Pagenaud Leads Team Penske in Strong Friday Practice; Toronto Track Changes Overnight

Turn 11 has become equivalent to a cuss word here in Toronto. Juan Pablo Montoya (No. 2 DeVilbiss Team Penske) and Charlie Kimball (No. 83 Novo Nordisk Ganassi Racing) both ended their afternoon practice session with a close-up visit to the aforementioned Turn and it’s outside retaining wall. Thankfully neither of them ended up with injuries, only damage to their cars.

JGS_6566-1Montoya’s teammates fared much better overall, with Simon Pagenaud (No. 22 PPG Automotive Refinish Team Penske), Castroneves (No. 3 Pennzoil Team Penske) and Power (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske) running their Chevys 1-2-3 in practice 2 and the overall rankings for the day. Castroneves addressed the new track, stating that if it were up to him, he would widen Turn 11:

“Certainly, yes, if you ask me, if you have the power to change, I would like to make a little bit better… I would say I would make the walls a little bit wider. If we have to remove the light poles, to make it a little bit wider, I definitely would do that.”

Points leader Pagenaud had a differing opinion on the track after adapting to the new track rather quickly in order to find speed and accuracy on the streets of Toronto before anyone else. “First of all, the city is so amazing. There’s so much activity. It’s great to see. And the track itself has changed. I like it better. So I’m happy. I do like it better. I know it’s not the case for everybody, but I do, so…”

So, indeed. Could this lead to another pole position for Pagenaud? And another strong start on the grid for all of Team Penske? They have won 6 out of 7 street/road races this season and all but two poles in 2016, so the odds are in their favor.

While Pagenaud found the track changes beneficial to his racing lines yesterday, the majority of the field did not. Due to the feedback from drivers and the incidents that took place, the series and the event opted to make changes last night. IndyCar released a statement on those changes:

  • The wall in Turn 8 has been changed to the configuration used in previous years.
  • The inside wall has been placed up on the curbing, giving an additional 6 feet on the inside of the track.
  • The smooth concrete patches in Turns 1 and 9 were sandblasted in an effort to provide more consistent grip.

You’ll notice that these changes do not address the narrowness of Turn 10 or 11 but widening those areas might not be as easy as moving walls, with light poles, grandstands and a pedestrian bridge to also work around in those areas. But, the other changes should assist with better sight-lines and more fluidity on track. The teams have the third and final practice on Saturday morning, to make those adjustments with their cars, racing lines and then prepare for qualifying this afternoon. Qualifying will be in the standard 3 round, Firestone Fast 6 format.

Verizon IndyCar Series track times for the Honda Indy Toronto:

Friday, July 15:
Practice #1 – 10:00 – 10:45 a.m. ET
Practice #2 – 2:30 – 3:15 p.m. ET

Saturday, July 16:
Practice #3 – 9:45 – 10:30 a.m. ET
Quals – 1:30 – 2:45 p.m. ET

Sunday, July 17:
Warm Up – 10:30 – 11:00 a.m. ET
Honda Indy Toronto Race – 2:30 – 5:30 p.m. E.T.

The Honda Indy Toronto qualifying will be broadcast live on NBCSN and the race will be broadcast live on CNBC. All practice sessions will be livestreamed via IndyCar. All links to livestream, plus information on radio coverage is available here

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Feature photo: Joe Skibinski and IndyCar