Dixon extends championship lead with Toronto victory

by Jordan Groves
Scott Dixon: 2018 IndyCar, Toronto, Chip Ganassi Racing

Scott Dixon has further extended his impressive lead in the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series standings with a superb victory in last night’s Honda Indy Toronto. The Chip Ganassi Racing driver took over the lead of the race from pole-sitter Josef Newgarden mid-way through the race and held on to take the win.

It was a somewhat chaotic race in Canada, with a run of cautions halfway through the event providing some action-packed restarts. Josef Newgarden led the initial laps for Penske, fending off an early challenge from Dixon on the first lap.

Newgarden’s lead was closed up by a caution on lap twenty-eight when Alexander Rossi and Ryan Hunter-Reay both lost their front wings in separate incidents at almost the exact same time. When the field came to the restart, Newgarden was looking to get a good jump on the field behind, but he was caught out by the excess of tyre marbles off of the racing line. Josef went wide and hit the wall, earning him some damage and costing him momentum down the start/finish straight.

Dixon avoided Newgarden to breeze past to take the lead. A number of other cars also scrambled to gain some positions, only for Graham Rahal to lock up and hit the back of Carlin‘s Max Chilton. Rahal span across the track and Chilton hit the wall on the exit of turn one, with the likes of Hunter-Reay, Rossi, Sebastien Bourdais and Will Power all piling into the mess to bring out another caution.

Once Dixon was into the lead of the race, he never looked like he would lose it. Despite being held up by the lapped car of Hunter-Reay in the closing stages of the race, his rivals could not quite get back on terms with him for the remainder of the race.

Dixon entered the weekend hoping to bounce back from a somewhat disappointing race at Iowa Speedway a week beforehand. His championship lead stood at thirty-three points coming into Toronto. After coming home to take a superb victory in Canada – his third win in Toronto and his third win of the season – he has nearly doubled his lead to a comfortable sixty-two points. With just five races left until the champion is crowned, things are looking good for Scott to claim his fifth IndyCar championship.

The late stages of the race saw a battle brew for second place between Canadian Robert Wickens and Frenchman Simon Pagenaud. After Newgarden hit strife earlier in the race, the fast-starting Wickens moved up into second place despite having started down in tenth place. Later on, Pagenaud closed in for Team Penske, coming out of the pits after his final stop right in front of Wickens.

Robert Wickens: IndyCar 2018, Toronto

Credit: Matt Fraver / Courtesy of IndyCar

Robert was determined to find a way past whilst Pagenaud was coping with cold tyres, but Simon gave a strong defence, almost putting Wickens in the wall when the Canadian tried to pass around the outside. Wickens never quite managed to get back on terms with Pagenaud after his failed attempt to get by, with Pagenaud coming home to take second place.

Despite initially being upset with Pagenaud’s robust defence, Wickens was delighted to come home in third place at his home race; saying post-race that he was quite emotional due to the incredible support he’d had from the fans during the weekend. Robert’s Schmidt Peterson Motorsports team-mate and fellow Canadian, James Hinchcliffe, would finish just behind in fourth place; capping off a strong weekend for the team.

The driver of the race accolade may well go to Carlin‘s Charlie Kimball. The American ducked and dived his way through the carnage to come from twentieth on the grid to take a fantastic fifth place; his best result of the season and Carlin’s best-ever result in IndyCar. It was a similarly great race for A.J. Foyt Enterprises‘ Tony Kanaan, who took his and the teams’ best finish of the season so far in sixth place.

Seventh went the way of Andretti Autosport‘s rookie Zach Veach, with team-mate Alexander Rossi just behind in eighth despite having numerous issues throughout the race. The Californian broke his front wing twice during the race and was even momentarily sent into the air when he came across Rahal’s sideways car during the mid-race pile-up. All things considered, eighth place was a decent finish.

Pole-sitter Josef Newgarden would eventually come home in ninth place, with the Penske driver frustrated to have had a potential win slip through his fingers when he hit the wall earlier on. He still sits in second place in the standings, but sixty-two points is an awfully big margin to make up barring any issues for Dixon in the next five races.

Marco Andretti completed the top ten for Andretti Herta, with Britain’s Jordan King just outside in eleventh place for Ed Carpenter RacingEd Jones took twelfth after almost falling a lap down early on, with Conor Daly just behind in thirteenth place on his return to IndyCar with Harding Racing. The third and final Canadian in the field, Zachary Claman De Melo, took fourteenth place after starting last.

Further back, Ryan Hunter-Reay had a torrid day en-route to finishing a lowly sixteenth place. He was the first car a lap down after being involved in several issues during the race. Due to his last two poor races, he now sits almost one hundred points off of the championship lead.

It was also a difficult day for Will Power, who lost even more ground to Dixon at the top of the standings with an eighteenth place finish. He lost two laps during the race after breaking a rear toe-link and then nosing the turn one wall in avoidance of the mid-race pile-up.

What had looked to be a potentially promising weekend for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing soon turned into a nightmare. Both Graham Rahal and Takuma Sato showed strong pace in practice, but both hit strife during the race. Rahal would finish seventeen laps down on the leaders after extensive car repairs relegated him to twenty-first place, with team-mate Sato classified in twenty-second after brushing the wall.

Max Chilton was unable to match his Carlin team-mate’s great result. The British driver was the first confirmed retirement after baring the brunt of the mid-race pile-up at turn one.

With Dixon now holding a hugely impressive lead in the championship standings, the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series will head to one of his most successful circuits. The 2018 Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio will take place on Sunday, July 29.

IndyCar 2018, Toronto Podium, Scott Dixon, Robert Wickens, Simon Pagenaud

Credit: Chris Owens / Courtesy of IndyCar

2018 Verizon IndyCar Series – Honda Indy Toronto – Race results:

19Scott DixonNZL Chip Ganassi Racing2Leader
222Simon PagenaudFRATeam Penske3+5.270
36Robert Wickens (R)CANSchmidt Peterson Motorsports10+6.775
45James HinchcliffeCANSchmidt Peterson Motorsports9+18.336
523Charlie KimballUSACarlin20+18.844
614Tony KanaanBRAA.J. Foyt Enterprises15+30.435
726Zach Veach (R)USAAndretti Autosport22+32.273
827Alexander RossiUSAAndretti Autosport5+34.526
91Josef NewgardenUSATeam Penske1+34.576
1098Marco AndrettiUSAAndretti Herta14+38.909
1120Jordan King (R)GBREd Carpenter Racing8+39.333
1210Ed JonesUAEChip Ganassi Racing21+42.3674
1388Conor DalyUSAHarding Racing11+46.5785
1419Zachary Claman De Melo (R)CANDale Coyne Racing23+54.4973
154Matheus Leist (R)BRAA.J. Foyt Enterprises12+59.0749
1628Ryan Hunter-ReayUSAAndretti Autosport6+1 Lap
1732Rene BinderAUTJuncos Racing19+2 Laps
1812Will PowerAUSTeam Penske4+2 Laps
1918Sebastien BourdaisFRADale Coyne Racing with Vasser Sullivan17+2 Laps
2021Spencer PigotUSAEd Carpenter Racing16DNF
2115Graham RahalUSARahal Letterman Lanigan Racing13+17 Laps
2230Takuma SatoJAPRahal Letterman Lanigan Racing7DNF
2359Max ChiltonGBRCarlin18DNF

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