Green Flag: Honda Indy Toronto
After missing two years due to issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic, race day at the Honda Indy Toronto returns today to the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. The action begins at 3 p.m. ET on Peacock Premium and the INDYCAR radio network, with the 25-car launch scheduled for 3:30 p.m.
This event at Exhibition Place is one of the oldest on the sports program, with the first race won by Bobby Rahal in 1986. Only Indianapolis Motor Speedway (1911), the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course (1980), Road America ( 1982), WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca (1983) and Streets of Long Beach, California (1984) can trace their series roots further back, and the Toronto Circuit ranks fourth among these in number of series races organized (this will be the 36th).
The fans some consider the series most passionate are also back in droves. Large crowds were seen on Friday and Saturday, and the promoter is expecting another terrific turnout today.
The weather also plays its part, with the sun beating down on the temporary 11-turn, 1.786-mile street circuit just a few miles west of downtown.
Drivers, start your engines!
Herta leads a competitive industry
Colton Herta (No. 26 Gainbridge Honda of Andretti Autosport with Curb-Agajanian) won the NTT P1 Award on Saturday, ending a run of nine consecutive different poles to start the season. That’s slightly less than the sport’s all-time record set in 1952.
What he is saying is that this field is as competitive as any sport, and that should be on display today.
While Herta clocked a monster lap in Saturday’s qualifying session – 59.2696 seconds – a total of nine drivers clocked sub-1 minute laps. Scott Dixon (No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda) was less than a tenth of a second off Herta’s pace, and Josef Newgarden (No. 2 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet) was just a few blinks behind Dixon.
Dixon and Will Power (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet) have each won three times at the track that last hosted the NTT INDYCAR SERIES in 2019. Newgarden has won twice.
Simon Pagenaud won the 2019 race for Team Penske, and he’ll be looking to continue his run of good results at this track – fifth, second and first in his last three outings – in Meyer’s #60 AutoNation/SiriusXM Honda. Shank Racing. .
No other driver in this field has won at this track, but there are certainly many capable of doing so. Fifteen of the 25 drivers competing have won races in this series.
Because the Toronto event did not take place in 2020 and 2021, more than half of the field did not race an NTT INDYCAR SERIES car at this track.
Rookie David Malukas (No. 18 HMD Honda of Dale Coyne Racing with HMD), the No. 5 qualifier, leads the group of riders who do not have such experience at this track, although the Chicago native has raced on the circuit in junior formulas, including Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires in 2019.
Toronto-native Devlin DeFrancesco, who will start with a career-best 12th position in Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport’s No. 29 Honda PowerTap, is among seven drivers making their first start in Toronto today.
Other debutants are rookie Christian Lundgaard (#30 HUB International Honda of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing), defending series champion Alex Palou (#10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda), Jimmie Johnson (#48 Carvana Chip Ganassi Racing Honda), Scott McLaughlin (No. 3 XPEL Team Penske Chevrolet), rookie Callum Ilott (No. 77 Juncos Hollinger Racing Chevrolet) and Romain Grosjean (No. 28 DHL Honda of Andretti Autosport.
Four rookies in the series start in the top 12. All four have their highest starting positions. Ilott finished seventh, Lundgaard 10th.
Small lockdowns, lots of action
The weekend has already seen its fair share of sliding cars, with some scuffing the wall or hitting it with enough force to require a significant amount of work from the respective crews.
Now throw 25 passionate racers into a tight space, with these temporary barriers positioned on either side of the racing line. This can create problems.
“It’s definitely a track that’s known for a lot of chaos,” Power said.
Dixon said: “This (track) is quite technical and… the best grip is against the wall, so the closer you get (to the wall), the faster you go. It’s hard to judge. It will be a race of attrition with a few caveats here and there.
The 2019 race saw big dust on the first lap when Power tried to pass Graham Rahal on Turn 8.
Andretti Autosport will seek to avoid the problems encountered at Mid-Ohio with its tangled drivers. But all four start in the top 12 – Grosjean and DeFrancesco occupy the sixth row – so that’s something else to watch today.
The weather in the tires
Racing in Toronto presents a different challenge for Firestone, which must consider the summer heat and humidity when choosing its tire compounds for NTT INDYCAR SERIES racing.
The weather in Toronto is generally cooler than in the United States
“The Toronto climate brings much milder temperatures than our typical summer race in the United States, which demonstrates the versatility of our street tires as we have (bringed) the same main and alternate Firestone Firehawk compounds and constructions as the tires 2022 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Pete racing tire,” said Cara Krstolic, Race Tire Engineering and Production Manager, Bridgestone Americas Motorsports.
McLaughlin’s crew remains the leader in the Firestone Pit Stop Performance Award rankings. Points are awarded after each race based on the shortest time accumulated in the pit lane during a race, and the awarding of points reflects race points. McLaughlin’s group leads Dixon’s No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda by 48 points.
Rinus VeeKay’s Ed Carpenter Racing Crew (#21 Bitcoin Racing Team with BitNile Chevrolet) was the top points scorer in the July 3 race at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
VeeKay leads the warm-up
Rinus VeeKay led the 30-minute warm-up this morning in the No. 21 Bitcoin Racing Team with BitNile Chevrolet, a bit telling as he will start 20th this afternoon after a disappointing qualifying session on Saturday. VeeKay’s fastest lap was 59.8987 seconds.
SEE: Warm-up results
Alexander Rossi was the only other driver to break the one-minute barrier in the session, second at 59.9439 in the No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS/AutoNation Honda. Defending series champion Alex Palou finished third at 1:00.1391 in the #10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.
NTT P1 Prize winner Colton Herta finished 11th at 1:00.6008 in a bumpy session in the #26 Gainbridge Honda. Herta stalled trying to get out of his pit in the narrow Toronto pit lane, and he also triggered the only red flag of the session by locking his brakes on Turn 3 and stalling in the run-off zone. Herta made no contact during the incident and returned to the circuit after the AMR INDYCAR safety team restarted their car.