NTT IndyCar Series: Honda Indy Toronto Preview

The field heads down the straightaway in the Honda Indy Toronto. © [Adam Piggot / Spacesuit Media]

The field heads down the straightaway in the Honda Indy Toronto. © [Adam Piggot / Spacesuit Media]

by Paul Gohde

Indy car racing has a long history in Canada with events having been held in Toronto/ Exhibition Place, Vancouver (15), Edmonton (8), Toronto/Mosport (4), Montreal/ Ile Notre Dame (5), Montreal/Mount Tremblant (3) and Montreal/Sanair (3) at various times, beginning in 1967.  Racing on the Streets of Toronto’s Exhibition Place circuit, however, is currently the lone Canadian Indy car survivor, with the NTT Indy Car Series Honda Indy Toronto running for the 35th time on Sunday.

Previous Races at Toronto: Scott Dixon won his third race of the season last year on his way to his fifth series’ championship. His Ganassi Honda beat Simon Pagenaud by 5.270 seconds while leading a race-high 49/85 laps. Canadian rookie Robert Wickens completed the podium with his SPM teammate, and fellow Canadian, James Hinchcliffe fourth. Wickens was seriously injured at Pocono a month later and continues  to undergo rehabilitation with the hope of returning to racing at some point in the future. Pole-winner Josef Newgarden led 25 laps but brushed the Turn 11 barrier on lap 33 and dropped to a ninth-place finish.

NTT 2019 Season So Far: There have been six different winners in the previous 10 series’ races. Newgarden has won three while Pagenaud and Alexander Rossi each have two. Colton Herta, Takuma Sato and Scott Dixon each have one…2019 NTT Series Points after 10 races. Top Five: 1) Newgarden-Chevrolet /402pts. 2 )Rossi-Honda /-7.  3) Pagenaud-Chevrolet /-61.  4) Dixon-Honda /-94.  5) Power-Chevrolet /-108.

The Field: Only 22 car/driver combinations are entered for Sunday’s race. Sage Karam will drive for Carlin, his first 2019 start since debuting at the Indianapolis 500 in May where he finished 19th for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. Seventeen entered drivers have raced here before. New to Toronto Indy cars are rookies Marcus Ericsson, Santino Ferrucci, Colton Herta and Felix Rosenqvist as well as veteran Sage Karam…There were 23 entries at Toronto in 2018.

Notes: TV- NBCSN: Qualifying, 2 p.m. (ET) Saturday (live). Race, 3 p.m.(ET) Sunday (live). Green Flag, 3:42 p.m.…The Toronto Honda Indy is the second-longest running street race on the NTT IndyCar Series’ schedule (34 races prior to Sunday) behind Long Beach with (36)…In 2016 the Toronto street course was modified due to the construction of a new hotel. The course went from 1.750 miles to the current 1.786 miles…If talk is to be believed, a race at the Montreal F1 circuit on Ile Notre Dame may be added to the IndyCar schedule as soon as next season…Tragedy struck the Toronto event in 1996 when CART driver Jeff Krosnoff was killed just four laps from the finish. Also killed was course marshal Gary Avril.

Our Take: Street course races often fall into the area of “anything can happen and likely will”. Tight quarters can bring about unwanted contact, whether accidental or intentional. The first turn at Toronto is an extremely tight right-hander and with a full-field diving in on the first lap, even the front row had better be wary. Given all that, Dixon may grab his fourth Toronto win for Chip Ganassi Honda, while Will Power could  get his fourth for Team Penske Chevrolet. Our Dark Horse pick is Graham Rahal.

Final Words: Takuma Sato (No. 30 Mi-Jack/Panasonic RLL Honda): “We had a really good pace here (last year) and had a good start…but, unfortunately, I had an incident. It was really a shame because a podium finish was possible…We are trying a new concept this year and it works well in areas…Street courses are always challenging as there is no margin for errors. Toronto is famous as one of the bumpiest and it is quite tricky as the surface changes multiple times, even in a single corner. Also, the track has a long straight followed by a heavy braking area down to the hairpin, and that provides a lot of opportunity for overtaking.”




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