Green Flag: Honda Indy Toronto

Green Flag: Honda Indy Toronto

After missing two years due to issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic, race day for the Honda Indy Toronto returns to the NTT INDYCAR SERIES today. The action kicks off at 3 p.m. (ET) on Peacock Premium and the INDYCAR Radio Network, with the 25-car rolling start expected at 3:30 p.m.

This Exhibition Place event is one of the oldest on the sport’s schedule, 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 the streets of Long Beach, California (1984) can trace their series roots further back, and the Toronto circuit ranks fourth in the number of series races hosted (this will be the 36th).

The fans that some consider to be the most passionate in the series are also back in droves. There were large crowds on Friday and Saturday and the promoter expects another great turnout today.

The weather is doing its part, too, with sunshine splashing down on the 11-turn, 1,786-mile temporary road course a few miles west of downtown.

Drivers, start your engines!

Herta leads a competitive field

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 pole winners to start the season. That’s one less than the sport’s record set in 1952.

What it says is that this field is as competitive as any other sports field, and it should show today.

While Herta put in a monster lap in Saturday’s qualifying session – 59.2696 seconds – a total of nine drivers drove laps under one minute. Scott Dixon (No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda) was less than a tenth of a second from 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 most recently hosted the NTT INDYCAR SERIES in 2019. Newgarden has won twice.

Simon Pagenaud won the 2019 race for Team Penske, and he will continue his string of strong finishes at this track – fifth, second and first in his last three stages – in the No. 60 AutoNation/SiriusXM Honda by Meyer Shank Racing .

No other driver in this field has won on this track, but there are certainly many who can. Fifteen of the 25 drivers on the grid have won races in this series.

Newbies all over the field

Because the Toronto event was not held in 2020 and 2021, more than half of the field has not driven a NTT INDYCAR SERIES car on this track.

Rookie David Malukas (No. 18 HMD Honda of Dale Coyne Racing with HMD), the No. 5 qualifier, leads the group of drivers who lack such experience on this track, although the Chicago native raced the track in junior formulas including Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires in 2019.

Toronto native Devlin DeFrancesco, who will start a career-best 12th in Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport’s No. 29 PowerTap Honda, is one of seven drivers who will make their first Toronto start of any kind today.

The other first-timers are rookie Christian Lundgaard (No.30 HUB International Honda of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing), reigning Series Champion Alex Palou (No.10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda), Jimmie Johnson (No.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 series rookies start in the top 12. All four have their highest starting positions. Ilott rolls away in seventh, Lundgaard in tenth.

Small borders, action galore

The weekend has already seen a number of cars slip, with some either rubbing against the wall or slamming into it with enough force to require a significant amount of work from the respective crews.

Now throw 25 eager drivers into a tight space, with those temporary barriers on either side of the racing line. It can cause problems.

“It’s definitely a track known for a lot of chaos,” said Power.

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 an exhaustion race with some warnings here and there.”

The 2019 race saw a major uproar on the opening lap as Power tried to overtake Graham Rahal at Turn 8.

Andretti Autosport will try to avoid the problems it had with its drivers in Mid-Ohio. But all four start in the top 12 – Grosjean and DeFrancesco occupy the sixth row – so that’s something different to watch today.

The temps in the tires

Racing in Toronto presents another challenge for Firestone, which has to factor in summer heat and humidity when choosing its tire compounds for NTT INDYCAR SERIES racing.

The weather in Toronto tends to be cooler than in the US

“The Toronto climate brings much milder temperatures than our typical summer race in the US, demonstrating the versatility of our street tire as we have (brought) the same Firestone Firehawk primary and alternative compounds and construction as the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Pete race tires in 2022.” said Cara Krstolic, director of Race Tire Engineering and Production, Bridgestone Americas Motorsports.

McLaughlin’s crew remains the leader of the Firestone Pit Stop Performance Award. Points are awarded after each race based on the shortest accumulated time in the pit lane during a race, and the point allocation reflects race points. McLaughlin’s group leads Dixon’s No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda with 48 points.

The Ed Carpenter Racing crew of Rinus VeeKay (No. 21 Bitcoin Racing Team with BitNile Chevrolet) was the leading scorer in the July 3rd race at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

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