Honda Indy Toronto- Quick Thoughts

Photo: Kyle McInnes

I don’t know what was the best part of Robert Wickens driving the parade lap- the smile on his face or Karli’s reactions. It was a great way to start the day. I’m glad my eyes cleared up for the start of the race.

Thank you, NBC, for showing just a few still photos of the beginning of Wickens’ crash.  It was just enough to get the idea across, although most of us didn’t really need the reminder.

Too much time was given to the Bourdais-Sato incident from yesterday.

The series is on a pace to have the fewest different race winners in a while. There have only been six so far, and I think the top contenders could win the remaining races. Josef Newgarden has won three times. Simon Pagenaud matched that total with today’s win. Alexander Rossi has won twice. Three other drivers, Scott Dixon, Takuma Sato, and Colton Herta have one victory each.

The lack of cautions made for a very straightforward race. The top five starters finished in the top five with just some minor shuffling of positions.

I’m now convinced Will Power will not win a race this season. He just doesn’t seem to have that edge which made him so successful.

The race started to get interesting the last 20 laps as Dixon closed in on Pagenaud, but overall it was the least interesting Toronto race in a few years.

While Ed Carpenter Racing has improved their road/street race qualifying, they still can’t seem to put a decent race together. Ed Jones and Spencer Pigot each finished six spots lower than they started. Banging wheels with your teammate and damaging your teammate’s wing does not help.

We have a three , possibly four, driver points battle now. Rossi has closed to within four of Newgarden, and Pagenaud is now just 39 behind. Dixon is 86 points down, but could make up more ground in Iowa. The yellow on the last lap helped Newgarden keep fourth place. Rosenqvist was closing quickly on Newgarden’s damaged car.

NBC Can Do Better

Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad NBC is the exclusive home of the NTT Indycar Series. There are some things they can do, or in this case stop doing, to improve the broadcasts.

First, please dump the Danger Zone phrase. We get it. The situation doesn’t even come up that often.

We don’t need weekly speculation on where Rossi will drive next year.  He is driving this year and fighting for a championship. Let us just enjoy that.

fewer NASCAR inserts would be great. I don’t watch that series, so i don’t know if there are as many Indycar inserts in those broadcasts. If there are, that’s fair.

It seems as if each race broadcast we see fewer laps and more periphery shots of the area where the race is held. Yes, the Toronto skyline is beautiful. Show it in the prerace.

Look for my full race report on Wildfire Sports tomorrow. Thanks for following this weekend. I will be on site at both Iowa and Mid Ohio.

Honda Indy Toronto Qualifying- Quick Thoughts

 

Photo: Kyle McInnes

The Sato/Bourdais scuffle was an interesting way to start the show. I don’t want a steady diet of that type of thing, but it spices up the action when it occurs.

Rosenqvist loves Toronto.

Ed Carpenter Racing  is making progress on their road course program. Both cars in Round 2 and Ed Jones in the Fast Six.

Power seemed frustrated in the interview after Round one.

Great last lap by Jones to lead Group 2.

Six teams advanced to Round 2 and four teams had cars in the Fast Six. An incredibly competitive qualifying.

Rossi seems to be in the same place he was in St. Pete – just okay but not good enough to contend.

I like the strategy by Jones and Rosenqvist in the Fast Six. It almost worked for Rosenqvist.

Pagenaud took a rather roundabout route to the pole. He didn’t lead a round until the Fast Six.

The two drivers who most need wins to stay in the championship fight are starting on the front row.

Overall, it was a wild and competitive qualifying. Teams used lots of different tire strategies. It seemed like several drivers had a shot at the pole.

I wonder how many slides and wall hits we’ll see tomorrow?

Back tomorrow afternoon with Quick Thoughts on the race,.  My full race report will be on Wildfire Sports Monday.

Pagenaud Fastest in Practice 3; Qualifying Groups Set

Simon Pagenaud led the final practice before qualifying with a lap of 59. 365 seconds. He will lead Group 2 in Round 1 of qualifying this afternoon.  Pagenaud also led yesterday’s second practice session. Felix Rosenqvist had the next best time at 59. 4 seconds. Rosenqvist has finished each practice period in the top three.

The session was green until Ryan Hunter-Reay slid into the tires just before pit in with 12 minutes left. the session resumed with eight minutes and ten seconds remaining. Graham Rahal slid into the tires in turn 1 with four minutes left. Time expired but Indycar allowed one more flying lap.

Qualifying begins at 2pm EDT on NBCSN.

Tentative Qualifying Groups

Group 1

Rosenqvist

Ferrucci

Andretti

Bourdais

Pigot

Rahal

Power

Chilton

Sato

Leist

Karam

Group 2

Pagenaud

Hunter-Reay

Herta

Rossi

Hinchcliffe

Ericsson

Newgarden

Dixon

Jones

Kanaan

Veach

Back after qualifying with Quick Thoughts. Going to try to write some during qualifying.

 

Pagenaud Fastest In P2; Three Drivers Break 60 Second Mark

Turn 11 continued to be tricky in the afternoon session as Simon Pagenaud led Practice 2. The winner of the 103rd Indianapolis 500 had the day’s first sub-60 second lap with a best time of 59. 871. Felix Rosenqvist was second quickest 0.06 seconds behind. Sebastien Bourdais ended the period third 0.116 seconds slower than Pagenaud.

Turn 11 again was a busy spot with contact by Takuma Sato,  Marcus Ericsson, and Alexander Rossi.  Ericsson had another contact incident in turn 5.  Rossi hit the turn 9 wall and damaged the left front tire.There was no suspension damage and he returned to the track, but finished 14th.

