Monday, July 21, 2014

Musings From the Weekend: The More the Merrier

A busy Sunday was jam-packed with Asian Le Mans, Super GT, Formula One, Indy Lights, IndyCar, Pirelli World Challenge and another IndyCar race. Here is a run down of what got me thinking.

Doubleheaders Revisited
Two seasons worth of doubleheaders are behind us and we have faced different scenarios at each one. From rained out qualifying sessions to rained out races, rough tracks to poor drainage, doubleheaders have experienced an gauntlet of challenges.

I liked yesterday with the two races split. It had a World Superbike feel and I think IndyCar should investigate the twin 80-minute double feature on Sunday with say the Indy Lights race in the middle. I like the Saturday-Sunday format as well. Maybe the twin-80 if you will, should be used at other road/street courses, while Belle Isle, Houston and Toronto keep the Saturday-Sunday format.

The twin-80 could pose a problem if IndyCar don't go racing due to inclement weather like they did Saturday. I thought the two, 80-minute races provided just as much excitement and just as much drama as the full distance, 85-lap races would have. The races were one stoppers and in race one you didn't have to worry about the tire designation rule getting in the way. It was simple.

Maybe the twin-80 should be used on the road courses. One race early at say noon, with Indy Lights at 1:45 p.m. and race two at 3:15 p.m. I think it is worth consideration.

While the postponement on Saturday caused a very shaken up Sunday, I don't think we need to abandon doubleheaders. One, because once you gave fans doubleheaders, you can't take them away. That would kill an event. Two, doubleheaders puts IndyCar on television an extra day three weekends during the season. IndyCar needs more television exposure if they want any hope of attracting sponsors.

Expand PWC
Pirelli World Challenge joined IndyCar at Toronto and had to excellent races. In race one, IMSA GTLM drivers Nick Tandy and Kuno Wittmer went 1-2 with Tandy's Porsche holding off Wittmer's Viper by just over a half second. In GTS, Dean Martin held off defending GTS champion Lawson Aschenbach by three quarters of a second. Race two saw two Canadians on top. Wittmer won by over a second to Anthony Lazzaro's Ferrari. Kia Racing's Mark Wilkins held off the Mustang of Alec Udell by 0.039 seconds for the GTS win.

PWC has put on some of the best racing in 2014. It is MotoGP on four wheels. Forty minutes of non-stop, close quarters action. No pit stops, no full course cautions for a car stopped on the side of the course and as far as I have heard, no bitching from the drivers, manufactures or teams. It sounds like racing heaven.

The one wish I have to PWC is for it to grow in fans but grow with drivers. Toronto had 42 entries. That's more than enough for a street course but I'd love to see some drivers who can't land a ride in IndyCar look to PWC as an option between opportunities and gives them something else to do beside run just the Indianapolis 500 and I like to see more top level sports car drivers moonlight in PWC.

This is nothing against the current crop of drivers. Johnny O'Connell and Andy Pilgrim are great veterans. Anthony Lazzaro has run everything and anything in his career, from IndyCar to NASCAR to sports car. Not to much PWC has a few good young drivers in Andrew Palmer, Nick Mancuso and Mike Skeen. But I'd love to see field grow with the likes of J.R. Hildebrand, Dane Cameron, James Davison, John Edwards, Tommy Milner and Jonathan Bomarito running most of the races.

Keep It Simple Stupid Points
Many times I have advocated for the return of the 9-6-4-3-2-1 point system Formula One used for nearly thirty seasons from the 1961 to 1990 in every motorsports series. It is simple to follow, no bonus points and makes a driver earn a championship by needing to finish up front and not pussyfoot for top tens. Here is a look at how a few series would stand if it used the format above.

