The 2014 Honda Indy Toronto became a true day doubleheader after the first race on Saturday got postponed. IndyCar reshuffled the schedule and gave the Toronto fans two races for the price of one day's admission. Everything went back to normal with a two-wide rolling start set for the first race; while the second went back to a standing start.
Once the dust settled it was KVSH Racing's Sébastien Bourdais, who took the checkered flag in the morning race and Ed Carpenter Racing's Mike Conway doing the same for race No. 2. Both drivers are well-respected street course racers, but unlikely winners as they race for smaller teams. Filling out the podium for both races were Chip Ganassi and Team Penske drivers, but the glory went to the underdogs on this day.
It wasn't just Bourdais, Conway and their respective teams that celebrated. Both podiums on the day were swept by Chevrolet on Honda soil. A bitter pill for the main IndyCar Toronto sponsor to take, especially with a doubleheader promotion.
For the first race, the veteran Bourdais started on pole position, his 32nd of his career and led 58 of the shortened 65 lap race to capture his 32nd career win. Perhaps, he should include the number 32 in his next lottery ticket. Bourdais had to hold off the current leader in the driver's standings, Team Penske's Helio Castroneves, who finished 3.34 seconds behind the Frenchman. Rounding out the top three was veteran Brazilian driver Tony Kanaan of Chip Ganassi Racing.
This was Bourdais' first IndyCar victory since his CART days back in 2007 at the Gran Premio Tecate race in Mexico City, Mexico. That win capped off his last driver's championship consisting of 8 wins and dominating the rest of the field. After that came three challenging years in Formula One and the Le Mans series. Just to put it into perspective, only five drivers in the current field for the Toronto race were involved in that Mexico City race.
“It's really sweet,” said Bourdais. “That (win) doesn't come easy. We had to fight and wait for it for a long time, but today was just one of those days when the stars align.”
The race had a few key moments, the first involving Rahal Letterman Lanigan rookie driver Luca Filippi, who got over-aggressive early on lap 1 tapping the back tire of Schmidt Peterson Hamilton driver Simon Pagenaud. The incident bottled up a few other drivers, ending AJ Foyt driver Takuma Sato's day, while bouncing the soon-to-be second race winner Conway, along with Sarah Fisher Hartman's Josef Newgarden and Andretti Autosport's Carlos Munoz to the back of the pack. Pagenaud would be the only one to recover his position from the incident, ending up in fourth place.
The only other big incident happened on lap 38 when Andretti Autosport's Ryan Hunter-Reay was battling Kanaan for third place. Kanaan and Hunter-Reay were nose-to-nose, but it was Hunter-Reay who would run out of real estate and find his nose in the wall. He would try to recover, but recklessly weaved his slow-paced car through the rest of the field as they passed him by. It wouldn't end well for the former driver's champion Hunter-Reay, as that incident would cost him the race, ending up in 21st position.
The second race went yellow more than green thanks to the re-appearance of rain on the track. It would gobble up its first victim in Team Penske's Juan Pablo Montoya, who found himself in the tires. Montoya's slippery turn would bring about the race's first caution after Canada's own James Hinchcliffe of Andretti Autosport hit the wall to avoid Montoya's car and Pagenaud's teammate Mikhail Aleshin would find his car crash underneath Montoya's. Luckily Aleshin was OK, but it set the tone for the yellow flags to come.
The rain created a slow-paced race, but it became a pit battle once the majority of teams switched from wet tires to slicks on lap 45. Unfortunately for them, Conway had switched to slicks two laps prior and led the charge against the three others that planned to not pit and stick to wets.
“It was really difficult conditions and we were kind of struggling out there and then I knew as soon as I could see the dry line I knew it was time to come in, and it was a great call,” said Conway in the post-race media conference.
The leader of the wet tire pack was Dale Coyne's Justin Wilson, who became a sitting duck after a red flag was issued for a multi-car collision and a final 4:32 seconds was saved once the track was cleared.
Conway jumped ahead of the pack, followed by Kanaan, Team Penske's Will Power and Ganassi's Charlie Kimball. But in the end, it was no contest as Conway cruised to victory beating Kanaan to the checkered flag by 3.54 seconds to claim his fourth career victory and second on the year. What's most impressive is that this was Ed Carpenter Racing's third victory of the year with owner and driver Ed Carpenter capturing the Firestone 600 in Fort Worth, Texas.
It might have been a great weekend for Bourdais, Conway, Kanaan and Chevrolet, but that was not the case for the fans that came out to support James Hinchcliffe. He would finish the first race in eighth place and find himself four laps down in the second, finishing in 18th position. The second race disaster wasn't his fault being gobbled up in Montoya's mistake, but it has been a continuation of the rough journey he's going through in 2014 without one podium to his name.
After the doubleheader in Toronto, Castroneves still leads the driver's championship, but it's been narrowed to 13 points over his teammate Power. IndyCar takes a week off, but the two Penske teammates will battle again when the series heads to the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio on August 3rd.