Pagenaud, Bourdais, and Rosenqvist looked strong in both sessions. Scott Dixon, who led the morning practice, was fifth this afternoon. The Ganassi pair of Dixon and Rosenqvist join Pagenaud as the only three drivers in the top five of both sessions.

Notes

Spencer Pigot was fourth in practice 2 as he continues to seek a breakout race performance.

The cars of Marco Andretti and Colton Herta look a lot alike from a distance. It will be good to know their starting positions to help watching them in the race. I hope they don’t end up in the same row.

Both of Rossi’s wall contacts happened in the first 20 minutes of the session. The car looks like it needs some work overnight.

Tomorrow’s practice session is at 10: 20 am ET. Qualifying begins  at 2 pm ET. The practice is on NBC Gold. Qualifying is live on NBCSN.

Dixon Leads Practice One; Turn 11 Proves Tricky

Scott Dixon led the first practice session for the Honda Indy Toronto this morning. His lap of 1:01.072 was nearly two tenths better than Josef Newgarden’s best time. Dixon’s teammate Felix Rosenqvist was third quickest. and Alexander Rossi was fourth. This is the NTT Indycar Series’ first race since Road America June 23.

Newgarden, Will Power, and Takuma Sato each spun on the exit of turn 11 causing stoppages to the session.  Newgarden bent the rear tow link in his incident. Ther is an expoxy patch in the center of the road just past the turn’s apex. if the car straddles the patch, no problem. If the tires touch it, there could be an issue.

Rossi led the session until the last five minutes when Dixon passed him. Rossi’s final attempt at a decent lap was frustrated by his being behind another car, then not not having enough tires left for a quicker lap.

Notes

It’s difficult to get used to Sebastien  Bourdais in a blue car.

Karam’s car reminds me of Paul Dana’s car.

Turn three seems even trickier than it has been.

The next practice begins at 3:15 eastern. You can watch on NBC Gold. The coverage this morning was excellent.

The top 12:

Screenshot_20190712-121925

 

Toronto Preview

Photo from Alexander Rossi’s Twitter feed

Summer break is over. The NTT Indycar series points battle returns this weekend in Toronto. This is the 34th running of the series on the streets of Exhibition Place. The event began in 1986 and except for 2008 has run continuously.  The weekend has the feel of the Indianapolis 500 to it. The course layout has changed over the years  due to construction. It is a narrow track which makes qualifying very important and  perfect pit stops almost mandatory.

We are near the point of the season where a good points finish matters almost as much, if not more, than winning. Josef Newgarden leads Alexander Rossi by just seven points. Simon Pagenaud is 61points behind, and Scott Dixon trails by 94. Of the top four Rossi and Dixon are the two who most need to win Sunday. Rossi needs the victory to tie Newgarden with firsts this season.  Rossi would then hold the tiebreaker with three second place finishes should he and Newgarden end the season tied.

Dixon’s only chance to defend his series title is to win as many of the seven races left as he can. A deficit of nearly 100 points is difficult to make up, but Dixon is known for his second half strength.  Toronto was the last of his three victories last season. Dixon has won at Toronto three times. He swept the double header here in 2013.

Team Penske drivers Newgarden and Will Power have won three of the last four races and three of the last four poles. newgarden has won twice. Power, Newgarden, and Pagenaud have each won a Toronto pole since 2015. Dixon broke up the Penske pole party in 2016.  Since 2009 only Dario Franchitti (2009), Dixon (2013), and Sebastien Bourdais (2014)  have won the race from the pole.

The Honda Indy Toronto race has never been caution free. I don’t think Sunday’s race will break that tradition.  Pit strategy will be a big factor in the race. Newgarden and Tim Cindric have won three times this season playing pit strategy  perfectly. The breaks could fall their way again. In Rossi’s dominant win at Road America, his last pit stop was earlier than the first two. In other races Rossi had seemed to stick to a plan regardless of the situation. That early stop might mean the team is going to be more flexible should the situation warrant.

Qualifying is key at Toronto. The winner will likely come from the Firestone fast Six group.  In 2001 Michael Andretti won from 13th, the farthest back the winner has started. Newgarden started from the pole last year and seemed to be in control of the race. He went wide on a restart and hit the inside wall, allowing Dixon to take the lead and the victory.

Spotlight on the Canadian Duo

A Canadian will triumph before the race begins. Robert Wickens, severely injured in a crash at pocono last August, will drive the parade lap in a modified Acura NSX. Wickens has worked extremely hard on his recovery. He is still a long way from competing again, but his progress has been amazing. This might be the most watched parade lap in series history.

Note to NBC: We’ve seen the crash; we don’t need to see it Sunday. Thanks in advance.

Hometown hero James Hinchcliffe, Wickens teammate,  just missed the podium last year, finishing fourth. He has been on the podium  here, but has had some mixed results. A Hinchcliffe win would cap an amazing day for the two Canadian drivers.

Don’t Bet Against the Front Runners

Newgarden has won two street races on strategy. Rossi has won one in a powerful statement race, although that turned out to be a preview of Road America. Rossi also has finished second on a street course. Toronto is similar to Detroit, where Rossi and Newgarden made up the front row.

I think the race comes down to a battle between these two, but I also wouldn’t count out Pagenaud or Dixon. Last year there were three full course yellows, all in the first half of the race. A late yellow coukld completely change the complexion of the race.

I’m going with Rossi to make it two wins in a row. In 2018 Rossi won back to back races at Mid Ohio and Pocono.