Thursday, July 13, 2017

Track Walk: Toronto 2017

Fresh off a 150th Birthday, Canada hosts IndyCar
The 12th race of the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season is the lone international date on the calendar, the Honda Indy Toronto. For the 33rd time, IndyCar will race around Exhibition Place in Canada's largest city. We are getting down to the final third of the IndyCar season and championship eliminations have already begun. Twenty-nine drivers remain mathematically eligible for the title while the likes of Jay Howard, Zach Veach, Sage Karam, James Davison, Jack Harvey, Tristan Vautier and Buddy Lazier have been eliminated.

Time: Coverage begins at 3:00 p.m. ET on Sunday July 16th. Green flag will be at 3:47 p.m. ET.
TV Channel: CNBC.
Announcers: Kevin Lee is in the booth with Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy in the booth with Jon Beekhuis, Katie Hargitt, Anders Krohn and Robin Miller working the pit lane.

IndyCar Weekend Schedule
First Practice- 10:40 a.m. ET (45-minute session).
Second Practice- 2:15 p.m. ET (45-minute session).
Third Practice- 10:00 a.m. ET (45-minute session).
Qualifying- 2:15 p.m. ET (NBCSN will have tape-delayed coverage at 6:30 p.m. ET).
Warm-Up- 11:30 a.m. ET (30-miunte session).
Race- 3:47 p.m. ET (85 laps)

Aleshin Out For Toronto; Saavedra In
Just three weeks removed from nearly being prevented from taking part at the Road America round, Mikhail Aleshin has been taken out of the #7 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda for Toronto and Sebastián Saavedra will drive in place of the Russian driver. Saavedra brings AFS sponsorship with him to SPM.

Aleshin had an accident on lap 56 at Iowa last week and this season he has completed only 968 laps through 11 races. That is three laps fewer than Ed Carpenter, who has only made four starts this season. Aleshin is the only driver to have started every race this season and not have completed 1,000. Through 11 races, Aleshin had an average starting position of 12.393 and average finish of 13.818. His three retirements this year have all been due to accidents and have all come on ovals.

Saavedra returns to the cockpit for the first time since he finished 15th and completed all 200 laps in this year's Indianapolis 500 driving for Juncos Racing. This will be the Colombian's 63rd start of his career. He has four top ten finishes in his previous 62 starts, all of which came on street circuits, three coming at Long Beach. His most recent street circuit start was at Toronto in 2015 driving for Chip Ganassi Racing. He started 17th and finished 16th that day. In six Toronto starts, Saavedra's best starting position and finishing position is 15th.

Honda Looks For Clean Sweep of Streets
Through four street course races in 2017, Honda is undefeated on temporary circuits and the manufacture gets a chance to sweep the street course races at the Honda Indy Toronto.

Scott Dixon enters the weekend as the championship leader with 403 points after an eighth-place finish at Iowa. Dixon has two podium finishes in the first four street course races and his worst finish on a street course this year was sixth. Dixon's most recent street course victory was Long Beach in 2015. He has two victories, six consecutive top ten finishes and ten top ten finishes at 12 starts in Exhibition Place. Dixon's sweep of the 2013 Toronto doubleheader is the only two victories for Honda North of the Border in the DW12-era.

Graham Rahal and Takuma Sato find themselves tied for fifth in the championship on 337 points with Rahal holding the tiebreaker after he swept the Belle Isle doubleheader. Rahal has five consecutive top ten finishes and a top ten at Toronto would give the Ohioan the longest streak of top ten finishes in his IndyCar career. Rahal has three top ten finishes in 11 Toronto starts with his best finish being fifth in 2010. Sato has finished fifth, tenth and fifth the last three years at Toronto and he finished ninth there in 2012 with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. In his other five Toronto starts, Sato has finished 20th or worse.

Tony Kanaan, Alexander Rossi and Max Chilton round out the top ten of the championship. Kanaan has five top five finishes and six top ten finishes in the seven Toronto races during the DW12-era. Kanaan's best finish on a street circuit this year was tenth in the second Belle Isle race. Rossi enters off the back of three finishes outside the top ten after four consecutive top ten finishes between the Indianapolis races and Belle Isle. Chilton has yet to finish in the top ten on a street circuit in his IndyCar career. His average finish on a street circuit is 16.444.

Ed Jones finds himself two points behind Chilton for tenth in the championship. The Emirati driver finished fifth, third, sixth and fifth in his four Indy Lights starts at Toronto. Ryan Hunter-Reay has had rotten luck since he won at Toronto in 2012. His average finish in the last six Toronto races is 17.1667. The 36 laps he led in 2012 is the only time Hunter-Reay has led at Exhibition Place.

Chevrolet has won the last four Toronto races, including a sweep of the podium in three of those races and 16 of a possible 20 top five finishes in that timeframe.

Hinchcliffe's Homecoming
Success was hard for James Hinchcliffe to find at his home race before last year. The Torontonian had three finishes outside the top fifteen in six starts and his best finish was eighth. Last year's race saw Hinchcliffe finally breakthrough in his backyard.

