Sunday’s Honda Indy Toronto (3:30 p.m. ET/NBCSN/INDYCAR Radio Network) will be the reason as to why some drivers are still in contention for the NTT IndyCar Series championship come September and why some are not.
See, the championship race is heating up. Toronto is just one of only seven races remaining on the schedule. When we leave Toronto on Sunday night, there’s just two months left in the season.
Currently, Josef Newgarden has a stranglehold on the championship lead. He leads Alexander Rossi by just seven points. At the moment though, it’s a two horse race. But, can anyone else close in?
Simon Pagenaud is third (-61) while Scott Dixon (-94), Will Power (-108) and Takuma Sato (-110) are really the only other ones worth mentioning in this title hunt. Ryan Hunter-Reay is behind them but is 131 points out.
But, Toronto could be the place where this race either tightens up, or widens. Here’s why.
We know a Penske, Ganassi or Andretti driver is likely to win. They’ve won eight of the 10 races run in 2019 including all four run on street courses too. Combined, Penske and Ganassi have won this race in four straight years. When the top of the standings has six Penske, Ganassi and Andretti drivers in the top seven, there’s a good chance one of them will win on Sunday.
But whom? This race will eliminate some folks. Lets dig deeper.
Newgarden has been feast or famine in Toronto. He’s won in two of the last four years but those are also his only top five finishes on the street circuit in his entire career. Seven of his nine Toronto starts have actually seen him finish ninth or worse. Contrary to that though, he does have two wins and a runner-up in four street course starts in 2019 too. So, which will it be on Sunday? A win and his points lead grows. A finish like he has more times than certainly not, and this gap will diminish.
Rossi, has just one top five in three tries at Toronto but that was a runner-up in 2017. He was eighth last year while Newgarden was ninth. On street courses in 2019, Rossi dominated in Long Beach and was fifth (St. Pete), second (Belle Isle 1) and fifth (Belle Isle 2) respectively. He can close the gap if Newgarden has a misfortune, but Rossi could also wind up having something wrong with Newgarden too.
Between them, they do have a top six finish in all but two races each including a top three effort in four of the last five races on the season.
That then could open the door for Pagenaud if they finish like they have in the past at Toronto not like they have on the season, who has three straight top 10 finishes at Toronto including a fifth place run in 2017 and runner-up last year. But, unlike the previous two, he’s struggled on street courses this season. Pagenaud, has finished seventh, sixth, sixth and 17th respectively. But, that 17th place run was a result of a first lap crash in Belle Isle 2. Pagenaud was able to get his car repaired and set the days quickest lap later on in the race. He thinks they learned something for Toronto that day.
Then, it’s the defending race winner Dixon’s turn. The CGR driver does have eight straight top 10 finishes in Toronto, three of which being wins. But, his win last year is his lone top five in Canada since 2013. Dixon, does have three podiums in four tries on street courses this season and HAS to win in order to close the gap.
Sato, hasn’t been the best in Toronto nor on street courses this year either. Power, won this race in 2016 but was 21st and 18th respectively since. The Penske driver also has two third place finishes on street courses in 2019 but also a seventh and 18th place run too. He enters on the heels of a runner-up at Road America two weeks ago.
Hunter-Reay hasn’t scored a top five in Toronto since his win in 2012. Seven of his last eight Toronto finishes are 12th or worse.
See how this could go either way?