Welcome to the third day of wheels.ca’s live coverage of the Honda Indy Toronto. Stephanie Wallcraft, Gary Grant and Norris McDonald have been on the job all weekend and are dishing up breaking news and colour from the IZOD IndyCar Series’ two races through the streets of Exhibition Place as well as the support races. Enjoy!
The live blog of Race 2 will be found over at:www.thestar.blogs.com/autoracing/ Meantime, here is the rest of the news from Exhibition Place.
IndyCar has instituted a few changes to the regulations for today’s race. As mentioned previously, two attempts will be made at executing a standing start today. If the first start is aborted, the field will follow the pace car around for two more formation laps and grid up again. IndyCar found that it took only 32 seconds to grid up the 24 cars participating yesterday, which made it a faster procedure than they had anticipated.
The drivers will also be expected to keep at least two wheels on the racing surface at all times today (with the exception of taking evasive action), which means we shouldn’t see anyone attempting to cut the curbs completely in turns 5 and 9 as happened yesterday. – STEPHANIE WALLCRAFT
The second USF2000 race of the weekend was won this afternoon by Danilo Estrela of Brazil, who finished ahead of Vancouver’s Scott Hargrove by 1.153 seconds. Yesterday’s race winner, Neil Alberico, finished fifth. – STEPHANIE WALLCRAFT
The Stadium Super Trucks just put on another spectacular demonstration on the streets of Exhibition Place. At only 15 years old, Sheldon Creed took the victory ahead of veteran racers such Robby Gordon, Davey Hamilton, PJ Jones, and Paul Tracy, who crashed his truck violently on the front stretch on the second-last lap after making an awkward landing off one of the jump ramps. – STEPHANIE WALLCRAFT
During the years that this event was known as the Molson Indy, the hottest place to be were the beer gardens. Cold beer, great tunes, pretty girls and great food made the event what it was. During the Steelback Grand Prix days, the beer garden continued. Under the control of Michael Andretti and Savoree-Green, the first year or two saw a trio of beer gardens: A huge Budweiser one, a Hooters one and an Amsterdam brewing one. Good times were had all around. Then last year, something changed. The beer gardens went away as organizers obtained a license to serve beer anywhere on the property. There were beer girls and guys walking around all over the property selling their wares. The only problem was that there was no music, no stage, no tables, no shade. All of this added up to no party.
This year, the event team have done it better than ever. The current Toronto food truck frenzy has made its way to the infield, as a football field sized lot is surrounded by trucks and tents selling dozens of different types of food. The centre of the circle is filled with picnic tables, many of which have umbrellas to provide some shade. The Amsterdam brewery gang are out peddling their wares and there are tunes in the air as well. The fans are loving this setup and other event organizers could learn from it! - Gary Grant
We’ve learned that it was agreed in this afternoon’s drivers’ meeting that the IZOD IndyCar Series field will get two attempts to execute the standing start in today’s race, as opposed to the single attempt that the drivers were given yesterday that resulted in an abort and a rolling start for race #1. — STEPHANIE WALLCRAFT
I’m on my way out shortly to talk IndyCar racing with Erik Tomas on Sportsnet AM 590 in Toronto at 12:40 PM (though I hear that I might get pre-empted by James Hinchcliffe). If you’re in the area and want to hear some racing chatter, please tune in! — STEPHANIE WALLCRAFT
Having won yesterday’s race, Scott Dixon has a $100,000 bonus on the line today. The SONAX Perfect Finish Award is offered to any driver who can win both races in an IZOD IndyCar Series double-header race weekend. The prize started at $50,000 for the first double-header in Detroit and was increased when the feat was not completed there. Should Dixon not pull off the double today, the bonus money will increase again to $150,000 to be awarded to any driver who might pull off the weekend sweep at the Grand Prix of Houston in October. – STEPHANIE WALLCRAFT
Good morning from Exhibition Place, where we’re getting set for race 2 on day 3 of festivities here at the Honda Indy Toronto.
The first thing we all noticed as we walked out our front doors this morning: It’s going to be hot. With a high of 30 C expected for around the IndyCar race start time, sun protection is going to be very important — be sure to bring hats, sunscreen, and reusable bottles to fill with lots of water, especially for the kids. (And please don’t forget their ear protection, too — these cars are loud for little eardrums.)