Hinchcliffe stretched his fuel over the final 39 laps and he was able to hang on for a third-place finish, by far his best IndyCar result in Canada. Last year, Hinchcliffe headed home tied for 12th in the championship. Not much has changed in 2017. He is solely in possession of 12th in the championship and he is coming off a tenth-place finish at Iowa; he finished ninth at Iowa last year. Hinchcliffe has the same total of top ten finishes entering Toronto as he did last year with five of them. The big bump to this year's results is Hinchcliffe won at Long Beach in April and he finished third in the first Belle Isle race. He led 21 laps at St. Petersburg before a caution shuffled up the field and dropped him from contention for victory to ninth in the final results.

The good news for Hinchcliffe is Toronto is the 12th round of the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season and the Canadian has finished in the top ten in his 12th start of a season every year of his career and three of those finishes are top five finishes.

Hinchcliffe could join Paul Tracy as the only Canadians to win at Exhibition Place and it would be the first time a Canadian won on home soil since Tracy won the final Molson Indy Vancouver in 2004. Hinchcliffe's last victory in Canada was in Indy Lights at Edmonton in 2010.

Penske Quartet on the Offensive
Hélio Castroneves' victory at Iowa means all four Team Penske drivers have won a race in the 2017 season and all four drivers sit second through fifth in the championship and all four are within 56 points of Dixon.

Castroneves' first victory in over three years puts him eight points behind Dixon in the championship. The Brazilian has stood on the podium in the last two races and like Dixon he has ten top ten finishes from the first 11 races of the season. He will be attempting to get three consecutive podium finishes for the first time since 2008 when he ended the season with seven consecutive trips to the podium. Castroneves has four podium finishes in the last five Toronto races but he has yet to win at Toronto.

Simon Pagenaud heads to Toronto third in the championship, trailing Dixon by 31 points. The Frenchman is the only driver to have completed all 1,563 laps this season. The closest driver to Pagenaud is Kanaan, who has completed 15 fewer laps. Pagenaud has yet to have a standout performance at Toronto. He has finished fourth twice and ninth twice but has only led 31 laps in eight starts. Pagenaud has not qualified well on the street courses this season. His best street course start so far was seventh at Belle Isle.

Will Power is the defending Toronto winner and he has five consecutive top five finishes. Power trails Dixon by 53 points in the championship. Power's victory last year put him in a tie for second-most Toronto victories with Dario Franchitti on three. Michael Andretti won at Toronto seven times. Power has led a lap in nine of his 12 Toronto starts and he has started on the front row at Toronto six times.

Josef Newgarden won at Toronto in 2015, however that remains his only top ten finish at Exhibition Place and he has only started in the top ten three times in seven starts. Newgarden has four top ten finishes in the last five races, including runner-up finishes at Belle Isle and Road America. Newgarden is one of five drivers with multiply podium finishes on street courses this season and he is the only Chevrolet driver with that honor. The other four drivers are Dixon, Rahal, Hinchcliffe and the sidelined Sébastien Bourdais.

Team Penske has never won back-to-back years at Toronto. The team has three Toronto victories.

Road to Indy
For the second consecutive week, Indy Lights and U.S. F2000 are on track with IndyCar.

Six races remain in the 2017 Indy Lights season and Kyle Kaiser's Indy Lights championship lead has been cut to 12 points after Matheus Leist picked up his third victory of the season last week at Iowa. Kaiser has finished third in three of his four Toronto Indy Lights starts. He has eight top five finishes this year while Leist has seven top five finishes, including top five finishes in the last six races. Kaiser finished sixth and fourth at St. Petersburg in March while Leist retired in the first race and finished 11th in race two.

Colton Herta finds himself third in the championship on 180 points, 36 points behind Kaiser after a fourth-place finish at Iowa. Nico Jamin trails Kaiser by 43 points and the Frenchman has not finished in the top five in the last four races. Santiago Urrutia has turned his season after with three runner-up finishes in the last five races but he has yet to win this year and he is 51 points behind Kaiser. His Belardi Auto Racing teammate Aaron Telitz is four points behind him in the championship. Last year, Belardi swept the Toronto weekend with Felix Rosenqvist and the Swede set the track record in the process.

Zachary Claman DeMelo is a point behind Telitz and a point ahead of his Carlin teammate Neil Alberico. The Canadian DeMelo finished 13th in both Toronto races last year. Dalton Kellett heads to his home Province coming off matching his career-best finish of third at Iowa last week. He has scored 133 points. Shelby Blackstock rounds out the top ten on 126 points, two points ahead of Ryan Norman. Juan Piedrahita sits on 114 points. Nicolas Dapero has finished outside the top ten in the last five races. Garth Rickards retired last week with a mechanical failure after 27 laps.

Indy Lights will race at 1:00 p.m. ET on Saturday and 12:15 p.m. ET on Sunday.

