The final doubleheader of the Verizon IndyCar Series 2014 season kicked off yesterday on a gorgeous day in Toronto, Ontario. The Canadian classic (while not always a “two-for” weekend) has been an IndyCar tradition – consistently – for nearly three decades. This year’s race field yields only one hometown hero in James Hinchcliffe. Hinchcliffe is the driver of the No. 27 Andretti Autosport UFD-sponsored Honda and has quite the tribute livery to his nation…
Surely, a huge portion of the race crowd will be cheering on the charismatic Canadian as he battles to not only win his first pole, but also to win his 4th IndyCar Series race of his career and the first of this season.
Friday, July 18, 2014
A smooth morning practice session yesterday ended up with Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing driver, Josef Newgarden claiming the P1 position of fastest lap. The young American driver certainly seems to be finding his groove and enjoying running at the front of the field. He’s been a powerhouse in past years at Toronto, in the ladder system that led him here to the Verizon IndyCar Series DW12’s. Will he be able to continue the success he achieved at Iowa Speedway just a week ago, when he landed on the podium in P2 – his best podium finish since the 2013 running of the Grand Prix of Baltimore?
The Team Penske drivers, while very openly battling to win an IndyCar Championship for Roger (one of the few accolades he has yet to acquire) has been a driving force this entire season, sometimes for the good and sometimes for the bad. The bad end of that spectrum are the multiple penalties placed upon the head of Will Power, driver of the #12 Verizon-sponsored Chevy. Power had a clean run in Iowa and stayed out of trouble, showing that perhaps he is ready to fight for the wins in a less aggressive/dangerous manner. He had a great practice in the AM yesterday, running second-fastest in the field of 23 Dallara chassis’. Power is no stranger to success on street circuits – landing on the podium at all four races this season so far. (Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg – P1, Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach – P2, Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix Race 1 – P1 & Race 2 – P2) Can he continue this domination of street races this weekend with another podium sweep in Toronto?
The hometown favorite mentioned earlier ran the third quickest lap in the morning session, showing that he is looking to have his best weekend here in Toronto in his career thus far. Running a strong double here is important to Hinch, not just for the obvious reasons of wanting to give a great result to his Andretti Autosport team, but also because of the nostalgic connection he has to this circuit…
“I always love coming home. This race is so special to me. It’s a large part of why I got involved in motor racing and why I was a fan of the sport, and ultimately why I wanted to be a driver. To come here and have the support of the hometown, it’s a pretty cool feeling.”
The afternoon session didn’t run quite as smooth as the morning – seeing two red flags, with the second one ultimately pulling the checkered before the field set up to practice their standing starts. The session was pretty decent for the Ganassi Racing team, with Charlie Kimball and Ryan Briscoe taking turns running P1 throughout the practice and Scott Dixon grabbing P3 by session end. Unfortunately, Briscoe spun in Turn 1 with 2 minutes remaining and forced that second red that I had mentioned.
Simon Pagenaud, Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsport driver of the No. 77 Oculus-sponsored Honda, ran the fastest lap, finishing at the top of the field for Practice 2. Pagenaud already has 2 victories this season at the Inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis as well as Race 2 of the Grand Prix of Houston. Pagenaud also grabbed his first Verizon P1 Award over the Houston weekend last month, for Race 1. He is looking for win #3 at Toronto and that would certain make his primary sponsor proud, as Oculus is a Canadian company!
The second fastest lap was run by Helio Castroneves from Team Penske Racing, who has also achieved some bragging rights this season – he is the current points leader in the Championship battle, has won 2 Verizon P1 Awards, has 1 win and 4 non-winning podiums. Helio is just as determined to earn the IndyCar Championship as anyone else – maybe even more – as it is one of the few items missing on his very-impressive racing resume. The past three seasons Champions have won in Toronto (2011 – Dario Franchitti, 2012 – Ryan Hunter-Reay, 2013 – Scott Dixon [with doubleheader sweep]), so Castroneves is certainly looking to increase his points lead this weekend and he has two chances to do so!
Saturday, July 19, 2014
Qualifying 1 – Firestone Fast 6
“No race, no reward…” Those were the words of Simon Pagenaud after making contact with the wall at the very end of his Firestone Fast 6 qualifying run this morning. The accident may very well have cost him the pole for the first of the two races in Toronto this weekend – but there is no use (or time) to dwell on what-could-have-been in the racing world. He and his team will certainly be working on the car all afternoon and prepping it for today’s 3:55pm green flag. Despite the mistake, he still starts from the third row from P5 alongside Target Chip Ganassi Racing driver, Tony Kanaan.
They will be looking at the back of Andretti Autosport driver, Ryan Hunter-Reay’s No. 28 DHL Honda who earned P4 – a great start coming off his win in Iowa last weekend; a swell as the constant contender of Penske’s No. 3 Chevy, Helio Castroneves who starts from the inside of Row 3 this afternoon. Leading the field to green are two incredibly accomplished open-wheel drivers – Will Power for Penske Racing starts on the outside from P2 (that new focus and less game-playing mindset seems to be serving him well these past couple of weeks) and KV Racing driver, Sebastien Bourdais, who wins the Verizon P1 Award for the first time this season. Bourdais currently sits 12th in the points race but a good weekend here in Toronto can be a huge leap in the standings for any driver. Will the Frenchman be the second polesitter of 2014 to end up in Victory Circle? He certainly has the talent to get there, but he also has 22 other drivers who will challenge him for that position today in Toronto.
Make sure you are tuned in to NBC Sports at 3:00pm ET to see how this epic battle plays out! You won’t regret it, I promise you that.
Broadcast details: The delayed broadcast of Race 1 qualifying will air later today at 1:30 pm ET. Both races will air live at 3:00 pm ET on Saturday, July 19th (Race 1) and Sunday, July 20th (Race 2). All qualifying and race broadcasts will be on NBC Sports. You can get further access by downloading the NBC Sports Live Extra app for iOS and Android devices as well as the IndyCar 14 app, available exclusively for Verizon Wireless tablet & smartphone users.
I am not trackside in Toronto this weekend – but I will be covering the races as fully as possible from a distance. Make sure you are following on all our social media accounts so that you stay in the loop with all the latest from MTAF Wheels & the Verizon IndyCar Series, plus my personal insight and reaction to the weekend in Toronto! All the links you’ll need are listed below: