Crucial Stretch Arrives with Welcome Return to Toronto – INDYCAR
Welcome back, Toronto.
If it seems like it has been forever since the NTT INDYCAR SERIES last staged the Honda Indy Toronto at storied Exhibition Place, it nearly has been. Today marks the three-year anniversary. On Sunday, it will have been 1,099 days since the green flag last waved on the streets of Canada’s largest city. Since that race in 2019, Takuma Sato, Helio Castroneves and Marcus Ericsson have won Indianapolis 500s, and Josef Newgarden, Scott Dixon and Alex Palou have won series championships.
Much of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES looks different, too. The aeroscreen has been successfully fitted to these cars. McLaren Racing has joined the series. Roger Penske has purchased Indianapolis Motor Speedway and INDYCAR. Popular Canadian driver James Hinchcliffe has become an NBC Sports broadcaster.
The series’ driver lineup has taken on a new look, as well. Simon Pagenaud, who won the 2019 race, now drives for Meyer Shank Racing. Felix Rosenqvist, who finished fourth that day, has moved to Arrow McLaren SP. Colton Herta left Harding Steinbrenner Racing to drive for Andretti Autosport w/Curb-Agajanian.
Twenty-two car-and-driver combinations were in the 2019 race, but only 10 of those drivers will be in this 25-car field, and five of those have switched teams.
Different? Yes. Yet, much remains the same.
The circuit remains 11 turns over 1.786 miles, and the route still travels in a clockwise direction in one of North America’s most beautiful cities. The Toronto skyline remains an impressive backdrop, and the racing down Lake Shore Boulevard West is still breathtakingly fast.
And then there are the different types of surfaces offered by a street circuit adjacent to Lake Ontario.
With that, let’s examine the Five Things that figure to come into play this weekend, the 36th time the event has been held at Exhibition Place.
The Favorites Are Proven
It can be said that the favorites to win any NTT INDYCAR SERIES race must include Scott Dixon, Will Power and Josef Newgarden, who have combined to win nine season championships, and that is true of this weekend, too.
Why? Not only have they each won multiple series races at Exhibition Place, they are among the few drivers entered this weekend with circuit experience. Simon Pagenaud is the only other driver to have won a series race there, and he did so from the pole.
The first of Power’s three Toronto victories came in Champ Car in 2007. Try guessing the second-place finisher. It was Neel Jani, who after one season in the series went on to a strong sports car career, winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2016. After joining Team Penske, Power also won Toronto in 2010 and 2016, and he has a pair of poles at the temporary street circuit.
“The track is just difficult because there’s so many different levels of grip,” said Power, who drives the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet. “Like, you never feel on top of the track (because the car) is sliding. The car never handles well, (so) it’s kind of difficult to tell your engineer what to do because there’s so much compromise.
“It’s a track that’s easy to make a mistake on … that might be a reason that you’ve seen champions win (most of the races). Yeah, a tough track. A lot of mayhem can happen there, a lot of mayhem.”
Dixon, the driver of the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing …….