By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
Max Chilton saw his race come to an abrupt end after falling victim to an early crash in the Honda Indy Toronto at Exhibition Place.
A restart on the Lap 33 proved to be the turning point of Sunday’s Verizon IndyCar Series event as Graham Rahal ran into the back of Chilton entering Turn 1, which led to a seven-car crash and forced the latter to retire from the 85-lap contest.
The drama started as soon as race leader Josef Newgarden went up in the marbles, scraping the wall and quickly dropped from the lead down to 11th. Scott Dixon, who restarted second, took the lead and pulled away.
Behind him, Newgarden’s slow pace caused a chain reaction for the rest of the 23-car field, making bold moves to get by the wounded No. 1 Hitachi Chevrolet.
Further back in the field, Jordan King hit the brakes, which led Rahal to locking it up entering Turn 1, drilling the back end of Chilton, sending the British driver directly into the tire barriers. The contact also led Ed Jones to spin Rahal around, and was then hit by the Andretti Autosport duo of Ryan Hunter-Reay and Alexander Rossi.
Rossi was the first to hit Rahal and immediately thereafter, Hunter-Reay lifted the No. 27 NAPA Auto Parts Honda up in the air before his rear landed on the ground. Fortunately for Rossi, he recovered from the pileup and finished eighth.
“Rahal spun around and I stopped to avoid it, but then Ryan hit me and I went airborne,” Rossi said.
“We changed the wing again and stopped a couple more times. The fact that we finished eighth is a huge testament to the NAPA AUTO PARTS team and I’m so thankful for them. It was a difficult day and they kept me in it.”
Sebastién Bourdais, who was trying to slow down to avoid the carnage, made contact on the back of Hunter-Reay’s No. 28 DHL Honda, sustaining front wing damage.
The contact put Bourdais two laps down, and felt he didn’t slow down enough to avoid the carnage.
“I got into Turn 1 and I have no idea what happened,” Bourdais said.
“It felt like I didn’t really slow down. The car started to crab and go sideways under braking and from there I couldn’t recover. I went backward into the tires, not bad enough to put us out of the race, but bad enough that I had to come in and change the rear wing.
“We lost two laps, and from there it was just about collecting data and bringing it home. It was just a very disappointing weekend. I really wanted to do a lot more for the Mouser Electronics, Molex guys, but I guess it wasn’t meant to be this weekend.”
Will Power wasn’t as fortunate either, as his already frustrating day worsened when his No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet refused to turn and made contact into the tire barriers.
While the quantity of cars involved was high, everyone but Chilton successfully resumed their afternoons and made repairs in the pits.
Meanwhile, Rahal went to the garage to fix his damaged No. 15 United Rentals/Rousseau Metals Honda. Once the repairs were made on the rear end of his car, he finished 19 laps behind race winner Dixon in 21st.
Rahal said he wasn’t sure how drilled him from behind after he was trying to avoid hitting King.
“I had a really good run and was going to the right, and then King popped out and hit the brakes,” Rahal said.
“I went left to try to avoid him, got into the back of Chilton just a little bit, but we were kind of OK. We started to get to mid-corner and were OK, and then, wham, I got absolutely drilled from behind. I don’t really know by whom, but ultimately, obviously, I started the whole train of it. I just don’t know what happened behind me.”
The pileup further impacted Rahal’s title aspirations, dropping from a two-way tie in sixth down to eighth, 151 points behind points leader Dixon.
Enduring just his second retirement of the season, Chilton reported of having steering issues after Rahal’s contact, and later found his No. 59 Gallagher Chevrolet having extensive damage beyond repair. This resulted Chilton becoming the first retiree at Toronto, finishing last after completing 32 laps.
Before his retirement, Chilton served a penalty under caution, which he isn’t sure that he agreed with the call from INDYCAR Race Control. The 27-year-old added that dirty tires made driving difficult for him and the other six competitors involved.
“It was really unfortunate day for the No. 59 Gallagher Chevrolet and the whole Carlin Gallagher Racing crew,” Chilton said, who endured a last-place finish since the second dual race at Belle Isle in 2016.
“We were given a penalty under yellow that I’m not sure I completely agreed with, and then when we did go back green, everyone’s tires were still so dirty from driving through the caution zone that the contact was somewhat inevitable.
“A car spun out in front and then we were hit from behind, causing quite a considerable amount of damage. We were able to limp back around to pit lane, but once we got there, the team decided the damage was too extensive to continue. Just a tough break for the team, especially with how much I love racing here in Toronto.”