A little inclement weather proved just the tonic to make the Honda Indy Toronto sparkle, with a wild and wet thriller delivering an upset 1-2 victory for CFH Racing's Josef Newgarden and Luca Filippi.

"I'm so happy we were able to get a win, but a 1-2 it just amazing because Luca is such a star too, it's amazing he can get a second place. Super happy for the whole group," said Newgarden as he celebrated in victory circle. "Just an amazing team effort. I'm definitely excited because this is Toronto and this is an IndyCar town!"

Toronto gave Newgarden his second win of the season after his maiden Verizon IndyCar Series victory at Barber Motorsports Park in April. The 24-year-old started from 11th position on the grid but managed to time his second pit stop to perfection which put him out of sync with those ahead, and a timely full course caution minutes later then put him at the front for the second half of the race.

Filippi had a more conventional race, battling his way through to the front and coming close to taking the lead from Newgarden through the closing laps in a no-holds-barred scrap between the pair that came close to putting them both out of the race before more sensible heads prevailed.

It was a remarkable result for CFH Racing, which last week had a desperately poor time of it at Texas Motor Speedway which ended with both car failing to finish and looking thoroughly out of sorts and off the pace. By contrast, Toronto presented the team with its best result by far since the two-car line-up was formed by the merger of Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing and Ed Carpenter Racing over the winter.

CLICK: Full race results from the Honda Indy Toronto

With the weather once again playing difficult to get, the start of the event had been moved up by half an hour and the Honda Indy Toronto declared from the outset to be a wet race on a slippery and greasy street circuit, with race control also mandating a single file start for good measure. Grand marshal James Hinchcliffe gave the command for the drivers to fire up the engines and the cars duly rolled off pit lane, led by Penske duo Will Power and Simon Pagenaud making up the front row ahead of their team mate Juan Pablo Montoya and Ganassi's Scott Dixon.

Power took early advantage of being the only driver not to have his vision obscured by water spray to leap away at the green flag, while Pagenaud almost lost the backend of the #22 even before reaching the starting line. There were other minor taps, knocks, run-offs and spins as the 23 cars warily tiptoed their way around the 11-turn, 1.755-mile course for the first time, but no one suffered any major setbacks.

While Power was busy building up a five second lead, the first major change of position among the leaders came on lap 6 when he was unable to prevent Dixon making a move down the inside into the turn 3 right hander. Montoya had to abort his turn-in to the corner and went into the run-off as a result, quickly recovering to rejoin the field albeit down in eighth place.

By now, a distinct dry line was starting to form on the concrete but it was still a brave move by Marco Andretti to come in for a change to slick tyres for the Andretti Autosport #27 on lap 10. He emerged back on track just ahead of Power, and when he was able not only to avoid going a lap down but even start to pull away from the #1 it was a rallying cry to the rest of the field to follow suit and make their own pit stops for new tyres. A cautious Power left it a lap later than the others but he too was finally in on lap 13 to ditch the wet weather boots.

Despite his brief hesitation, Power had built up enough of a lead to still come back out on track of the rest albeit with his lead over Pagenaud now halved and reducing still further by the minute. KVSH Racing's Sebastien Bourdais had leapfrogged Scott Dixon for third, with Luca Filippi up one place on his grid position in fifth ahead of AJ Foyt Racing's Takuma Sato. Juan Pablo Montoya regained one of his lost positions to run in seventh place ahead of Helio Castroneves, who had a lucky escape surviving a scare while getting his new tyres up to operating temperature.

Pagenaud's car was looking very strong in the now-dry conditions and he was soon all over the back of Power, but try as he might he still couldn't find a way around the stubborn Aussie before a new pulse of rain swept over the city. Moments later the race was under its full course caution of the day on lap 29 after James Jakes locked up in the Schmidt Peterson Motorsport #7 and nosed into the tyre barrier on the exit of turn 5.

With the radar data forecasting that this new spell of rain would be light and short-lived, everyone who pitted under the caution opted to remain on slick tyres. Castroneves stayed out to pick up the lead ahead of the just-pitted Josef Newgarden and Andretti Autosport's Carlos Munoz, with Dale Coyne Racing's Rodolfo Gonzalez in fourth just ahead of Power who had won the race off pit lane. As he pulled out of his pit stall, Pagenaud came within inches of losing positions to Bourdais and Dixon but fortunately they were too busy duelling their way side-by-side down pit lane to take full advantage of a slightly long stop for the Frenchman who just held on to sixth spot.