Ryan Hunter-Reay- 46
Will Power- 42
Hélio Castroneves- 37
Simon Pagenaud- 33
Juan Pablo Montoya- 24
Ed Carpenter- 20
Tony Kanaan- 20
Scott Dixon- 19
Mike Conway- 18
Sébastien Bourdais- 17

Carlos Muñoz- 15
Charlie Kimball- 12
Marco Andretti- 10
Carlos Huertas- 9
Mikhail Aleshin- 7
Graham Rahal- 7
Josef Newgarden- 6
Jack Hawksworth- 6
James Hinchcliffe- 6
Ryan Briscoe- 4

Justin Wilson- 4
Takuma Sato- 2
Kurt Busch- 1

The biggest shakeup in IndyCar would be both Ed Carpenter and Mike Conway would be in the top ten of the championship. Ryan Hunter-Reay would be leading instead of third and Hélio Castroneves would be third instead of leading. James Hinchcliffe's bad season is really put into perspective with the 9-6-4-3-2-1 system. Takuma Sato would have just gotten on the board with his fifth at Toronto 2 and Kurt Busch would have a point which would really show how good of a run he had at Indianapolis.

Formula One
Nico Rosberg- 66
Lewis Hamilton- 61
Daniel Ricciardo- 28
Valtteri Bottas- 20
Fernando Alonso- 20
Sebastian Vettel-19
Jenson Button- 12
Nico Hülkenberg- 10
Kevin Magnussen- 6
Sergio Pérez- 5

Felipe Massa- 3

No big changes in Formula One. Mercedes are still dominating except Hamilton is much closer to Rosberg. Kimi Räikkönen would be points-less as would be Jean-Éric Vergne, Romain Grosjean, Daniil Kvyat and Jules Bianchi.

Brad Keselowski- 54
Dale Earnhardt, Jr.- 50
Jimmie Johnson- 42
Kevin Harvick- 36
Jeff Gordon- 34
Joey Logano- 30
Kyle Busch- 30
Carls Edwards- 24
Matt Kenseth- 24
Denny Hamlin- 22

Kurt Busch- 21
Kyle Larson- 14
Aric Almirola- 13
Brian Vickers- 13
Paul Menard- 10
Greg Biffle- 8
Clint Bowyer- 8
Kasey Kahne- 7
Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.- 6
Ryan Newman- 6

Jamie McMurray- 6
Tony Stewart- 5
Marcos Ambrose- 4
Casey Mears- 3
AJ Allmendinger- 3
Austin Dillon- 2
Martin Truex, Jr.- 1

A few shake ups in NASCAR. Keselowski and Earnhardt, Jr. are the top two. Jeff Gordon drops to fifth. Kevin Harvick would jump from thirteenth to fourth. The biggest drop would be Ryan Newman, from seventh to twentieth.

Winners From the Weekend
You know about Sébastien Bourdais, Mike Conway, Nico Rosberg, Nick Tandy, Kuno Wittmer, Dean Martin and Mark Wilkins but did you know...

Alex Baron won his first career Indy Lights race at Toronto. Jake Eidson and Florian Latorre split the U.S. F2000 races. Latorre took the points lead after R.C. Enerson finished seventeenth in race two.

Mitch Evans and Stefano Coletti won in GP2 at Hockenheim. Marvin Kirchhöfer and Jann Mardenborough won in GP3.

The Signatech Alpine of Paul-Loup Chatin, Nelson Panciatici and Oliver Webb won the ELMS race in Austria. The AF Corse Ferrari of Matt Griffin, Duncan Cameron and Michele Rugolo won in GTE. The SMP Racing Ferrari of Kiril Ladygin, Aleksey Basov and Luca Persiani won in GTC.

David Cheng and Ho-Pin Tung won the ALMS season opener from Inje in the #1 OAK Racing Morgan-Judd. The Ligier-Honda of Mathias Beche, Kevin Tse and Frank Yu won in CN and BMW Z4 GT3 of Morris Chen, Marco Seefried and Ryohei Sakaguchi won GT.

In Super GT from Sugo, the Lexus of Yuji Tachikawa and Kohei Hirate won in GT500 and the Lamborghini of Takayuki Aoki and Manabu Orido won in GT300.

Chase Elliott won the Nationwide Series race at Chicagoland.

