Thursday, June 11, 2015

Track Walk: Toronto 2015

IndyCar heads to Toronto, the final street circuit of 2015
The 2015 Honda Indy Toronto marks the tenth round of the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series championship. For the 31st time, IndyCar will head to Exhibition Place in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Scott Dixon is coming off his second victory of 2015 and second career victory at Texas. He led a Ganassi 1-2 with Tony Kanaan finishing right behind him. Hélio Castroneves rounded out the podium at Texas.

Time: Coverage begins at 3:00 p.m. ET on Sunday June 13th. Green flag at 3:37 p.m. ET.
TV Channel: NBCSN.
Announcers: Leigh Diffey, Steve Matchett (Townsend Bell is racing at Le Mans) and Paul Tracy are in the booth with Kevin Lee, Jon Beekhuis, Katie Hargitt and Robin Miller working the pit lane.

Championship Picture
Juan Pablo Montoya remains the championship leader for another week as the Colombian and 2015 Indianapolis 500 winner sits on 348 points. Thirty-five points behind Montoya is his Penske teammate and defending champion Will Power. Scott Dixon is eight points back of Power. Hélio Castroneves is 62 points behind Montoya as Penske holds three of the top four position. Graham Rahal rounds out the top five, trailing Montoya by 87 points.

Marco Andretti is 93 points back in sixth and coming off three consecutive top five finishes. Sébastien Bourdais is 11 points behind Andretti. Eighth through eleventh in the championship are covered by two points. Josef Newgarden and Tony Kanaan are tied for eighth with 215 points. Newgarden owns the tiebreaker with his victory at Barber. Kanaan's second at Texas is his best finish this season. Charlie Kimball rounds out the top ten, a point behind Newgarden and Kanaan. Toronto is the sight of Kimball's first career podium, which came in 2012. Simon Pagenaud has 213 points in 11th.

Andretti Autosport teammates Carlos Muñoz and Ryan Hunter-Reay are 12th and 13th in the championship respectively. The Colombian has 208 points while the American has 183 points. Takuma Sato is 14th with 180 points. James Jakes rounds out the top fifteen with 155 points. Rookie Gabby Chaves is two points behind Jakes and Jack Hawksworth is 20 points back of his fellow countryman.

Can Bourdais Repeat?
The four-time champion Sébastien Bourdais has a victory this season and finds himself on the fringe of championship contention. Last year, Bourdais scored his first victory since returning to IndyCar in the first race from Toronto. The Canadian street circuit has been one of the better circuits to Bourdais with two victories, five podiums, seven top fives, ten top tens, four pole positions and an average finish of 5.18 in 11 starts in Toronto.

This season, Bourdais has the best average starting position for a non-Penske or Ganassi driver at 8.57. The Frenchman is one of four drivers to advance to the second round of qualifying in all five road/street course qualifying sessions this season but has only advanced to the Fast Six twice. Bourdais also has the seventh best average finish this season at 9.44.

Can CFH Bounce Back?
Most have overacted to CFH Racing's rough weekends at Belle Isle and Texas and have labeled the season as a disappointment to this point of 2015 despite Josef Newgarden being eighth in the championship and having picked up his first career victory at Barber. Luca Filippi has three top ten finishes, more than Mike Conway had in a dozen starts last season. The only difference is that Filippi's three top tens have been finishes of ninth, tenth and ninth while Conway's two top tens were each victories, one of which came at Toronto last year.

Filippi raced at Toronto last year for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing and started sixth in race one but retired after 17 laps. In race two, the Italian had to start last because the field was set by entrant points and he finished on the lead lap in 16th despite causing a safety car and having a 30-second time penalty added for having work done when the pit lane was closed.

Toronto has not been kind to Newgarden. He was in position for his career in first Toronto start in 2012 but he was blocked by Simon Pagenaud in the closing laps, causing damage to Newgarden's car and forcing him to finish a lap down. In 2013, Newgarden stalled on the start in race one and he finished 23rd. In race two, Newgarden finished 11th. Last year, he finished two laps down in 20th in race one and finished 13th in race two despite leading seven laps.

Driver Changes
Conor Daly returns to the #5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda. Ryan Briscoe was in the car at Texas but the Australian is competing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Daly finished 19th and sixth at Belle Isle in the #5 and he led 12 laps. Briscoe finished eighth at Texas meaning the #5 heads to Toronto off consecutive top ten finishes.

Sebastián Saavedra will return to the #8 AFS Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet. The Colombian is back after suffering a foot injury in the Indianapolis 500. He replaces Sage Karam. This will be Saavedra's third start in the #8. In five starts at Toronto, Saavedra's average finish is 19.2.

Rodolfo González will return to the #18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda. The Venezuelan has made three starts this season and his average finish in those three races is 21st. He retired from both races at Belle Isle.

Tristan Vautier will be in the #19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda for the third consecutive weekend. The Frenchman finished fourth in race two at Belle Isle but he has averaged a finish of 17.25 in four starts. Vautier finished 19th and 16th in his only appearance at Toronto in 2013.

