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Race Report: Honda Indy Toronto

TORONTO—Good news. Bad news. The Honda Indy Toronto won’t show the great results but dig deeper and the lap times recorded by Matheus Leist were on par with those cars running in the top five, certainly the fastest laps of the weekend for the No. 4 ABC Supply Chevrolet.

Unfortunately, a mid-pack accident on lap one in turn 8 triggered by one car trying to make it three-wide in a turn barely wide enough for two caused a bottleneck which caught out both Tony Kanaan and Leist who had nowhere to go in the multi-car melee.

Although stopped, Kanaan kept his engine running and snaked his way through but Leist stalled his engine when Will Power moved out at the same time. Leist lost valuable time when he had to be pulled back to the safety truck to get restarted. Compounding his troubles, he had to pit to replace the nose which broke when he tagged Marcus Ericsson because he had nowhere to go. He rejoined the race a lap down and then drove one of his best races of the year according to team owner A.J. Foyt.

Indeed, Leist was clocking laps that were at times faster than the leader, and for the most part as fast as those running in the top five. But with no more cautions in the race (except one on the final lap when Power found himself in the tire barrier), there was no opportunity to get his laps back. He placed 19th.

“Not the position we wanted to finish here in Toronto,” Leist commented afterwards. “We unfortunately got caught in the first lap incident. I just had nowhere to go and ended up crashing there, then stalled the car and then we ended up going a lap down. We came in, changed the tires, the front wing and everything and we were waiting for a yellow so we could get our lap back but it never happened, so that was a shame but it is what it is. The car was the best it’s been since Friday’s Practice 1 here. Car felt pretty good, pretty decent. I was comfortable driving it. I feel like I managed to improve and get used to it through the run because it was a totally different car from what we had been running through practice and qualifying. Overall, not the result we wanted but there is a good sign that I think we might have found something – a good way and a good direction for the next couple races.”

Kanaan, who managed to extricate himself from the scrum of cars did not lose a lap and vaulted from 22nd to 14th. Starting on the red alternate tires, he said by lap 10 that the grip was going away and he lost a position a lap by the time they pitted him on lap 15. The crew took extra time to examine the car because Kanaan thought something might have gotten bent in the lap 1 wreck. The early stop also meant he’d have to conserve his fuel for the remainder of the race.

He emerged in 20th and cycled back to 18th by the time of his second stop on lap 49. With 36 laps remaining, his crew told him the number he’d have to get to avoid ducking in for a splash of fuel. Not being able to run at full power, he lost some track position and eventually went a lap down to pole sitter and eventual winner Simon Pagenaud. Kanaan finished 17th.

“There was an accident in front of us on the first lap in turn eight and I got hit trying to avoid it. From then on we had something that was a little bent on the car and on our (first) stop we had to stop and take a look at it – we lost a ton of time – obviously because we thought something was wrong and they wanted to check, so we pit earlier (than planned) then we had to save fuel for the entire rest of the race, and that didn’t help. But the (main) problem was getting hit on the first lap.”

Don Halliday, who was the team’s chief engineer from 2012 through 2016, came to Toronto to add welcomed support to the technical staff. His experience in working with young drivers and young engineers proved invaluable over the course of the weekend. Although he cannot be at Iowa due to a previous commitment, the team is working to secure his services for the remainder of the year.

The next stop is the Iowa Corn 300 at Iowa Speedway next Saturday night. The race will be broadcast on NBC Sports Network starting at 7P.M. ET.

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