Coming Up This Weekend
Formula One heads east to Hungary.
NASCAR and IMSA are at Indianapolis.
Another Blancpain Endurance Series race as it is time for the 24 Hours of Spa.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

First Impressions: Toronto 2014 Race Two

Mike Conway switched to slick at the right time and came out victorious
1. Mike Conway pulled another one out of nowhere and has two wins in 2014. He's had a terrible season though. Outside of his two wins, his best finish is 11th. Ed Carpenter Racing though has had a great season. Three wins while Ganassi is still winless. Great call going to slick tires when they did.

2. Speaking of Ganassi, Tony Kanaan went from stalled on lap one to finish second. A great day for him but I bet he and his team are itching for a win. Good news, the next race is at Scott Dixon's house, Mid-Ohio.

3. Will Power took a healthy chunk out of Hélio Castroneves' point lead in race two. Third for Power, 12th for this teammate. The Australian is thirteen back of the Brazilian.

4. If Charlie Kimball could qualify in the top five, he'd have eight wins and be walking away with the championship. Started 16th today, finished 4th. Great day for him. Great day for Chevrolet, sweeping the top four.

5. Takuma Sato finished fifth, first top ten since the Grand Prix of Indianapolis, first top five since second at São Paulo last year. A much need result for AJ Foyt Racing.

6. Jack Hawksworth snuck into a sixth place finish. Scott Dixon and Marco Andretti came home where they started in seventh and eighth. Sébastien Bourdais couldn't match his success in race one but came home ninth after it could have been much worse.

7. Justin Wilson nearly pulled out a podium but came home tenth after being a sitting duck on wet tires when everyone else was on slicks.

8. We need to set rules on when and when not a red flag can be used at the end of race. There has to be a standard and not just willy nilly using it when race control feels like it. Indianapolis, late caution, red flag is used. Texas, late caution, no red flag, race did finish under green. Houston 1, late caution, no red flag, race ended under caution. Iowa, late caution, no red flag, race did finish under green. Today, a timed race, red flag, race finishes under green. There needs to be, carved in stone, a step-by-step process for when and when not a red flag can be used at the end of a race.

9. Firestone needs to develop a better wet weather tire. That is their homework for the long offseason IndyCar has given them.

10. Paul Tracy and Townsend Bell did a great job on the broadcast commentating on the driver's running a wider line, off the concrete patches in the corners and to be honest, I doubt the ABC broadcast would have given that much insight.

11. This was the last race of July and there are only four races to go. It is hard to wrap my head around that. It's not even August but there are only four races left. In six weeks the season will be over. After today it appears to be a two horse, Penske race. Castroneves vs. Power. Ryan Hunter-Reay had two poor races. He is only 69 points out but he's going to need some help if he wants a second title. Simon Pagenaud had an electrical gremlin ruin his race early. He fall back to fourth in the championship, 71 back. Amazingly, 18 drivers are still mathematically eligible for the championship. Unless someone goes on a tear winning three of the final four or sweeping the final four, it looks like Roger Penske will get his first champion since Sam Hornish, Jr. in 2006 and either Will Power or Hélio Castronves will get that elusive first title.

12. IndyCar gets a week off after six races in four weeks. I think I'll go to California.

First Impressions: Toronto 2014 Race One

Sébastien Bourdais picked up his second Toronto victory ten years after his first at Exhibition Place
1. What a race by Sébastien Bourdais. It's been a long journey back to the top step of the podium for Bourdais. From a rough year and a half in Formula One, to a fair amount of success in sports cars, Bourdais has picked up his thirty-second IndyCar victory nearly seven years after his thirty-first. Fun fact, eighteen of Bourdais' thirty-two victories have come from pole position. 

2. Hélio Castroneves finish second while championship contenders Will Power and Ryan Hunter-Reay struggled. Power finished ninth, Hunter-Reay retired after contact with the wall while trying to passing Tony Kanaan, who finished third. Power had a good run but was never close to challenging his teammate and Hunter-Reay put himself in a position he didn't need to be in. There is still another race today but things are appearing to fall Castroneves' way

3. Simon Pagenaud nearly had his day end on lap one after contact with Luca Filippi spun the Frenchman and blocked the track but Pagenaud recovered and came home in a hard fought fourth. He also kept his championship hopes alive by not giving up.

