Skip to main content
Open this photo in gallery:

Scott Dixon hoists the trophy after winning the Honda Indy as third place finisher Robert Wickens looks on in Toronto, on July 15, 2018.Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press

It was shaping up to be defending champion Josef Newgarden’s day.

The two-time winner at the Honda Toronto Indy had a third title in his sights Sunday, but on Turn 11 of lap 33, the American hit the wall, allowing Scott Dixon to overtake him for the lead and complete the feat instead.

“When I saw it – the seas were parting – away we went, which for us, especially for the championship, he’s our closest competitor right now,” said Dixon.

“That’s where our race was won today, was through the bad luck or bad situation that Josef had,” he added Dixon of New Zealand finished the 85-lap course on the streets surrounding Exhibition Place first, with Simon Pagenaud of France in second and Robert Wickens, from Guelph, Ont., taking part in his first race on Canadian soil in more than a decade, in third.

The victory put the 37-year-old Dixon in some elite company. Three-time winners in Toronto included Australia’s Will Power, Scotland’s Dario Franchitti and American Michael Andretti, who holds the record for the most victories at seven.

It also stretched his lead in the points standings over Newgarden to 62 points from 33. They both have three wins this season.

Pagenaud and Wickens admitted it might be tough to stop Dixon from clinching the championship, heading into Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio where he has won five times in two weeks.

“Too many, yeah,” said Pagenaud, “Yeah, he’s good there. Sometimes he’s unlucky, too. We all (are). It’s just part of life. (We) get to work and find a way to beat him.”

“Is there a track he’s not good at?” quipped Wickens.

It’s the third year in a row a Canadian has landed on the podium. James Hinchcliffe of Oakville, Ont., ended in fourth, after two straight years of third-place finishes, while Zachary Claman De Melo of Montreal was in 14th.

Newgarden was leading for most of the first 32 laps on the hot and humid day. The start-time temperature was listed at 27 C but felt like more like 35 C.

But when the 27-year-old American hit the barrier, losing his top spot, he was slowed and caused a momentum-turning pile-up at Turn 1 of the following lap.

Ryan Hunter-Reay, Graham Rahal, Will Power, Max Chilton, Ed Jones, Alexander Rossi and Sebastien Bourdais were involved in the collision.

Rossi said Saturday a repave of the course would likely create more action heading into the first corner.

“I think it’ll allow Turn 1 to be a passing zone now. Before it was still bumpy on the inside, pretty low percentage chance, so now we’re able to improve everything from practice for the race.”

The restart after the crash allowed Wickens and Hinchcliffe to surge up the ranks.

“I just got a super lucky restart. Josef got a little bit wide in Turn 11 coming to the green. It was just right place at the right time,” said Wickens.

“Basically everyone else was checking up for Josef. I looked up at the flag. I saw the green waving. I had a run, the seas just parted. I had an open line down the inside to Turn one and I took it.”

Wickens briefly moved up to second to trail Dixon, who led until he pitted on lap 55 but retook the lead shortly after.

This was the first race in Canada for Wickens, an IndyCar rookie, since competing in Toronto as part of the 2007 Champ Car Atlantic. He spent 12 seasons in Europe, including six with German’s DTM series.

“I think I would take a home race every race, if I could. It’s such a cool feeling. I’ve never had one as a professional driver,” said Wickens.

Hinchcliffe came into the race carrying momentum from a come-from-behind win over Newgarden at the Iowa Corn 300 last weekend.

“Obviously, we came in here with high hopes,” said Hinchcliffe.

“...Robby has been doing a great job all season. We managed to kind of stay out of trouble on those restarts. (We were) able to capitalize from other guys having bad days today. Kept ourselves relatively out of trouble, him less than me. That’s why he finished up a position ahead.”

Paul Tracy remains the only Canadian to win in Toronto, taking the checkered flag in 1993 and 2003.

Newgarden took his sixth pole of his career, and fourth of the year, on Saturday.

Dixon started the race second and Pagenaud was third. He also had the fastest lap time of 59.1394 seconds during the final practice earlier today. He was trailed by Newgarden (59.3684) and American Ryan Hunter-Reay (59.3684).

Fans filled the grandstands at the race, which routinely attracted more than 70,000 people and about 170,000 over the course of the weekend during the 1990s and early 2000s.

A representative for Green Savoree said Sunday he expected the three-day turnout to be between 125,000 and 145,000.

Dixon has been racing in Toronto since 1999 and said joining the likes of the retired Franchitti as a three-time winner has special meaning.

“Yeah, it’s pretty sweet. I’ll have to call Dario tonight and say I finally tied him at something,” he said.

“...But I love coming to Toronto. I feel like it’s kind of my closest home. I’m part of the Commonwealth, which is nice. Bit of a long-shot there, but I’ll take it,” he joked, referencing his native New Zealand.

Over the weekend there was also renewed talk about the potential of another race north of the border at IndyCar’s lone Canadian stop. Co-owner of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, Ric Peterson, said Saturday he is still pushing for a race in Calgary. He said 2019 is no longer on the table but the following year is still a possibility.

Interact with The Globe