The Verizon IndyCar Series returns to Gateway Motorsports Park on Saturday, August 25 for the Bommarito Automotive Group 500. Leading up to the event, Arch City Media will be providing weekly coverage of the series to keep local open-wheeled racing fans informed and updated.
The stars of the Verizon IndyCar Series reclaim the streets of Toronto, Ontario, Canada this weekend and there are plenty of narratives to follow at the twelfth stage of the series’ 17-race docket.
Sunday’s green flag for the Honda Indy Toronto 85-lap challenge waves at 2:40 p.m. Central. The 1.786-mile temporary street course contains 11 turns overall and the total race length is a shade over 151 miles.
Last year’s event, won by current series’ defending champion Josef Newgarden, contained a margin of victory of a mere 1.8 seconds. The race was extremely clean and held an average speed of 95 mph. 2017’s tight finish, combined with the plethora of talented entrants returning, results in another projected nail biter on Sunday.
THINGS TO WATCH FOR THIS WEEKEND IN TORONTO
HINCH’S MOMENTUM PINCH – Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ driver James Hinchcliffe claimed the checkered flag under caution last weekend at the Iowa Corn 300 at the Newton, Iowa oval. His No. 5 Arrow Electronics SPM Honda started eleventh in the 22-car field and charged hard deep to claim the duke, his first of 2018. The Toronto-native finished third in his backyard last season and already has a pair of Top 5’s on street courses this season, topped by a third-place result at Birmingham. The key for Hinchcliffe this weekend is high qualifying laps and a Top 5 start for a potential back-to-back.
“It’s been pretty non-stop since the win in Iowa, but the momentum we have is hopefully going to carry over into the race this weekend,” said Hinchcliffe to indycar.com earlier this week. “It’s always so special to be able to race in front of my hometown. The support coming home is always so incredible. The Arrow Electronics crew has been working really hard all year, and after the win, we are all hungrier than ever.”
NEWGARDEN’S FAMILIAR SEEDS OF SUCCESS – The defending series champ, driving the No. 1 Hitatchi Team Penske Chevrolet, has a soft spot for Toronto as the two-time defending victor of the event (2016 & 2017). Last weekend in Iowa, Newgarden led an overwhelming majority of the race but a strategic roll of the dice to the pits deep saw him drop from second to his inevitable finish of fourth. Even with the setback, the points accumulated pushed him to second overall in the series’ standings.
“Toronto is always a race I look forward to,” Newgarden said to indycar.com. “It’s such a fun city with a lot for everyone traveling with the series to do and the racing is great. It can be challenging but always exciting. The new car is going to be fast there and I think that’s going to make it really fun. Strategy will be really important here as with any road or street course, so that’s something I know a lot of teams are really thinking about.”
DIXON’S FIX TO SMOTHER HIERARCHY HEAT – Scott Dixon’s June wins at Belle Isle and Fort Worth contributed to his five podium finishes and current lead in series’ points (411). However, his twelfth-place finish last weekend in Iowa hampered the momentum. Right now, Dixon (Chip Ganassi Racing) paces Newgarden by 33 points. On the plus-side historically, Dixon has a pair of Toronto wins in the back-pocket (2012 & 2013) and has seven podium finishes on the temporary Canadian road course in 13 starts.
“I don’t think we really had the weekend we wanted to in Iowa after having a string of five or so podiums over the last six races,” Dixon told indycar.com. “So, it’s on to Toronto where we’ve had some success in the past. It’s a great city that I know we all love coming to, and I hope it’s a good show Sunday and a good performance for the No. 9 team.”
POWER TOO SWEET TO BE SOUR – Veteran Will Power’s May dual wins at Indianapolis – the Grand Prix road course and the Indy 500 oval – were highlights of his four podium finishes thus far this season. He held the pole at last Sunday’s race at Iowa and led 24 laps but could not hold off the hard charge of the more-dialed-in cars and inevitably finished sixth. Currently sitting fifth in the series’ standings, road courses is his strong suit. In seven road courses this season, the Australian (Team Penske) has started in the Top 3 six times. He currently tops the active driver list in Toronto wins, so Sunday could provide the push his team craves.
“I’ve won there three times, so I know myself and the No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet team feels strong there,” Power told indycar.com. “I know it’s been resurfaced, so it’s always a fun track. It’s going to be very tough with there being so many good cars now. It’s going to be really exciting for the fans there to watch and will be fun for all us racing there.”
ROSSI’S UNDERNEATH THE RADAR TRACTION – With one road course win (Long Beach) and five podium finishes altogether on the ledger, Alexander Rossi (Andretti Autosport) currently sits third in the standings and only trails by 41 points. Consistency has been the key this season as the Californian has finished every 2018 race and there were only two times where he did not finish in the Top 10. In his sophomore campaign last year, he finished second in Toronto which resulted in a huge springboard of momentum and an inevitable seventh place finish in the points’ standings. Another covert triumph in Toronto might be the springboard for a potential series championship.
“I’m super excited to get to Toronto – that was kind of the start to our strong end last year and we’ve been really good on street tracks this year,” Rossi said to indycar.com. “We’re doing our best to capitalize on our performance there and cut down the gap to the leader in the championship.”
KANAAN’S STARTING STREAK – Now competing in his third decade of professional racing, Tony Kanaan (A.J. Foyt Enterprises) seeks to start his 295th consecutive race this weekend, which extends a ledger that dates back to June 2001. Safe money expects him to do so. The well-loved Brazilian has three Top 10 finishes this season and currently sits in the mid-teens of the series’ point standings. His seventh-place finish at the Belle Isle road course in June resulted in his highest placement this season.
“I know we have a good street course car, so I’m looking forward to maybe getting a podium for A.J. and cheer him up a bit,” joked Kanaan to indycar.com. “The fans in Toronto support IndyCar big time there and the city’s a lot of fun. Toronto is definitely a fun place to go and not just to race but also because you can take your family and have fun.”
TALENTED DUO AIMS FOR FIRST 2018 VICTORY – In the Verizon IndyCar Series, there have been seven different winners through eleven events. That parity has resulted in a points’ hierarchy that has been extremely competitive. Also within the mix are talented drivers that are chomping at the bit for their first victory of the 2018 calendar and Toronto might be the venue that offers that opportunity.
At the forefront is rookie Robert Wickens (Schmidt Peterson Motorsports), a Toronto native that currently sits sixth in the points standings and has reached the podium twice this season while 12-year vet Graham Rahal (Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing), currently seventh overall, has consistently converted deep-pack starts into Top 10 finishes.
“I can’t express enough how excited I am to race the Lucas Oil car in front of my hometown in Toronto,” said Wickens of the event. “ It’s a bucket list item of mine to race as a professional driver in front of my hometown, so I’m really looking forward to checking that off the list.”
“Right now, we need to get a win and need to get some points,” added Rahal. “Toronto is an iconic event in our sport. There is always great crowd support. Nowadays with (hometowners) James Hinchciffe and Robbie Wickens, I fully expect there to be a ruckus crowd, as usual. Hopefully, we can go up there and try to spoil their dreams.”
Qualifying takes place Saturday afternoon and Sunday’s pre-race coverage on NBCSN begins at 2 p.m. Central.
Follow the Verizon IndyCar Series AT THIS LINK.