4. Scott Dixon rounded out the top five, Graham Rahal finished sixth, Charlie Kimball had a Charlie Kimball-like day, starting on one of the last three rows but finishing in the top ten and James Hinchcliffe matched his career best finish at his home race with another eighth place finish.

5. Who would have thought KV Racing would have won a race before Tony Kanaan and Ganassi Racing won at the beginning of 2014? Nine different winners in 2014 and by the end of today, there very well could be ten different winners.

6. Not a bad first race. No one had a massive shunt and will be fighting to make the start of race two. That is good news. Today has a World Superbike race day feel. One race, followed by some support races in the middle and then another race to close out the day. Maybe IndyCar should consider this format going forward for doubleheaders.

7. Nice to see IndyCar get a back bone and move Ryan Briscoe, Juan Pablo Montoya and Power to the rear of the field but what took so long? They had announced they weren't going to lose their positions at the end of Saturday and all of a sudden Sunday they are at the back. You got to make a call and stick by it, not flip flop back and forth.

8. One more point of inconsistency. Last year at Houston, race two was lined up by entrant points from before the race weekend, not after race one at Houston. This year, race two at Toronto is lined up by entrant points after race one at Toronto. What will the ruling be going forward if needed again? Who knows!

9. A little less than four hours until race two, rest up everybody.

Morning Warm-Up: Toronto 2014 Race Two

Sébastien Bourdais and Will Power will lead the field to the green in race one Sunday morning
After a rained out Saturday race, Sunday will feature two, 65-lap or 80-minute races. The grid for race one will be set by the qualifying times set Saturday with race two being set by entrant points entering the weekend. Race one will feature an initial rolling start while race two will feature an initial standing start.

Sébastien Bourdais will start on pole position for race one. It is his first pole position since Assen in 2007. Seventeen of the Frenchman's thirty-one victories have come from pole position. Will Power will start second despite an accident on the parade laps on Saturday. Had the race gone green on Saturday, Power would have had to start from the back of the grid. Third place will be Hélio Castroneves. The Brazilian has a nine point lead over his Penske teammate Power in the championship. Ryan Hunter-Reay will start fourth. He won at Toronto from sixth on the grid in 2012.

Simon Pagenaud starts fifth despite an accident in the Firestone Fast Six session on Saturday. Next to him will be Tony Kanaan. Kanaan's last road/street course victory was Belle Isle in 2007. Luca Filippi qualified seventh for his first career start at Toronto next to Justin Wilson. Twice has the winner come from row four at Toronto. Will Power won from seventh in 2007 and Al Unser, Jr. won from eighth in 1990. James Hinchcliffe starts ninth for the first race in his home town. Ryan Briscoe rounds out the top ten. Briscoe had an accident on the parade laps yesterday but will keep his grid position.

Juan Pablo Montoya will start eleventh despite an electrical issue that nearly sent the Colombian to the back of the grid on Saturday. Scott Dixon rolls off from twelve. Only once has the winner come from outside the top ten at Toronto. That was Michael Andretti in 2001 who started thirteenth. Josef Newgarden starts thirteenth in race one with fellow American and Honda driver Graham Rahal in fourteenth. Takuma Sato rounds out the top fifteen with Mike Conway joining him on row eight.

Rookies Carlos Muñoz and Jack Hawksworth make up row nine. Sebastián Saavedra and Charlie Kimball round out the top twenty. Carlos Huertas and Mikhail Aleshin make up another all-rookie row on row eleven with Marco Andretti rounding out the field in twenty-third.

Race one coverage will start at 10:30 a.m. ET on CNBC after the broadcast of the Formula One German Grand Prix from the Hockenheimring.

Three thoughts heading into this unique day for IndyCar:

1. Survive race one! You don't want to wad a car up in race one to the point it can't start race two. That could be the death blow for a championships run.

2. Time! Race one will probably begin almost immediately, which means green around 10:35 a.m., race is limited to 80 minutes, so the race will be over by 11:55 a.m. at the latest. That will give the teams about four hours and twenty minutes between the checkered flag for race one and the lights going out for race two. If there is any crash damage, there is the time frame the teams have to work in. If there is an engine failure, there is the time frame the teams have to work in. It will be helter skelter in the paddock between races.

