INDYCAR: HONDA INDY TORONTO
Photographer: LAT Photo
With rain clouds looming, the Streets of Toronto served as the backdrop for one of the team's best collective race results of the 2017 season, with three cars coming home in the top-six finishing positions.The weekend started off with two practice sessions Friday followed by another practice Saturday morning and qualifying in the afternoon. Round 1 Group 1 of qualifying advanced both Marco Andretti and Takuma Sato into the next segment to compete for a spot in the Firestone Fast Six. Alexander Rossi and Ryan Hunter-Reay competed in Group 2, but only Rossi progressed to the next round. A red flag was waved immediately following the checkered flag due to the No. 18 car in the wall. Unable to complete his fast lap, Ryan Hunter-Reay had to settle for a 16th-place starting position.
“The DHL car was the top Honda in the final practice heading into qualifying so things were looking good," said Hunter-Reay. "We would have been challenging for the [Firestone] Fast Six but circumstances out of our control took us out in Round 1 of qualifying. I was on my fast lap – I had a lap that could have easily put us in the top six – when INDYCAR threw the red flag after the checkered for an incident on the track. It’s unfortunate and frustrating when you’re on the other side of it. I'll do my best tomorrow to get to the front and have a strong showing for our sponsors and the fans."
Near the end of Round 2, another red flag was waved over the session for the No. 21 car on track and went back to green with just enough time for Rossi, Sato and Andretti to complete one fast lap. That one lap was not enough time to get their Firestone tires up to speed and the trio failed to advance to the Firestone Fast Six. Rossi, Sato and Andretti ending the session with grid positions of eighth, 10th and 11th, respectively.
The race went green on the Streets of Toronto and on Lap 1 the field of 21 saw the first caution of the race. When the race returned to green, the No. 28 DHL machine had already advanced two spots to 14th. Riding behind James Hinchcliffe, Rossi and strategist Rob Edwards decided to pit and run in clean air to gain track position while the cars ahead of him came in for their pit stops. Both Rossi and Hunter-Reay opted to pit on Lap 21 and Marco Andretti on Lap 22. One lap later, the No. 10 car or Tony Kanaan drove into the tire barriers, bringing out the second yellow flag of the 85-lap race. The caution fell in favor of those who had just completed their pit stops, and Rossi, Andretti and Hunter-Reay all jumped to fourth, seventh and ninth, respectively, to take the restart as the leaders came in to the pits for their first round of stops.
Takuma Sato pitted under the yellow on Lap 25 and made light contact with the 20 car as they were leaving pit lane. After going green on Lap 27, Sato and the 20 car again made contact one lap later forcing both cars into the pits and requiring Sato's 26 team to complete a wing change.With the remaining of the race staying caution-free, Sato settled for a 16th-place finish, while Ryan Hunter-Reay advanced 10 spots during the race to claim sixth, his 102nd career top-10 finish. Marco Andretti, who has completed 885 of 886 laps at the Honda Indy Toronto, earned his best finish of the 2017 season finishing in fourth. Alexander Rossi stepped onto the second step of the podium, earning his best finish since his victory at the 2016 Indianapolis 500.
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING:
Alexander Rossi - No. 98 ShopAndretti.com Honda
Started: 8 // Finished: 2 // Championship: 8 (330 pts.)
"This finish has been a long time coming. We had the Indy win, but I've been looking for that first podium and hopefully this will be a foundation to go and chase more wins. I’m relieved that we finally kind of got the monkey off our back. It was a huge turnaround overnight by Andretti Autosport to get the car where it needed to be for the race. Qualifying was a huge effort for the whole team. I’m very proud of Honda for the effort they’ve made. As we’ve said, this year has been a huge turnaround. Big shout out to the Toronto fans for coming out to the race. It really is amazing coming here, and hopefully we can carry this momentum on through the rest of the season and get a race win for NAPA AUTO PARTS and the team.”
Marco Andretti - No. 27 United Fiber & Data Honda
Started: 11 // Finished: 4 // Championship: 14 (268 pts.)
“I think [it seemed like] we were quiet all weekend because we got hosed by that red in qualifying. But, I think our pace was actually about sixth or seventh so we're happy to come away with a fourth. My engineer did a good job with the car. We were really balanced. I could really wring it out and we saved fuel at the end. I had a good car here in Toronto. I'm happy for the UFD team; the boys did a great job for us all day in the pits.”Ryan Hunter-Reay - No. 28 DHL Honda
Started: 15 // Finished: 3 // Championship: 13 (273 pts.)
“We had a bit of a handful, for sure. The result was a good turnaround, though. Really nice good job by Alex [Rossi], finishing second and Marco [Andretti] grabbing fourth. We had a great battle with Simon [Pagenaud]. I was almost able to hold him off to keep fifth, but we just couldn't keep it and finished sixth. I just got too loose at the end. I think I burnt the rears off trying to catch Marco. That’s the way it goes, though. Overall, it was a pretty good day and a good turnaround from last year.”Takuma Sato - No. 26 #CheckIt4Andretti Honda
Started: 10 // Finished: 16 // Championship: 7 (351 pts.)
"I'm disappointed with the way the race turned out. We made a good start, and made a few positions up. Just after the yellow, coming to Turn 3, I was on the outside and then in Turn 4 I was on the inside alongside [Spencer] Pigot and he just turned into me. I was sandwiched by him and the wall and had nowhere to go. We tangled and we got a puncture and that was it. After that there wasn't another yellow, so I tried to catch up with the field and overtake a few cars but couldn't get there. It’s a shame; the car worked really well. I think we were one of the strongest of the group in the field in terms of the pace, so it’s really a shame.”