History Repeats Itself in Toronto for Josef Newgarden


By Christian Ryan

The yellow flag often decides the winner as much as the checkered flag. For 2017 Honda Indy Toronto winner Josef Newgarden, the yellow flag is his greatest ally in Canada.

After an unfortunate yellow flag cost Newgarden a perfect race at Road America, redemption came in a deja vu situation in Toronto. For the second time in three years, Newgarden stood on top of the podium in IndyCar’s lone Canadian event off of a well timed pit stop and yellow flag. The full-course yellow, coming after an already scheduled pit stop for Newgarden, allowed the driver to make take control of the race on a track where passing comes with great difficulty.

“I think we had a race winning car from the beginning of that race,” Newgarden said. “The lap we pitted on was the lap we were going to pit on, just fortunately the yellow came out and it made the job of getting the next three guys to the lead a lot easier on us.”

Newgarden’s luck continued when the threat of heavy rain continued to push back to allow the race to finish in dry conditions. With rain expected all weekend, the threat of such a drastic strategy change weighed on the Team Penske drivers’s mind as he pulled away from the field.

“It was the number 1 one thing on my mind at the end of the race was ‘is it going to rain?’“ he says. “You could see rain drops coming out of turn 7, I think that was the number one thing that could have bit us. Fortunately, we had everything we needed.”

He would share the podium with Oakville, Ontario’s James Hinchcliffe, marking the Mayor of Hinchtown’s second consecutive third place finish at his hometown track. Sharing the podium with Newgarden and 2016 Indianapolis 500 winner Alexander Rossi, Hinchcliffe was the IndyCar veteran in victory circle. With Hinchcliffe still at the young age of 30, he still stood as the elder to the rest of the podium, with Newgarden and Rossi aged 26 and 25, respectively. While this may be a new experience for Hinchcliffe, Newgarden sees it as a glimpse into the next era of the series.

“When [Hinchcliffe]’s the oldest guy on the podium, that’s an interesting day for the future of the sport,” he says. “I think it’s good, it’s good to see the youth in the sport, but it’s also good that we have the older guard still around that does so well… The young guys want to have that old guard to still push against and try and one up and be on top of. Obviously, they’re going to try and keep knocking us down still as young guys coming up.”

Honda Indy Toronto’s history and innovation keeps it at the forefront of motorsport. Next year, Canadian fans will be treated to their first view of IndyCar’s new aero kit debuting in 2018. Another combination of the new and the old, the cars maintain a sleek, highly advanced look while hearkening back to the CART era of the sport which fans still hold so dearly. With all of his successes in Toronto, Newgarden eagerly anticipates hitting the city’s streets in the new car.

“We’re all excited about the new aero kit for IndyCar, I think it’s going to look beautiful.” he says. “Certainly pure IndyCar fans, especially Toronto fans of IndyCar racing, they’re going to love the sort of throwback look of the car. It’s definitely a beautiful design that everyone has wanted to see on IndyCar. And I think it’s going to race well, more imporantly.”

There’s no such thing as a perfect weekend in racing, particularly at a track as notorious as the streets of Toronto. While Newgarden had a near-perfect day on the track, his only incident came in victory circle as he nearly slid off of the car while celebrating. Always one for a laugh, Newgarden took the slip in stride.

“It wasn’t planned!” Newgarden laughs. “Fortunately I didn’t bust my thigh, or bust my ankle, or bust my face or anything! It could have been a lot worse, for sure. I think I get points on the dismount. I thought it was a relatively good save, I had one arm up for balance so maybe you can dock me some point for that.

It’s one of those deals where you’re excited and you start slipping and sliding on confetti and you’ve got to be careful, you might fall off the race car!”