end up being for not anyway though. That said, Honda has missed the mark this season in the same way that Nissan did for their Le Mans debut (okay, maybe not THAT bad). Speaking of Le Mans, I’m still kind of shocked that with Ford’s new resurgence into motorsports such as the Ford GT announced to return to Le Mans,… Read more »

Tom Firth

I believe the quote last year when Edsel Ford III, a board member at Ford when asked about Ford’s future participation in Indycar racing was “No, no, no I’ll be six foot under, no way, not a chance”

That quote came from MoreFrontWing. Ford see no value in Indycar racing, and that was made abundantly clear by his comments. Neither Jamie Allison or Raj Nair have any interest in bringing Ford into Indycar either.

Tom Firth

Ford pulled out of WRC in 2012 as an official team, M-Sport, the partner continue to build Fiesta WRC’s but is not a direct factory effort and I can’t imagine new Ford factory input in WRC will come for a very long time.