On track, Matthew Brabham just took his second win of the weekend in Pro Mazda, further extending the absolute smackdown he’s laying down on the entire field this season. Canadian Zack Meyer had a stronger showing than yesterday by coming in 5th.
Panther Racing announced this morning that Carlos Muñoz, a Firestone Indy Lights driver from Colombia who performed very strongly for Andretti Autosport in this year’s Indianapolis 500, will replace Ryan Briscoe after he broke his wrist in a mid-race incident yesterday.
To recap from late last night: Dario Franchitti’s penalty was rescinded and he retained his 3rd-place finish from yesterday’s race; and today’s race will feature another attempt at a standing start after the aborted attempt yesterday.
I also had the pleasure this morning of touring the NBC Sports Network television compound. The amount of work, coordination, and technology that goes into getting the race from the track to your screens at home is incredible from the hundreds of camera views all at the ready to the addition of graphics, the audio mixing, and the production team that puts it all together. Sports broadcasting is a very thankless job — everyone notices when something goes wrong, but people rarely notice if a show has gone right. Thanks very much to the entire team at NBC Sports Network and IMS Productions for their warm welcome and their time this morning. – STEPHANIE WALLCRAFT
Two late announcements from IndyCar: 1) the penalty to Dario Franchitti has been rescinded and he will retain his 3rd-place finish after car data showing steering trace and braking points in the 10 car was presented to IndyCar officials for their review; and 2) IndyCar has officially announced that tomorrow’s race will feature a standing start. — STEPHANIE WALLCRAFT
Mr. McDonald will no doubt provide a more fulsome update on the post-race proceedings in a separate article, but here’s a quick recap of the stories and controversy coming out of today’s race at the Honda Indy Toronto.
Dario Franchitti was penalized 25 seconds for blocking after the conclusion of the race, which dropped him off the podium and landed him in 13th place. Afterward, Franchitti was asked for his impressions of the event. “The big thing is this bulls–t at the end, quite honestly,” he said. “If we can and if it’s allowed, we’re going to protest the call just to find out at the very least how the decision was made. I think it involves dice and a blindfold.” Franchitti and Will Power, who he tangled with in the incident that drew the penalty, have a history in Toronto: the pair also had a dust-up in turn 3 that turned dramatic back in 2011.
Meanwhile, Sebastien Bourdais was standing on the podium having claimed 2nd position when his crystal trophy tumbled from his hands, bounced twice, then shattered. “He gave me the pedestal and the trophy, and the trophy happened not to be attached to the pedestal,” he said. He took it in stride, though. “I’ve got many trophies, and that’s not what makes your day. What makes your day is to have a day like this, make the result, put that TRUECar/McAfee at the front.”
The aborted standing start was a very hot topic post-race as well. The question was posed to the podium finishers of whether they would be opposed to trying again tomorrow. “It doesn’t matter what we think,” Bourdais quipped. Franchitti continued, “It’s been a real mess to try and figure it all out. The meetings were long. It seems a lot of hassle for something that wasn’t that big a deal.”
As of this update, Ryan Briscoe has been transported to St. Michael’s Hospital to have precautionary x-rays taken on his wrist, which he injured in a mid-race four-car incident.
And finally, as of this update, scuttlebutt on the ground is that tomorrow’s race will now feature a standing start in response to the aborted standing start in today’s race.
Please join us again tomorrow for the second half of what has thus far proven to be, as usual, a wild weekend for the IZOD IndyCar Series in Toronto. – STEPHANIE WALLCRAFT
If you haven’t decided whether or not to come down to the CNE grounds tomorrow, the photo above should convince you to come. Even though they only race for 9 laps, these Super Stadium Trucks were one of the most exciting sessions of the day. With Paul Tracy joining in the action, tomorrow’s race should be nothing short of spectacular!
As I stood atop the Direct Energy Centre waiting for the big race of the day to start, there was a buzz going around my fellow photographers. Someone had overheard in pit lane that the Indycar drivers had decided to boycott the standing start by having a backmarker botch his start, which would cause a single file rolling restart. Mixed in with our group were a bunch of Indycar team spotters. They heard the discussion, but chose not to join in.
