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Race Report: Honda Indy Toronto

TORONTO—They call him “The Ironman” and he proved once again why.

Competing in his 295th straight IndyCar race, Tony Kanaan posted his best finish of the season–sixth—in this year’s most physical race yet. His younger competitors were citing it as their toughest race yet and with good reason. Temperatures soared into the low 90s making driving on the bumpy, 11-turn, 1.786-mile street course through Toronto’s Exhibition Place even more draining than usual.

“Great day for the ABC Supply team--we finally had everything going our way,” said Kanaan, who at 43, looked none the worse for wear. “We had good stops, good passing and obviously we had a couple people do us some favors on the race track – that’s the way this race goes. It’s the best result for the team so far—top six on a street course where we’d been improving our car all weekend. Really happy for ABC, Larry and for A.J. He’s not here so I wanted to give him a good result.”

A.J. Foyt watched the race from his Houston home because he is recovering from back surgery that he had on Wednesday. The surgery—a three level laminotomy--went well but Foyt has been instructed to take it easy for a couple of weeks.

Kanaan, who started 15th, charged his way into 11th in two laps with several strong passes on the tight street course. He pitted for fresh tires on lap 22 because the softer alternate (red) tires had worn by lap 15, and the stop was inside his fuel window. However, he would have to conserve fuel which would become a factor later in the race when he tried to close in on a top-five finish.

That earlier-than-planned stop played out for him as a full course yellow came out on lap 28 for Ryan Hunter-Reay’s contact with the tire barrier in Turn 3. It worked out for Matheus “Matt” Leist also; he pitted the lap prior to Kanaan to get fresh rubber.

When the field came down for the restart, Kanaan was eighth and Leist was ninth, the first time both cars were in the top 10 since the Indy 500. On the restart, leader Josef Newgarden slid out of the groove and into the marbles and concrete barrier. He dropped back through the field and triggered a chain reaction multi-car accident in Turn 1.

Kanaan made it through but Leist got hit in the back hard enough to break part of his underwing. He thought he had suspension damage and pitted, but the crew assured him the suspension was fine. He was levied a penalty (sent to the back of the line on the restart) for coming into a closed pit during a full course yellow. He restarted in 17th and soldiered on through the race to finish 15th with a car that was damaged.

“I’m a bit disappointed with the result we had today,” said Leist, whose disappointment clearly showed. “I got hit on lap 20 and got hit again after a restart so we had to do two extra pit stops. From then on my day was over—not much we could do. It’s a pity because I think we could have finished in the top 10.”

Kanaan pressured Charlie Kimball for about five laps after the final round of pit stops but was then asked to save fuel so he could make it to the end which hampered his chances for a top-five.

Larry Foyt was pleased with the Kanaan’s result and sympathetic about Leist’s.

“I’m just real happy that our team hung in there because it was kind of an up and down weekend,” said Foyt. “We didn’t have a great qualifying and had to start mid-pack but Tony just charged to the front and did a good job to get a top six. Unfortunately, Matheus got hit from behind and then we had some damage to the underwing of the race car and that hurt its performance. You’ll have that on street courses but everybody hung in there. I’m really happy that the pit stops were good on both cars. We’re going testing at Mid-Ohio on Tuesday so it’s good we got out of here with at least one decent finish. We’ll move on to try to finish the season strong.”

Outside pole sitter Scott Dixon won the race for his third victory of the season. Third-starting Simon Pagenaud finished second while Canadian teammates Robert Wickens and James Hinchcliffe finished third and fourth. Charlie Kimball claimed his best finish of the season with fifth.

Next up is the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course which will be broadcast live on CNBC on Sunday, July 29 starting at 3 p.m. ET.

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