With five races left in the U.S. F2000 season, the championship will come down to one of seven drivers.

Oliver Askew extended his championship lead by winning his sixth race of the season last week at Iowa. The Cape Motorsports driver has 248 points and a 34-point lead over Rinus VeeKay of Pabst Racing. The Dutch driver finished second at Iowa and he has stood on the podium after five of nine races. Team Pelfrey's Kaylen Frederick is 89 points back with Canadian Parker Thompson, who won the second U.S. F2000 race at Toronto last year, trailing by 103 points. VeeKay's teammate Calvin Ming has finished on the podium in the last two races and trails Askew by 114 points. Robert Megennis has not stood on the podium since he won the first race of the season and he is 129 points behind Askew. Lucas Kohl is the final driver mathematically eligible for the title. The Brazilian has 93 points and his best finish was third in the first Road America race.

Alex Baron returns for his second consecutive race weekend with ArmsUp Motorsports. He won at Toronto in Indy Lights three years ago. David Malukas is back with BN Racing. Malukas started on pole position for the first Road America race and finished second.

Race one for U.S. F2000 will be at noon ET on Saturday and race two will be at 9:40 a.m. ET on Sunday.

Fast Facts
This will be the seventh IndyCar race to take place on July 16th and first since Dario Franchitti won at Nashville in 2005.

Twice has a Toronto race taken place on July 16th. Those years were 1995 and 2000. Michael Andretti won both races.

This will be the 75th IndyCar race to take place in Canada. This is the 33rd time Exhibition Place has hosted a race. The other six Canadian venues to host races are Pacific Place in Vancouver (15 races), Edmonton City Centre Airport (8), Mosport (6), Circuit Gilles Villeneuve (5), Mont-Tremblant (5) and Saniar Super Speedway (3).

Marco Andretti has seven top ten finishes in ten Toronto starts despite having an average starting position of 16.4. Andretti has completed 800 of 801 laps in his ten starts. He finished a lap down in 2012.

J.R. Hildebrand has two top ten finishes in two Toronto starts. He finished eighth and seventh in 2011 and 2012 respectively despite starting 22nd and 15th in those respective races.

Last year, Mikhail Aleshin started tenth and finished sixth at Toronto. It is just one of five occasions where Aleshin has started and finished in the top ten. He has started in the top ten 16 times in his career.

Carlos Muñoz has finished 17th in four of his five Toronto starts. The exception was a 22nd-place in 2015.

Charlie Kimball's best starting position at Toronto is 13th. He has four top ten finishes in eight Toronto starts. His first career podium came at Toronto in 2012 when he finished second to Ryan Hunter-Reay.

This will be Conor Daly's third start at Toronto. His father Derek Daly made three starts at Toronto. Despite starting all three races in the top ten, Derek finished 16th, 23rd and 16th. Conor has finished 12th and 15th in his two Toronto starts.

Spencer Pigot has two top ten finishes and two retirements from the four street course races this season. His best career starting position came at St. Petersburg in March where he started 13th.

Esteban Gutiérrez has raced in Canada seven times, five of which came at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal. He failed to score points in any of his three Canadian Grand Prix starts and he failed to finish in two of them. In 2007, he finished second and sixth at Montreal in Formula BMW USA. Later that season he finished 12th and second at Mosport.

The average starting position for a Toronto winner is 3.875 with a median of third.

The average number of lead changes in a Toronto race is 4.096 with a median of four.

Since Cristiano da Matta and Paul Tracy led every lap at Toronto in consecutive years in 2002 and 2003, every race has had at least three lead changes.

The latest lead change for the victory at Toronto was with three laps to go by Alex Zanardi in 1998. Zanardi's three laps led is also the fewest laps led by a Toronto winner.

The average number of cautions in a Toronto race is 3.645 with a median of three. The average number of caution laps is 14.806 with a median of 13.

There has never been a caution-free race at Toronto. Six times has a Toronto race had only one caution and the most recent occurrence was in 1992.

Possible Milestones:
Scott Dixon and Hélio Castroneves are both one top five finish away from tying Michael Andretti for fifth all-time at 139 top five finishes.

Scott Dixon needs to lead 23 laps to reach the 5,000 laps led milestone.

Marco Andretti needs to lead 3 laps to reach the 1,000 laps led milestone.

Simon Pagenaud needs to lead 151 laps to reach the 1,000 laps led milestone.

If Andretti Autosport is going to win another race in 2017 it is going to be this one and Alexander Rossi gets the victory. Ryan Hunter-Reay makes it two Andretti Autosport cars in the top five and all four Andretti Autosport cars finish in the top ten. Scott Dixon holds on to his championship lead. J.R. Hildebrand does not make it three top ten finishes in three Toronto starts. Graham Rahal finishes worse than he think he should and he will tell you about it in the post-race interview but it will still be a very respectable finish. Neither Will Power nor Hélio Castroneves are the top Penske qualifier. Rain does affect this race. Sleeper: Conor Daly.