3. Fuel Strategy! Today is Dale Coyne's Christmas. He has mastered the timed race format more than anyone else in the paddock. The question is can teams stretch these races to be one stoppers? If so, Carlos Huertas very well could pass Graham Rahal on the all-time win list this afternoon.

A few fun facts due to revisionist history and clarifications:

First time there are two IndyCar races on the same day since June 11, 2011 when Texas Motor Speedway hosted the Firestone Twin 275s. Dario Franchitti and Will Power won that night.

First time there are two full points-paying IndyCar races on the same day since June 28, 1981 when Atlanta Motor Speedway hosted the Kraco Twins 125s. Rick Mears won both races.

First time there are two full points-paying road/street course IndyCar races on the same day since October 19, 1969 when Pacific Raceways hosted the Dan Gurney 200. Mario Andretti and Al Unser split that day.

Once again, race one coverage begins at 10:30 a.m. ET on CNBC, immediately after the Formula One German Grand Prix. Race two coverage will be at 3:00 p.m. ET on NBCSN and will feature an initial standing start.

Update 1:58 p.m. ET
For race two, coverage will start at 3:00 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

Hélio Castroneves will start first on virtue of driving the entrant points leading entry. His teammate Will Power makes it an all-Penske front row. Honda drivers Simon Pagenaud and Ryan Hunter-Reay will start on row two. Colombians Juan Pablo Montoya and Carlos Muñoz start on row three. Scott Dixon  will start seventh ahead of Marco Andretti in eighth. Tony Kanaan and race one winner Sébastien Bourdais.

Mike Conway and Ryan Briscoe will start on row six. James Hinchcliffe will be joined by Mikhail Aleshin on row seven. Justin Wilson will start fifteenth with Charlie Kimball sixteenth. Josef Newgarden and Jack Hawksworth comprise row nine for race two. Graham Rahal and Carlos Huertas will start nineteenth and twentieth respectively. Sebastián Saavedra, Takuma Sato and Luca Filippi will round out the grid for race two.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

First Impressions: Toronto 2014, The Rain Out

Mother Nature won on Saturday as only parade laps were completed by IndyCar. Two races scheduled for Sunday
1. I'm starting on a negative.'s Marshall Pruett tweeted two photos of the barriers and fences from Toronto. Both of fences not mounted into the barriers.

Are you kidding me, IndyCar? You approved this course for a race? Multiple people should be fired, not just from IndyCar's office but from race promoters' Green Savoree Promotions. This is as half-ass and cutting corners as you can get and someone should have their head served on a silver platter. But this seems to be the standard for IndyCar on street courses. From the bumpy and poorly draining parking lot in Houston to the train tracks in Baltimore to the track falling apart at Belle Isle, if you have a paycheck IndyCar will take it, don't worry about track conditions. Meanwhile, premium road courses that are up to safety standards such as Austin, Road America and Watkins Glen are on the sidelines because of business reasons? Are you kidding me?

The standard has to change. This garbage preparation by street courses has to change. There is no excuse to be going to these venues when there are better, safer ones out there for drivers, fans, crews and marshals and if the business model doesn't work then bust your butt to make it feasible. I'd rather IndyCar struggle to make a dime at Road America, Austin, Watkins Glen and Laguna Seca than accept allowances like a spoiled 16-year old at a below satisfactory street course.

Thanks to the rain, the track has additional time to fix what they neglected to begin with. They better make it right.

2. I still think if they had started the race on time, the wet surface would not have been as much of a problem as we think it would have been. There are always going to be visibility issues during a wet races. I think once the cars got going at speed, the racing line would have dried out a bit. It was unfortunate today was cancelled.

3. Just to get you thinking: Had Will Power not spun, we would have gone green. That's how close we were to seeing a race today. Now I am not sure how long it would have stayed green but what could have been.