When the front row lit up and left the line, the cars along the pit start followed, all but one. Josef Newgarden’s car lead stopped on the track. After a few formation laps behind the pace car, the race was started, single file. It seemed inconceivable, but was the rooftop jabber true? Perhaps.
Just a few laps in to the race, Newgarden’s car expired and was being pushed down pit lane by the Sarah Fisher Racing crew. I’m sure there will be some questions asked after the race! - Gary Grant
Scott Dixon has won the pole for the second Hondy Indy race of the weekend in Toronto before they’ve even held the first race. His teammate on the Target Chip Ganassi Racing squad, Dario Franchitti, will start second Sunday afternoon. Franchitti, of course, will start the first Honda Indy Toronto race today (Saturday) from the pole with Dixon sixth.
Frfanchitti said he had no particular feelings about qualifying for Race Two before Race One is held. “It’s the schedule,” he said.
Dixon said his pole run was due more to his driving than the race car. “I just got my shit together,” he said.
The two Canadians in the field, James Hinchcliffe of Oakville and Alex Tagliani of Montreal, had slightly better qualifying runs for the second race than they did for the first but not by much. Hinchcliffe, who will start 14th Saturday afternoon, will start 12th on Sunday. Tagliani will start 17th on Saturday but will go off ninth Sunday.
Although Franchitti said it was no big deal to qualify for the second race before they even run the first one, he’s talking from a driver’s perspective. From a fan perspective, it’s confusing and takes away from the spectacle on Sunday.
There will be a bigger crowd Sunday than today (you read that here first) and the race won’t start till 4 p.m. or so. There is a lot of time to fill. With due respect to the other race series and race drivers, people come to the Honda Indy for the Indy cars. It would be very easy for the Indy cars to practice at 9 a.m., qualify at noon and race at 4 and the fans would get a better show . - NORRIS McDONALD
This has nothing to do with the Honda Indy Toronto but is huge news for Canadian racing fans. Robert Wickens of Guelph and Toronto has just won his first pole position in the German Touring Car Series (DTM) at the Norisring in Germany. And outside pole was nailed down by defending series champion Bruno Spengler of Quebec. The race will be held Sunday. The DTM is generally acknowledged to be the most competitive European racing series outside of Formula One. - NORRIS McDONALD
One mystery at the Honda Indy – which has nothing to with the event, but does. Lake Shore Blvd. West has been closed between Strachan and B.C. since Wednesday evening. People coming into the city from the western suburbs were shut off from getting downtown. But over the years, some of the smart ones would go in on the Lake Shore and then cut through the CNE and use the Dufferin Street bridge to get uptown. The city close the Dufferin Bridge a month ago for renovations. Fair enough. But nothing has happened there since it was shut down and the question today is: why didn’t they leave it open, knowing full well the Indy was coming and it would be a traffic escape valve? - NORRIS McDONALD
Good morning from Exhibition Place, where things are already well under way for the first race day at the Honda Indy Toronto! On-track action got started very early this morning as the Firestone Indy Lights series ran their qualifying session at 7:45 AM. As a result, Matthew Di Leo of Innisfil, Ontario, is set to start 6th in that race, and the pole was won by Englishman Jack Hawksworth. That race is scheduled to get under way at 11:30 this morning.
The big event, of course, is today’s IZOD IndyCar Series race and the series debut of standing starts, which promises to be very exciting. Green flag for that is scheduled for just after 3:30 PM today. But first, the IndyCars will run a qualifying session to set the field for tomorrow’s race, which is set for 10:35 AM.
It’s already a warm and sticky day out there, so don’t forget your hats and sunscreen if you’re headed this way, especially for the little ones. With all the track activity from the IndyCars, Firestone Indy Lights, Pro Mazda, USF2000, Pirelli World Challenge, and a Stadium Super Trucks demonstration, you won’t want to miss a thing! — STEPHANIE WALLCRAFT
Much is made about the increasing number of women becoming race car drivers in recent years, but it’s far less common to hear about women working on pit crews. It just so happens that there’s one woman in the IZOD IndyCar Series who’s not only a mechanic for one of the teams but also goes over the wall to play a role during pit stops.
