One thing is certain when IndyCar rolls in to Canada’s largest city – rough and tumble. I can’t remember the last time the Toronto event didn’t offer up some sort of clash/controversy stretching back to 2009 and Helio Castroneves’ unwise decision to play hard with local hero Paul Tracy. I thought the fans would lynch Helio that day (and who says IndyCar fans aren’t passionate). The tight and twisting circuit mixed with the drag strip down Lakeshore Boulevard that just invites drivers to throw it down the inside, makes Toronto an entertaining stop on the schedule.
Outside of the Penske/Ganassi duel at the sharp end of the field, the chasing pack is so tight. With that sort of competition and a liberal sprinkling of drivers needing to make an impression/secure a ride permanently, it would be a brave person to bet against some sort of incident during the weekend.
Power to pole, Will to win?
It would also be brave to bet against Will Power taking another pole this weekend. Whether he can convert that to victory is another question. At face value a straightforward weekend with no weird quirks or mixed weather should see him dance off in to the distance. Circumstances have played their part but mistakes in Detroit, a setup miscue in Texas and a stupid mistake in Alabama have compromised likely wins. The defending champ needs to put together a clean weekend himself first and foremost.
Out of the Penske stable only Pagenaud looks like a challenger on pace but the wily veterans Montoya and Castroneves will still be there or thereabouts in terms of race day smarts and strategic thinking. Fresh from Texas victory and in much better shape in terms of the Championship than he usually is, Scott Dixon should be in contention. The most experienced driver in the field on the Toronto circuit Sebastien Bourdais is also worth keeping an eye on.
2015 is fast becoming Connor Daly’s year. The circumstances are not how he or anyone would like them to be but he is doing what any top level driver should: seizing the opportunity. In tricky circumstances his 6th place in Detroit race 2 was a great achievement. Running with SPM is a real bonus but he used it to great success finishing ahead of lead drivers like Hunter-Reay, Montoya, Pagenaud, Kanaan and the much-vaunted Sage Karam. With James Hinchcliffe needing further surgery – I hope it goes smoothly and we see him back soon – you hope Sam Schmidt will keep faith with Daly for what could end up being a season long partnership.
What do Honda do now?
The 500 was Honda’s stated aim for this season. Despite the enforced changes to aero kits before qualifying, Honda was not in contention throughout the month of May. Now it is time to pick up the pieces.
The fact Honda’s Toronto area dealers club together to sponsor the Honda Indy Toronto just adds a bit more pressure. It is hard to see where the Honda teams can make gains during the season. This weekend is likely to be another slog for their teams. We can expect the rejuvenated Graham Rahal to be in the mix but cracking the podium again will rely on circumstances over performance. Wet weather would help equalize things for the Honda teams and they will be hoping the rain forecast for Sunday materializes.
I wrote before Indy about the risks of Honda’s 500 gamble not paying off. Chevrolet teams will be delighting in their performance advantage but for the series longer term it is not a tenable situation. Honda will need to ride out the rest of the season and do what they can but IndyCar will likely face serious grumbles in the not too distant future.