4. Speaking of Will Power, he stuffs it into the fence, Ryan Briscoe walled it and Juan Pablo Montoya had electrically problems. All were going to start from the rear of the field after their crews worked on their cars. The race is rained out and now all three are getting their grid positions back. I've not been one to harp on IndyCar race control and say they are making rules as they go but this is clearly neglecting the rulebook the have. You can't say these drivers are starting from the rear of the field and then change your mind. Stick by your guns regardless of who the car owners are. They broke the rules and have to serve the consequences. Pandora's box is open. Why should anyone follow the rulebook when the punishment is not being carried out? Get a back bone IndyCar and tell Power, Briscoe, Montoya, Penske and Ganassi they are starting from the back and that is final.

5. Tomorrow, two, 65-lap races (or 80-minutes, whichever comes first). One beginning at 10:30 a.m. ET based on the qualifying times from Saturday. The other beginning at 4:15 p.m. and will be set by entrant points. Both apparently live on NBCSN. The second race will feature a standing start. I didn't think they'd be able to get two long race distances in. To be honest, I would have settled for two, one-hour sprints. I expect many drivers to be tired tomorrow. Should be interesting to see how this plays out.

6. IndyCar gets a bad rap and sometimes times they screw up but they are trying to make this right by running two races tomorrow. I think today, with the rain, the hesitating to pull the trigger on the green flag and fluctuation in policing the rulebook wasn't pretty but instead of canceling a race and screwing fans over who had tickets to Saturday-only, they are still going to try and get two races in tomorrow and are honoring Saturday-only tickets on Sunday. What else do you want them to do? Weather sometimes throws a monkey wrench into the equation and you got to roll with the punches.

Morning Warm-Up: Toronto 2014 Race One

Simon Pagenuad is fourth in the championship, 50 points back of Hélio Castroneves
The thirteenth round of the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series season is scheduled for 85 laps around the streets of Toronto. Simon Pagenaud was fastest on Friday and the Frenchman is looking for a personal single-season best third victory in 2014.  Pagenaud laid down a 1:00.0084 second lap during second practice. His best Toronto finish was fourth in 2007. Second fastest on Friday was Hélio Castroneves, just 0.0134 seconds back of Pagenaud. The Brazilian had his Friday cut short after a battery issue in second practice.

Scott Dixon was third fastest. The New Zealander is looking for his first victory of 2014 and third consecutive at Exhibition Place. Will Power trails his Penske teammate Castroneves by nine points in the championship. Power has failed to finish better than fifteenth at Toronto since winning the race in 2010. James Hinchcliffe is looking for his first victory in his hometown. The local boy finished eighth in race one last year, his best IndyCar finish at home.

Sébastien Bourdais has eight top tens in nine Toronto starts but the Frenchman is looking for his first victory since the final Champ Car race of the 2007 season in Mexico City. Juan Pablo Montoya make his first appearance at Toronto since 2000. Montoya has two retirements due to accidents in his two Toronto starts. Ryan Hunter-Reay is coming off victory at Iowa and finds himself in striking distance of the championship lead, 32 back of Castroneves. He is looking for his second Toronto victory after winning in 2012 en route to the IndyCar championship.

Ryan Briscoe had a mechanical failure end his Friday prematurely. Briscoe suffered a wrist injury in race one last year, forcing him out of the car for race two. He was substituted by Carlos Muñoz for race two who went on to finish seventeenth after only getting a brief warm-up session in the car. Justin Wilson has one Toronto victory to his credit. The Brit's lone top five in 2014 was a fourth place finish in Belle Isle 1. Takuma Sato finish ninth at Toronto in 2012 but has finish twentieth or worse in his other  four starts along Lake Ontario.

Josef Newgarden was fastest in the first practice on Friday. His best finish at Toronto is eleventh, which came in race two last year. Charlie Kimball's first career podium came at Toronto in 2012. He has finished twenty-first in his odd-numbered starts at Toronto with his second place and sixth place finishes coming on his even-numbered Toronto starts. Jack Hawksworth won last year's Toronto Indy Lights race. Only two driver have won in Indy Lights/Formula Atlantics and IndyCar at Toronto. The first was Paul Tracy who won in Indy Lights in 1990 and in IndyCar in 1993 and 2003. AJ Allmendinger won the Atlantics race at Toronto in 2003 and Champ Car race in 2006.