Her name is Anna Chatten, and she’s the gearbox mechanic and airjack operator for Panther Racing on the car being piloted this weekend by Ryan Briscoe. She was busy working when I stopped by, so I spoke with Panther’s Mike Kitchel to learn more about her role with the team and how she fits in with the boys.
“This will be her third season with the team,” Kitchel told me. “It’s her second season over the wall. She was with KV Racing previously to us and was involved in a pit lane accident with Mario Moraes one year in Motegi. She actually injured her foot, was still recovering from that the first year she was with us, and started going over the wall last year.
“She is very much one of the guys,” he continued. “She fits in really well. I think a lot of times we forget because she fits in so well that to a lot of outsiders she does stand out.” – STEPHANIE WALLCRAFT
Up for grabs this weekend is the SONAX Perfect Finish Award, a prize available to any driver who wins both races in an IZOD IndyCar Series double-header weekend. The purse started at $50,000 for the double-header in Detroit in early June; when Mike Conway and Simon Pagenaud each won a race there, that $50,000 carried over to this weekend to make $100,000 available to any driver who can pull off a sweep here in Toronto. If the feat goes uncompleted again this weekend, the stakes will rise to $150,000 for the double-header at the Grand Prix of Houston in October. – STEPHANIE WALLCRAFT
Several of the drivers, in particular Tony Kanaan, were surprised that IndyCar had decided on a standing start for Saturday’s race instead of Sunday’s. Dario Franchitti, who won the pole for Saturday’s first Honda Indy Toronto, said he hadn’t done a standing start since the early 1990s. It makes you wonder why IndyCar would want the drivers to attempt it, seeing as most of them have absolutely no recent experience. A bad crash at the start of the first race of the weekend could prove to be devastating. - NORRIS McDONALD
It may not seem to make much sense to say it’s surprising to see Dario Franchitti on pole for race 1 at the Honda Indy Toronto, but he’s had a difficult year. He’s had two other poles this year, one at Long Beach and another at Detroit race 1 (though he started that race 11th after serving an engine change penalty), and his best race finish thus far in 2013 is a third-place result at last week’s event at Pocono Raceway.
Adding to the surprises is the appearance of Sebastien Bourdais on the front row, though it was once a common occurrence. The Dragon Racing team that Bourdais has driven for these past two seasons is long-suffering. Prior to this, Bourdais’s best starting position in 2013 was 7th place at the race in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
And if there wasn’t going to be a Canadian in the Firestone Fast 6, honorary Canadians are the next best thing. As reported in today’s Toronto Star, fifth-place starter James Jakes has a Canadian connection: his parents spend their summers at their summer home in Oakville, and he visits the area frequently. Plus, Tony Kanaan’s primary sponsor, Hydroxycut, is based here in Toronto. – STEPHANIE WALLCRAFT
Late in round 2, Takuma Sato made contact with the tire barrier in turn 1 and brought an early end to the session. That meant that the times with two minutes to go became the final times for the round, and the following drivers were able to advance to the Firestone Fast Six to vie for the pole in tomorrow’s race: Dario Franchitti, Sebastien Bourdais, Tony Kanaan, Scott Dixon, Will Power, and James Jakes. The contact caused the flood waters that were trapped in the tires from earlier this week to spill out and run across the racetrack, which may complicate the start of the final round of qualifying. – STEPHANIE WALLCRAFT
For the third year in a row, the Ontario Honda Dealers have sponsored Free Friday at the Indy, allowing fans to spend the day at the track for free, while encouraging those attending to make a donation to Make-A-Wish. Each year, Friday has been increasingly busy as Torontonians discover what may be the best entertainment value the city has to offer. I was just walking along pit lane and glanced up above me, realizing that the pit lane grandstands are jammed full of fans. Likewise, the fan zones and food trucks are busy with people enjoying the fantastic weather. This is great news for Toronto’s best sporting event. - Gary Grant
James Hinchcliffe, the second Canadian to qualify for tomorrow’s race, missed moving on to round two of IZOD IndyCar Series qualifying by just under a tenth of a second. With all the sliding around he was doing in his later laps, it appeared as though he couldn’t possibly have pushed any harder. He was asked if the outlook is better for tomorrow. “Yeah, it’s gotta be,” he replied. He waved at the crowd and thanked his fans as he said, “I promise to do a better job tomorrow.” – STEPHANIE WALLCRAFT
Canadian Alex Tagliani did not advance through the first round of IZOD IndyCar Series qualifying for Saturday’s race. “There’s nothing left,” he said about room for improvement in his car in its current state. “We have a lot of work to do.” — STEPHANIE WALLCRAFT
As IndyCar qualifying for Saturday’s race gets under way, here’s a quick recap of how the Canadians did in the junior formula practice sessions earlier today.
