TORONTO – Oh Canada! Garett Grist became the first Canadian to win a Verizon IndyCar Series’ ladder series event on the streets of Toronto in exactly a decade, since Antoine Bessette won a Toyota Atlantic Series race on July 10, 2005. It was the fourth career Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires win for the Juncos Racing sophomore, who hails from Grimsby, Ontario, a quick one hour drive down Queen Elizabeth Way from the 1.755 mile, 11-turn Exhibition Place street circuit.
Starting from pole for the first time this season, the 20-year-old held the lead through the first seven turns of a wet track for the Cooper Tires Pro Mazda Grand Prix of Toronto, but yesterday’s race winner Florian Latorre of Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing was able to sneak underneath Grist in Turn 8.
On Lap 2, championship contender Neil Alberico slapped the Turn 2 wall with his No. 3 Cape Motorsports machine to bring out the first of two cautions of the day. The caution was extended to Lap 8 when Victor Franzoni tagged the wall with his No. 21 M1 Racing car in Turn 11 after spinning in yellow flag conditions.
Coming back to the green flag, race leader Latorre spun in Turn 11, handing the point back to Grist and necessitating an extension of yellow flag conditions for one more lap.
Weiron Tan (Andretti Autosport) and Timothe Buret (Juncos Racing) were the other beneficiaries of the Latorre incident as they were able to slide into potential podium positions. Buret, who was looking for his second straight podium “North Of The Border” held the third spot until lap 13 when he misjudged his braking point in Turn 3 and fell to sixth position.
Buret’s misfortune opened the door for 16-year-old Pato O’Ward to score his second straight podium, and also allowed his Team Pelfrey teammate and championship leader Santiago Urrutia to extend his points lead. The 18 year-old from Uruguay currently holds a 30 point lead over Alberico. Jose Gutierrez of Juncos Racing rounded out the top five.
The race ended under caution on lap 17 when the No. 14 of Alessandro Latif (World Speed Motorsports) tangled with Latorre. Latif was later penalized 20 seconds for avoidable contact.
Raoul Owens of Team Pelfrey made a clean sweep of the driver contingency awards which included the Quarter Master Hard Charger Award for advancing from 14th to sixth, the Staubli Award and the RePlay XD Move of the Race for his series of passes on the opening lap. The PFC Award went to the winning team of Juncos Racing.
Jay Horak of M1 Racing took home Expert Class honors.
The Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires will be back on track July 17-18 when the series heads to Iowa Speedway for the second and final oval race of the season.
Garett Grist (No. 5 Lander Property Management – Juncos Racing) – “I think Florian’s car was set up more for the wet while my car was set up for the dry, so he could put his car places I couldn’t put mine early in the race. But as soon as it started to dry, my car came to life and I could pull away. I accelerated pretty hard coming back to the green flag and when he spun, I had to get on the brakes pretty hard to avoid him. I worked on the car throughout the race, on traction, bias, everything I could to find the balance between the wet and dry handling. When the conditions are changing like that, it’s a bit of a gamble and I’m glad we picked right. It’s been a difficult start to the year. I’ve been happy with my driving but we’ve had some issues out of our control that took us out of races but the guys have worked hard and you could see that this weekend. I was back up front, where we belong. And it’s great to get a win here. I’ve been coming to this event since I started racing karts, watching guys like (James) Hinchcliffe, so this is great.”