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Living IndyCar legend Scott Dixon did indeed get a fu@&in’ move on as he so forcefully said Sunday in Toronto, cruising to his forty fourth career victory. It was his third of the season, padding his now comfortable championship lead, particularly with the regrettable Mid-Ohio in the offing and pole sitter Josef Newgarden’s brain fade, slamming the wall from the lead mid-race.
NBCSN’s pre-race included multiple mentions of the Alexander Rossi – Robert Wickens rivalry by Daffy Leigh Diffey, which didn’t play a role at all in the race. More telling was an interview with the eventual victor, who once again took the blame for his qualifying mistake on Saturday, the classy guy that he is, accepting responsibility for starting second rather than pole. Then came the obligatory interview by the ever expanding universe that is Paul Tracy with James Hinchcliffe and Wickens. There was plenty of talk about Canada and in Canadian, as best we could gather.
Ryan Hunter-Reay jumped forward three spots during a wild, four wide start, although he’d ultimately have a difficult day. Newgarden led Dixon, RHR and Will “sour grapes” Power once things inevitably settled down with Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato soon getting around his fellow 500 winner Rossi into fifth. During that entertaining first lap the two Canuck teammates Hinch and the rookie made contact – as did others – with actual passing briefly appearing in the cobbled together concrete canyon.
Before long hometown boy Hinch had dropped back to tenth as cars quickly filed into a single line around the rough, unworthy track. Hoosier Conor Daly slowed too, dropping four spots but in the end showing respectably in a fill in role for Harding Racing, while TO’s hero would go on to score another top five finish. Ed Jones pitted early and stalled it, nearly wrecking the leader upon rejoining the fracas and assisting his teammate Dixie – in second place at this point – immensely by holding up Newgarden in a kind of Ganassi sandwich. From the comfort of the booth, the vast PT churlishly suggested it was all “choreographed” by Chip’s team in the pits. When asked by IRR, Ganassi had no comment on the matter.
The race dragged on, settling into in what Diffey charitably called “a rhythm.” Suddenly former winner and Frenchman Sebastien Bourdais spun out just as RHR and Pags were pitting, breaking his rear wing against the wall. No yellow was thrown despite an end plate flying off once he’d resumed – it cleared the fence, much to TBell and PT’s disbelief, happily hitting no spectators upon landing in an empty, wooded area. Newkid pitted and quickly rejoined the fray upon leaving the dumbfounding 30 mph speed limited pit lane, remaining in the lead after everyone else likewise pitted.
Back at the front Dixon menaced the leader, this time without the help of his teammate. Then RHR locked ’em up and went crashing into the tire barrier, bringing out the first full course caution of the day on lap 28. He owned his mistake afterward, saying straightforwardly, “I put it in the tires.” Fellow AA warrior Rossi encountered front wing destruction in the incident, as did others, eventually requiring a total of three on the rather expensive day. Finishing eighth, he said he afterward that he was “bummed.”
Newkid remained in the lead until the restart from hell came on lap 34. The leader went wide, hitting the marbles and abruptly – out of nowhere – slamming into the wall. In doing so he threw away the race and quite possibly the season.
Rightfully, he admitted his mistake in a post race interview, saying “I feel terrible.” Dixon grabbed the lead and eventually won, but it was Team Canada who stole the show, advancing like the Canadians on Detroit back in 1813, with Wickens climbing all the way to second, briefly.
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Following the typically lengthy cleanup and restart and after only a lap, Ragin’ Graham Rahal locked ’em up and ran into Max “Paris” Chilton from behind, causing a large pileup and collecting both RHR and Power. After an already rough day, the accident sent Rossi’s previously bruised chariot flying into the air for a moment due to the impact from his teammate hitting him from behind. Graham was later penalized for avoidable contact in a forgettable outing for the RLL team.
One positive, for Andretti Autosport at least, was that both Zach Veach and Marco slid through the melee unharmed. The rookie would go on to gain fifteen positions, most of the entire race along with Charlie Kimball, finishing seventh after starting twenty second. Running fourth with two to go, Marco nearly ran out of fuel and was forced to pit, dropping back to a tenth place result.
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Fortunately, the lap 40 restart didn’t see the leader crash or even brush the wall – that’d come later – as Dixon led Wickens, Pags, Sato and Marco, who battled it out with his former teammate, the two swapping positions. Andretti’s teammate Veach got around Quebecois Zach DeMelo as cars went three wide mid-pack. An irascible Jones made contact with Newkid in a return to an episode from earlier in the race. Then Rene Binder stalled it in turn eight, bringing out the third full course caution. The part-time rookie – with the car still in reverse – proceeded to back over the poor safety worker once he’d been reignited. Thankfully the track worker appeared ok, although it raises the serious question as to why the ride buying Austrian‘s in the series at all – as did a late race near-miss with Pagenaud, running second.
Dixon jumped out to a second consecutive solid restart, while behind him cars again briefly raced three wide. Oh, if only Canada had a truly decent track – or better yet, an oval. Wickens trailed Dixie by an increasing margin followed by Pags, Marco and Sato. The leader pitted and, despite a bobble on the left front during service, easily resumed the race lead. At that point Wickens rammed into Pags’ attenuator before ill-advisedly attempting to pass around the outside, the Frenchman promptly slamming the door on him and forcing the rook Canuck toward the tires before he finally backed off. The incident was reviewed by race control, with no action taken.
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Sato tried to knock the wall down during a break, while soon after the leader – in unheard of fashion – also kissed the concrete exiting a turn. His brush was insignificant in the end, but could easily have been catastrophic. It was an uncannily uncharacteristic mistake from number three on the all time wins list. His frustration showed when he said over the radio to Mike Hull after being told RHR was staying out in front of him, “Well, he needs to get a fu@&in’ move on!”
Spencer Pigot hit the wall in the same heavily marbled spot both Newkid and Sato had, though by then the race was already a foregone conclusion. Dixon led forty nine out of eighty five laps in the end, finishing ahead of Pags, Wickens, Hinch and Kimball. The race’s first half was entertaining enough, especially for TO, although it turned into a typical tedious street course affair for the second half. The series should seriously consider fu@&in’ moving on from Toronto.
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