In USF2000, Garett Grist from Grimbsy, Ontario, and racing for Andretti Autosport, was fastest of a 30-car field with a lap of 1:12.502. Scott Hargrove of Vancouver was 3rd; Stefan Rzadzinski of Edmonton was 7th; Dalton Kellett of Toronto was 8th; Daniel Burkett of Winnipeg was 15th; Jesse Lazare of Montreal was 18th; Steve Bamford of Toronto was 26th; Sergio Pasian of Quebec City was 27th; Ryan Verra of Calgary was 28th; James Dayson of Vancouver was 29th.
In Pro Mazda, Toronto’s Zack Meyer placed 8th out of 11 entrants with a lap of 1:11:902. The fastest lap of the session was run by Matthew Brabham, driving for Andretti Autosport, with a time of 1:10.436.
In Firestone Indy Lights, Matthew Di Leo, racing the road and street course races this season for MDL Racing and hailing from Innisfil, Ontario, showed in 9th and last place with a time of 1:08.3223. The fastest in that session was Jack Hawksworth, racing for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, with a time of 1:05.8733. — STEPHANIE WALLCRAFT
IndyCar announced today that it has entered into an agreement that will see Andersen Promotions license and operate Firestone Indy Lights, the third and final level of the Mazda Road to Indy open-wheel driver development system, beginning in 2014.
Andersen Promotions, run by Florida-based businessman and racing veteran Dan Andersen, currently owns and operates the first two levels in the Mazda Road to Indy, USF2000 and PRO Mazda. Andersen said he has a “natural interest in and concern for” the Firestone Indy Lights series, which has struggled with chronically low car counts, particularly in 2013 where single-digit fields have not been uncommon.
Among the goals under the new arrangement: meet an annual target budget per car of roughly $700,000-750,000 while increasing the buzz and stature surrounding the series; bring tire, chassis, and engine partners on board (Mazda and Honda have both reportedly expressed interest among others), with a fully new formula to be launched in 2015; and give IndyCar teams more incentive to participate in the development rungs such as providing bonus IndyCar test days to teams who enter cars in Firestone Indy Lights.
Andersen also expressed an interest in seeing more IndyCar drivers step into Firestone Indy Lights cars to run in both series on race weekends, emulating NASCAR’s system of allowing Sprint Cup drivers to participate in Nationwide Series events.
In preparation for the changeover, a new website for the Firestone Indy Lights series has been launched today at indylights.com. – STEPHANIE WALLCRAFT
In a weekend that includes IndyCar’s second-ever double-header and first-ever standing start, this isn’t encouraging news: race director Beaux Barfield didn’t make it to Toronto. The official statement said that his absence was due to “personal reasons.” Brian Barnhart, the one-time race director for the series who currently acts as the Senior Vice President of Operations for IndyCar, will run the show for both races this weekend. – STEPHANIE WALLCRAFT
The first and only practice session for the IZOD IndyCar Series is complete. Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay, last year’s winner on the streets of Toronto, was fastest with a lap of 1:00.6082. From there, the rest of the top five gets very interesting. Running second-fastest was Josef Newgarden, a sophomore driver racing for Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing, one of the smallest teams in the series. In third was Ryan Briscoe, who’s running a part-time program with Panther Racing this year after parting ways with Penske Racing at the end of last season. Fourth is Tristan Vautier with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, the only rookie in the IZOD IndyCar Series this year. And in fifth is Marco Andretti, — the son, of course, of Michael Andretti, who won this event seven times in his storied career.
As for the Canadian contingent: Oakville’s James Hinchcliffe logged the 11th-fastest time, and Alex Tagliani of Lachenaie, Quebec, was 14th.
