Well, football may not be coming home but, for the three Canadians on the grid, IndyCar certainly is! Those three are last week’s winner James Hinchcliffe, his Schmidt Peterson teammate Robert Wickens and the often forgotten but highly rated Zachary Claman De Melo. Toronto marks round twelve of seventeen, meaning that there will be just five rounds remaining once this weekend has run its course, so the championship is really starting to get serious.
Last time out was at the ‘world’s fastest short track’ at Iowa which is a sharp contrast to the bumpy streets of Toronto for IndyCar’s only non-American round of the year. Back to Iowa for a minute and it was Hinchcliffe who stole the show from Josef Newgarden, who’d looked dominant throughout the weekend. The hardest blow for Newgarden was not being passed by the afore mentioned Canadian on track but the strategic blunder that robbed him of a certain second place and a stab at the victory on the restart. Simple though the situation seemed, the decision whether to pit or not was an incredibly tough call to make, mainly due how late in the race the last caution was.
Normally, the rule to go by is: if there’s a caution, always pit however, since the race didn’t restart, track position became more important than pace so those who didn’t pit were rewarded while the others were punished. This made for an interesting podium of Hinchcliffe, Spencer Pigot and Takuma Sato – certainly not you’d put money on going into the weekend but then that’s the joy of IndyCar this season!
The 2017 Honda Indy Toronto race was won by a Chevrolet, more specifically the then champion-in-waiting Newgarden who trounced the field, leading more than double the laps of anyone else. Following him home were the Honda duo of Alexander Rossi and home hero Hinchcliffe, somewhat restoring the Honda pride at their own race. The pole sitter last year was Simon Pagenaud who didn’t last very long in the lead, being overtaken by Penske teammate Helio Castroneves before the first corner which shows that pole isn’t everything! The other Penske of Will Power was as unfortunate as ever, tangling with Chip Ganassi’s Scott Dixon on the opening lap – ruining both their races.
Castroneves was somewhat robbed of the win by a conveniently timed caution for Newgarden after Tony Kanaan hit the barriers; Newgarden was in the pits just as it happened whereas everyone else had to pit under caution, giving the American all-important track position.
Looking ahead to this year, we have three driver changes to speak of – two scheduled and one less so. Jordan King is back in the #20 Ed Carpenter Racing entry, taking over from the boss as usual while Juncos are back, this time with Rene Binder. The other change is at Harding where Conor Daly takes the wheel from Gabby Chaves as the team asses their options for a second driver next year, reassuring Chaves that he’s not going to be done out of drive.
I sound like a broken record saying that it’s hard to predict who will be strong but that’s the truth! The home boys have always run well here while Penske, Andretti, Chip Ganassi and co should be up there as normal. What I can say is that the championship is getting tighter with Dixon’s lead reduced to 33 points and, when there’s 50 on offer for a win, that’s not a lot. Newgarden is the man is second while Rossi is close behind in third with those three looking to be the ones to watch – not to discount Ryan Hunter-Reay and Power.
The practice and qualifying action, of which there is plenty, is being streamed by IndyCar as usual, along with all the Indy Lights, Pro Mazda and USF2000 action with the full Mazda Road to Indy programme in tow this weekend. BT Sport 2 have the Toronto race and there will be full commentary on our Twitter account for both qualifying and the race.
If you’re looking to catch any of the action, your timings for the weekend are as follows:
Practice 1 – 3:40pm
Practice 2 – 7:30pm
Practice 3 – 2:50pm
Qualifying – 6:55pm
Final Warmup – 4:40pm
Race – 8:30pm
(All times BST)