By Christopher DeHarde, IndyCar & Road to Indy Writer
On any street circuit gaining positions is difficult, but on the streets of Toronto, Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’s Sebastian Saavedra did that better than anybody by gaining ten and nine spots respectively from where they began the race.
Hunter-Reay took the green flag in 16th place and moved to 14th following the opening lap incident between Scott Dixon and Will Power. The No. 28 DHL Honda then saw pit lane on Lap 21 before a caution for Tony Kanaan’s car hitting the Turn 1 tire barrier.
The 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner was ninth on the ensuing restart after the leaders made their first stops and got to fifth place on Lap 38.
After the last round of pit stops, Hunter-Reay found himself in fifth place again but was under constant attack from Simon Pagenaud. The Team Penske driver managed to get fifth from Hunter-Reay on Lap 80 and their positions remain unchanged for the rest of the day.
“We had a great battle with Simon (Pagenaud). I was almost able to hold him off to keep fifth, but we just couldn’t keep it and finished sixth,” Hunter-Reay said. “I just got too loose at the end. I think I burnt the rears off trying to catch Marco. That’s the way it goes, though. Overall, it was a pretty good day and a good turnaround from last year,” Hunter-Reay added.
For Saavedra, the late replacement to Mikhail Aleshin started 20th and moved to 17th on the first lap, passing Conor Daly for position and getting passed the two opening lap combatants.
The Colombian restarted 16th after Charlie Kimball pitted under yellow and pitted on Lap 20 before the next yellow. As a beneficiary of the yellow, Saavedra restarted tenth but fell to 13th on Lap 27.
Saavedra climbed to seventh after some off strategy drivers came in for pit stops before making his final pit stop on Lap 53. The No. 7 Honda managed to get up to ninth before getting passed by Graham Rahal and Scott Dixon on Lap 82. Saavedra would finish ninth.
“I felt the same throughout the race and had a pretty solid car. We kept clean for the first stint, just tried to stay away from trouble, and when I started pushing, the car was there for me,” Saavedra said.
“Great strategy from the SPM guys and getting me out of those reds (Firestone alternate tires) and getting me some free time for me to do my thing. It played off perfectly with those yellows, and we managed to get in with the guys up front, which changed the speed of the race for us. We had the car to do it. We’re proud of the pit stops, proud of the strategy and of course having a good car makes my life as a driver a lot easier,” Saavedra added.