Graham Rahal finished fifth at Toronto in 2010 but has averaged a sixteenth place finish in his other five starts at Exhibition Place. Rahal was sixteenth fastest in second practice. Marco Andretti has gained on average 7.833 positions from his starting position in six Toronto starts. Andretti's average finish at Toronto is 8.166. Sebastián Saavedra won at Toronto in 2009 driving Indy Lights. Saturday will mark his fourth IndyCar start at Toronto. Tony Kanaan has retired from six of his ten starts at Toronto. He finished fifth in race one last year and fourth in 2012.

Mikhail Aleshin makes his first appearance at Toronto. The Russian was twentieth in second practice. Also making his first appearance at Toronto is Luca Filippi. The Italian is looking to join his fellow countrymen Fabrizio Barbazza and Alex Zanardi as winners at Exhibition Place. Barbazza won the inaugural American Racing Series (the predecessor to Indy Lights) race in 1986 and Zanardi won the Indy Toronto in 1998 on his way to his second consecutive CART title. Mike Conway finished seventh in both Toronto races last year. Conway finished third at Toronto in 2012 after two twenty-second place finishes in his first two Toronto starts. Conway was twenty-second fastest in second practice. Carlos Huertas makes it three drivers making their Toronto debuts. Huertas won on his Houston debut three weeks ago.

The field was covered by 1.2583 seconds in second practice. Race one is scheduled to feature a standing start. Qualifying for Toronto 1 takes place at 10:00 a.m. ET. NBCSN's coverage of the first Honda Indy Toronto begins at 3:00 p.m. ET with green flag scheduled for 3:55 p.m. ET.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Newgarden Fastest in First Toronto Practice

Second last Saturday night in Iowa and fastest in the first session from the streets of Toronto, Josef Newgarden put the #67 Sarah Fisher-Hartman Racing Honda at the top of the timesheet on the final lap. The Tennessee-native ran a 1:00.2385 second lap, just over two-tenths faster than two-time Toronto winner Will Power. The Australian's fastest lap was also his last lap of the session.

Hometown boy James Hinchcliffe was third, 0.3343 seconds back of Newgarden. Hinchcliffe's best career finish at his home race was third in the 2009 Indy Lights race. His best career IndyCar finish at Exhibition Place is eighth which came in race one last year. Hélio Castroneves made it two Penskes in the top five in fourth while Carlos Muñoz made it two Andrettis and three Hondas in the top five in fifth, 0.4129 seconds back of Newgarden.

Simon Pagenaud was sixth fastest, sandwiched between possible teammates in 2015 with Marco Andretti seventh fastest. Ryan Briscoe was eighth with his Ganassi teammate Tony Kanaan just 0.0348 seconds behind him in ninth. Graham Rahal rounded out the top ten, 0.0021 seconds off Kanaan. Honda had six cars in the top ten.

Winner of the 2004 Honda Indy Toronto, Sébastien Bourdais was eleventh. Mike Conway was twelfth as he gets back behind the wheel of the #20 Fuzzy's Ultra Premium Vodka Chevrolet. Winner of the 2005 Honda Indy Toronto, Justin Wilson was thirteenth with the 2012 Toronto winner and most recent IndyCar winner Ryan Hunter-Reay in fourteenth. Hunter-Reay trailed Newgarden by 0.9451 seconds.

Mikhail Aleshin rounded out the top fifteen, just 1.0006 seconds off Newgarden. Defending IndyCar winner and defending Toronto winner Scott Dixon was sixteenth. Sebastián Saavedra ran a session high 25 laps and was seventeenth quickest and was sandwiched between Ganassi drivers with Charlie Kimball eighteenth quickest. Juan Pablo Montoya was nineteenth in his first session in Toronto in fourteen years. Jack Hawksworth capped off the top twenty with 1.0665 seconds separating the Brit from Newgarden.

Takuma Sato, Luca Filippi, who returns in the #16 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda, and Carlos Huertas rounded out the twenty-three car session with 1.7911 seconds covering the field.

Second practice will take place at 1:55 p.m. ET.