It’s time to double up once again, IndyCar fans, as the Honda Indy Toronto features a pair of races this weekend. Helio Castroneves continues to hold off Ryan Hunter-Reay and Marco Andretti in the title standings, but with double the points available, we could see a big swing this weekend. There’s plenty to cover, so let’s jump right into the weekend’s Storylines:
Weekend Rulebook: That's right, Race 1 in Toronto will mark the debut of IndyCar's standing starts, something that we'll see again later this year in Houston. It's worth noting this is the case for Race 1 only; Race 2 this weekend will be IndyCar's normal rolling start. Additionally, if the field totally botches the standing start (hey, it could happen), then IndyCar will segue into a rolling start. Will the drivers who came through the European feeder series have the advantage? That's the prevailing wisdom, but we'll see what surprises we get.
Conway Contends: Mike Conway is back with Dale Coyne Racing this weekend, and that’s excellent news for DCR fans. Not only did Conway school the field at Detroit with Coyne earlier this season, but he grabbed a podium at Toronto with Foyt last season. There’s another gear Mike Conway seems to find on some of the street courses, and if he finds it again this weekend, it could be trouble for the other teams.
Briscoe’s Back: From the sound of things, we’ll be seeing plenty of Ryan Briscoe with Panther Racing for the remainder of the season. It’s great to see Briscoe around, but he also has his work cut out for him; Panther has made it a rocky road this season, and the team could certainly use some stability and good results.
Last Year’s Winner: Ryan Hunter-Reay was in the midst of his title charge when he won here last season, and he’s again in the thick of the fight this year. RHR is getting to the point where doesn’t only need a victory, but needs to see where Mr. Castroneves finishes. As Helio has been the most consistent driver out there this year, any mistake has to be absolutely capitalized on.
Crew Change: Big changes this week at Dragon Racing, as Sebastian Saavedra's entire pit crew has been replaced. Will it make a difference on the beleaguered Dragon team? Saavedra has definitely suffered some setbacks in the pits this year, so it's hard to figure how it could be any worse. That team needs a big-time turnaround, and there's no saying what the spark could be.
Watch the Iceman: Well, well, well. In a year where we’ve heard so much about Chevy spanking the competition, who is that I spy in fourth position in total points? Why, that would be Scott Dixon. I’m going to share a secret we all apparently forget every year, as it appears we need continual reminding:
SCOTT DIXON IS REALLY, REALLY GOOD AT THIS WHOLE INDYCAR THING.
Dixie is 65 points back in the standings, with Mid-Ohio—a race he absolutely dominates—on the schedule right after Toronto. If he has another good weekend, we could be talking about him a lot more heading into the remaining race weekends.
Mazda Road to Indy Update: Carlos Munoz and Sage Karam are separated by only 4 points heading into Toronto, a race where Munoz found himself out of contention early last year, spinning twice. For his part, Karam needs to show he can beat Munoz on the twisties as well as the ovals. Also, don’t forget about young-owner driver Matthew Di Leo, who will be racing in Lights in front of a hometown crowd this weekend.
As a bonus, both Pro Mazda and USF2000 also will be at Toronto. Pro Mazda points leader Matthew Brabham has looked largely invincible this year, a trend he’ll hope to continue in Toronto. In USF2000, Scott Hargrove has opened up an absolute butt-whipping on the rest of the field, as Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing again go from strength to strength. Still there are a lot of drivers hoping to cut into that lead—good prospects like Wyatt Gooden, Garrett Grist, and Stefan Rzadzinski. Let’s see if one of the Canadians—Hargrove, Grist, or Rzad can get a win on their native soil!
Livery Watch: A few interest notes this week—Helio is in the Hitachi car again, while TK reverts to the Hydroxycut livery once again. We also get to see the always-awesome Dr. Pepper scheme for Marco Andretti, and Tristan Vautier is in a very bright Visit Florida livery. For Dale Coyne’s #18 entry, Mike Conway will pilot a orange-blue-yellow Sonny’s BBQ car. Fun stuff!
Somewhat Relevant Trivia: A Canadian has not won this event since Paul Tracy back in 2003. He remains the only Canadian driver to win this event.
Somewhat Relevant Trivia If You’re Into Rookie Stats: Tristan Vautier has not had a Top 10 finish since the second race of the season. That is a bummer.
Pole Prediciton: I like Scott Dixon to continue the Honda comeback here.
Winner Prediction: I get two picks for the doubleheaders, so let’s go with Dario for one and RHR for the other.
Dark Horse: You know, even though he was P2 last week and P2 at Toronto last year, Charlie Kimball remains an afterthought to a lot of fans. Let’s give him the nod this weekend.
Don’t forget about your Fantasy Racing picks—it’s a big points weekend if you choose well! Enjoy the racing from Toronto, and don’t forget, Turbo hits most theaters next week!