It’s been a wild weekend in Toronto thus far. All three practice sessions as well as qualifying are behind us. It’s time for Sunday’s Honda Indy Toronto (3 p.m. ET/NBCSN/INDYCAR Radio Network). Here’s our preview and predictions.
How To Watch
Coverage – 3 p.m. ET
Green Flag – 3:42 p.m. ET
TV – NBCSN
Radio – INDYCAR Radio Network
Distance – 85 Laps/151.81 Miles
Defending Winner – Scott Dixon
Starting Positions Matter
This seems to be a common theme this season. I mean, why not? Yes, the IndyCar Series has some of the most pure passing in all of motorsports. But, it’s getting tougher and tougher to pass up front. That’s not any different, especially for a street course race.
Nine of the last 12 Toronto winners have come from the Firestone Fast Six. Last year’s winner started second. In all 10 races run so far this season, all have come from the top eight.
Expect Sunday’s race to reward starting positions too.
Chevrolet The Favorites? Not So Fast
Chevy drivers have won five times already this season including four of the last six overall. On street courses, Chevy and Honda have split wins 2-2. But, as we head to Toronto, Chevy has won five of the last six trips to the Exhibition Place circuit.
Yes, Scott Dixon won in his Honda last year, but it was all Chevy prior to that. Will Chevy land in victory lane again? If so, that’s great news for Team Penske.
But, Honda’s have actually had more pace from top to bottom. Yes, Pagenaud in a Chevy is on the pole, but three of the top four starting spots are Honda’s as are five of the top eight and eight of the top 12. In Saturday morning’s practice session, seven of the top eight and nine of the top 12 all belonged to them too.
We discussed above how Penske can be the favorites. They’ve won half of the street course races in 2019 to go along with three wins in the last four years in Toronto. Also, they’ve won four of the last six races this season as well.
But, you can’t count out Chip Ganassi Racing either. They’re the defending race winners in Toronto with Dixon and combined with Penske, they’ve won five of the last six Indy Car races this season.
The entire top three of the starting spots belong to Penske or Ganassi as does four of the top five.
I wouldn’t bet against either of these teams on Sunday.
The championship race is heating up. Toronto is one of just seven races remaining in the season. 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 though. 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.
But, Toronto could be the place where this race either tightens up, or widens.
See, Newgarden has been feast or famine in Toronto. He’s won in two of the last four years but those are his only top five finishes on the street circuit. 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? He will start fifth after being just eighth and 13th respectively in practice.
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 starts fourth after being 14th and seventh respectively.
That then could open the door for Pagenaud 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. He was quickest in practice both days and backed that up with a pole.
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 starts second.
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.
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. He does have three straight top five finishes this season on street courses though.
See how this could go either way?
Last year, both James Hinchcliffe and his teammate Robert Wickens gave the home fans something to cheer for. Wickens, finished on the podium in his first ever start on his home track. Hinchcliffe, finished one spot behind him in fourth. It was the third straight year though that we saw a Canadian finish on the third step of the podium in Toronto.
Hinchcliffe, finished third in each of the two years prior in 2016 and again in 2017. Unfortunately, Wickens won’t be racing this weekend and Hinchcliffe is the only Canuck in the field. Can he carry the flag figuratively and literally to a fourth straight podium for a Canadian driver in Sunday’s Honda Indy Toronto (3:30 p.m. ET/NBCSN/INDYCAR Radio Network)?
Hinchcliffe, has three straight top four finishes and three top 10’s in four tries on street courses in 2019 too. The only reason he’s not 4-for-4 is because he was involved in a mid race incident in Belle Isle 2 while trying to defend his position on cold tires while coming out of pit lane.
See, at that point of the race, Hinchcliffe exit pit road in front of both Josef Newgarden and Alexander Rossi. If he could hold them off past the Turn 3 and 4 sequence, then he’d be in prime position to win the thing. Unfortunately, Newgarden and Rossi knew that too and both made a move to get by Hinch as well as each other.
All three tangled which sent Hinchcliffe and Newgarden into the tire barriers.
Hinchcliffe’s car that day was much better than the 18th place finish that he had.
1. 22 Pagenaud – He backed up the doubts with a sweep of the Month of May in Indy. He has led every day this weekend and starts on the pole. He also finished runner-up in this race last year.
2. 10 Rosenqvist – He has nothing to lose and has a great history in Toronto. With being third, second and second respectively in practice this weekend and starting third, he will be in contention for a win.
3. 2 Newgarden – He charges up to a third place finish to get his third podium in his last five Toronto tries.
4. 27 Rossi – He keep Newgarden in his sights and picks up his second top five finish in his last three Toronto starts.
5. 98 Andretti – Why not three Honda’s here and why not another top five for Andretti. The third generation driver finished fourth in 2017 and 10th in 2016 and 2018. He was seventh quickest on Friday and sixth on Saturday. He starts seventh.