When the race resumed Power was quickly able to get around Gonzalez to establish a buffer zone between himself and his harrying teammate, as Pagenaud found the Venezuelan a frustratingly hard nut to crack. There was plenty of scrapping going on further down the field, none closer than the battle between KV Racing Technology's Stefano Coletti and Ganassi's Charlie Kimball which resulted in contact between the pair that left Kimball with a left rear puncture and Coletti with damage to his front wing. That damage likely contributed to Coletti running wide exiting turn 5 on lap 40, whereupon he hit the wall with sufficient force to do terminal damage to the #4's rear right suspension. He also left debris strewn all over the track in turn 8 that forced a second full course yellow to allow the course workers to clean the place up.

Castroneves surrendered the lead to pit under the caution promoting Newgarden to the front for the restart on lap 46. With Gonzalez having opted to pit, Pagenaud made an immediate attempt to capitalise by attacking Power through turn 1 only to be emphatically repelled. Pagenaud was forced to run wide and lost momentum, and as a result haemorrhaged three places in rapid succession to Bourdais, Dixon and Filippi. Bourdais gained such a slingshot from the move that he was able to go on and make quick work of Power for third place as well, the Frenchman then immediately setting his sights on hunting down Munoz.

Once the race got within 30 laps of the finish, teams started to play their strategy card with drivers diving onto pit lane for their final scheduled pit stop. None played this more successfully than Graham Rahal who was one of the first to come in so that by the time the other cars cycled through the Rahal Letterman Lanigan #15 was already on fresh tyres that were fully up to temperature. In a stunning moment on lap 58, Rahal managed to slalom past first Takuma Sato and then Simon Pagenaud in consecutive corners in what might just be the overtaking move not just of the race but of the entire season.

Tony Kanaan and Helio Castroneves were off-sync and among the last to come in. Kanaan came back out in sixth just behind Will Power but then swiftly overtaken by the fully up-to-speed Bourdais albeit with some minor contact in the process. Meanwhile Castroneves had built up a 20 second lead over the field by the time he came in a few minutes later, but that still wasn't good enough to retain the lead when he came back out behind Newgarden and the yet-to-stop Gonzalez. Still getting his tyres up to temperature, Castroneves quickly fell prey to Newgarden's CFH Racing team mate Luca Filippi and was forced to settle back into fourth place.

Once Gonzalez was out of the way, Newgarden held off a feisty Filippi to maintain the lead. Locked in their own private battle, the pair soon dropped Castroneves who was under no pressure from Power who had found his way back around Bourdais for fourth place. In the final laps of the race the only threat to the CFH Racing pair's impending one-two was the weather which was starting to get restive again, closing in once more with a fine drizzle that started to make the track increasingly slippery.

Not that Newgarden could afford to let up, in case his team mate take it as in invitation to challenge. He kept his foot down despite some lairy moments and was somehow able to keep the #67 putting in the right direction and out of the wall so that by the time the chequered flag came out to welcome the cars home he had an emphatic 1.4485s gap over Filippi who had decided to settle for second place - this time.

"I got a little bit of lapped traffic," said Newgarden after the race. "Close racing, but for sure I got a little lucky too. I got lucky on that yellow. It was a great call though - it was a great effort by this crew. They gave me amazing pit stops and the car to win."

"I'm just really proud of everybody on this team. I'm proud of Josef, I'm proud of the #20 car guys. I never would have thought that would have happened," team co-owner Sarah Fisher said. "It's just amazing."

Castroneves was able to hold on to third place ahead of Will Power and Bourdais, while Kanaan finished in sixth place despite losing some rear bodywork as a result of his clash with Bourdais. That had flown off and hit the front of Montoya' car, but no harm was done and the championship leader was able to stay the course and cross the line in seventh ahead of Dixon, Rahal and Sato.

Coming out of Toronto, Montoya retains the lead in the standings by 27 points over reigning series champion Will Power, while Scott Dixon is in third place just seven points ahead of Helio Castroneves. With six races remaining in the season, the top four are beginning to pull away from the rest of the field led by Graham Rahal in fifth and Sebastien Bourdais in sixth.

After a hectic few weeks and races, the Verizon IndyCar Series finally takes a breather next week and returns to action on June 27 with a speedway race, the MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California.

See full race results from the Honda Indy Toronto

 

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