There were two incidents during the session, one involving contact for Dario Franchitti (which drew a red flag), and another in which Helio Castroneves made contact with the rear of teammate Will Power’s car and damaged his front wing.
Lots of teams were spending a lot of time on their front suspensions during the session, most notably Alex Tagliani.
All drivers were required to demonstrate at least one simulated standing start for IndyCar officials during this practice session. I came across James Hinchcliffe on pit lane, who was waiting for some changes to me made to his car shortly after his first attempt. I asked him how it had gone. He shrugged and grimaced a little. “Pretty good,” he said. – STEPHANIE WALLCRAFT
Update: I just got word that Pat Carpentier is actually not racing in the trucks, the series has yet to change the striping on the truck. GG
Robby Gordon’s Stadium Super Trucks series was a late addition to the Toronto race weekend and while the series’s races are demonstration events, they promise to offer some of the most exciting action of the weekend. Norris McDonald mentioned earlier this week that Paul Tracy would be racing in the 600 horsepower trucks, predicting that PT will either win or crash. He is certainly going to have some competition.
In addition to the always aggressive Gordon, Indycar veteran Jimmy Vasser will be in the field, as will another Canuck, Patrick Carpentier. These guys get no practice sessions and no qualifying, they just head out on the track and race. There will even be a steel jump somewhere on the course to add to the confusion. You know that these four guys are not going to lose without a fight! – Gary Grant
It is just 11:30 at the CNE and already Free Friday is heating up both on track and in the fan zones. If you are coming down to enjoy the day, be sure to bring sunscreen and a refillable water bottle. There is lots to see around the fan zone and some great choices for lunch! Of course the racing is the main attraction and right now the Indycar teams are on track for their first practice session. I have been out walking with the camera and have lots of images to share. – Gary Grant
James Hinchcliffe spoke with the media this morning to preview his weekend at his home track. One of the key stories this weekend is that Saturday’s race will feature the first standing start ever performed in the IZOD IndyCar Series. (The Champ Car World Series used standings starts in its 2007 season.) Hinchcliffe said he’s done four seasons of standing starts, but some drivers here have never done them in formula cars. The main concern is the lack of practice. “But it all adds to the excitement, right?” Hinchcliffe quipped. “It’s either going to be really impressive with 25 IndyCars from a standing start rocking into turn 1, or it’s going to be pretty spectacular what’s going wrong.” Hinchcliffe discussed what the key is to winning on the streets of Toronto. “This track is very much a setup compromise,” he said. “The mix of high-speed, low-speed, concrete patches, asphalt patches — you really have to be the guy that’s averagely good around the entire place. “The trick in Toronto is you’re never going to have a car that feels really good because in one corner or another you’re going to be struggling, and it’s trying to find one that’s equally as average and mediocre around the whole lap.” Hinchcliffe was asked if he feels better than usual coming into this weekend with his first three series wins under his belt from earlier this year. “It’s probably the worst I’ve felt,” he said, “because the expecatation is higher. I still am expecting some sort of bad luck to come into play. “On every track you have good races and bad races. It just seems like here we have way, way more of the latter and way too few of the former. You’ve got to stay positive, you’ve got to keep your head up, and ultimately you’ve got to treat it like any other race.” – STEPHANIE WALLCRAFT . Good morning from Exhibition Place! A busy day is on tap here at the Honda Indy Toronto for today’s Fan Friday and all weekend long. Fans planning to head to the track today can get in with a pay-what-you-can donation to Make-a-Wish Canada, and all proceeds will be matched by the Ontario Honda Dealers. The weather forecast is perfect with sunny skies, a cool breeze, and a predicted high of 25 C. We’ll be sitting in on a press conference with Oakville, Ontario’s James Hinchcliffe at 9:15 this morning to get his thoughts as he heads into his home race weekend. Stay tuned for that and other live updates all weekend long. — STEPHANIE WALLCRAFT . One thing about the IZOD IndyCar Series: they have a schedule and they stick to it. At 7:30 Friday morning, the sounds of the first racing cars on track – the Cooper Tires U.S. Formula 2000 Series – could be heard by commuters on the Gardiner Expressway as they inched past the CNE. The feature attraction of the weekend, the Indy cars, are scheduled to be on track at 10:30.
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