Road to Indy
All three Road to Indy series will be on track at Toronto.

Eleven cars are entered in Indy Lights. Schmidt Peterson's Jack Harvey leads the championship with 192 points and have won the last two races. Thirteen points back is Carlin driver Ed Jones. Juncos Racing's Spencer Pigot is 24 points back of Harvey with SPM's RC Enerson 56 points back of his teammate. Scott Anderson is 76 points back. Félix Serrallés sits on 111 points while Ethan Ringel has 108 points. Kyle Kaiser is two points behind Ringel with Juan Piedrahita a point back of Kaiser. Shelby Blackstock has 95 points.

Formula E championship leader Nelson Piquet, Jr. will make his Indy Lights debut driving for Carlin. Max Chitlon appeared at the first eight races but is at Le Mans driving for the factory Nissan LMP1 team. Notably absent from the Toronto entry list is 8Star Motorsports. Scott Hargrove finished fourth and sixth for the team at St. Petersburg and Sean Rayhall scored a victory, a second place finish and four top tens in five starts with the team.

Race one for Indy Lights will be at 4:45 p.m. ET on Saturday with race two at 11:45 a.m. ET Sunday.

Santiago Urrutia enters Toronto as the Pro Mazda championship leader with 201 points. Eight points back of the Team Pelfrey is Cape Motorsports' Neil Alberico. Juncos' Timothé Buret is third on 162 points with Andretti Autosports' Weiron Tan four back. Will Owen rounds out the top five with 142 points. Owen's Juncos' teammate and Canadian Garett Grist is seven points back of Owen. Pato O'Ward is a point back of Grist with Florian Latorre is two points back. Jose Gutierrez has 127 points with Canadian Daniel Burkett on 111 points. Dalton Kellett, the third Canadian in the Pro Mazda field has 110 points. A total of 18 cars are entered in Pro Mazda this weekend.

Pro Mazda will race at 1:35 p.m. ET on Saturday and 10:00 a.m. ET on Sunday.

Nico Jamin leads the U.S. F2000 championship with 233 points. The Cape Motorsports driver holds a 15-point advantage over Pabst Racing's Jake Eidson. Jamin's teammate Aaron Telitz is 30 points back in third. Anthony Martin sits on 168 points in fourth. Canadian Parker Thompson is on 125 points, fifth in the championship. Yufeng Luo has 108 points with Keyvan Andres Soori is a point back of him and Nikita Lastochkin on 104 points. Ayla Ågren has 100 points while Luke Gabin and Garth Rickards are two points back. Max Hanratty and Canadian James Dayson round out the entry list.

U.S. F2000 will race at 12:40 p.m. ET on Saturday and 9:00 a.m. ET on Sunday.

Fast Facts
This year's race at Toronto will be the 73rd IndyCar race in Canada. Of the previous 72 Canadian IndyCar races, 68 have featured at least one Canadian driver. The first four IndyCar races in Canada did not feature a Canadian, Mosport on July 1, 1967 and Mont-Tremblant on August 6, 1967.

This year's race will be the 13th IndyCar race to take place on June 14th. The last IndyCar race to take place on June 14th was at Portland in 1987 and won by Bobby Rahal.

This will be the first Toronto race to take place outside of the month of July. The previous earliest date for a Toronto race was July 7th in 2002. Cristiano da Matta won that race.

Four drivers have won at Toronto. Sébastien Bourdais has two victories (2004 and 2014 race 1) as does Will Power (2007 and 2010) and Scott Dixon, who swept the doubleheader in 2013. Ryan Hunter-Reay won at Toronto in 2012.

Seven of the previous 30 Toronto winners have come from pole position.

The average starting position for a Toronto winner is 3.633.

Mike Conway's victory in race two last year was just the second Toronto race to be won from outside the top ten. Conway won from 11th. The worst starting position for a Toronto winner is 13th, where Michael Andretti won from in 2001.

Can you name the Canadians who have won in IndyCar?

Possible Milestones:
Marco Andretti needs to lead 45 laps to join the 1,000 laps led club.

Graham Rahal needs to lead 24 laps to reach the 200 laps led milestone.

Charlie Kimball needs to lead 5 laps to reach the 100 laps led milestone.

Will Power could tied Rick Mears for fifth all-time in pole positions should he win his 41st pole position at Toronto. 

Hélio Castroneves is one second place finish away from passing Bobby Rahal for second all-time in second place finishes. Rahal and Castroneves are tied with 37 runner-up finishes.

Sébastien Bourdais makes it consecutive years with a win at Toronto. A Penske car does not start on pole position. At least one Honda makes it to the Fast Six. At least one Honda finishes on the podium in the Honda Indy Toronto. At least two Ganassi cars finish outside the top fifteen. Gabby Chaves' top ten streak will end at two. Josef Newgarden's streak of finishes outside of the top twenty will end at two. Sleeper: Marco Andretti.