The men and women of the IZOD IndyCar Series return to the streets this weekend as their Honda-powered Dallaras go screaming around Exhibition Place in Toronto. This is part one of the two-part swing into the Canadian frontier for the series, which will be followed by the race in Edmonton.
The 11 turn, 1.755 mile (2.824 km for you metric lovers in Canada) race was a traditional track under the old USAC/CART series,with events running on the streets of Toronto since the 1986 event won by Bobby Rahal. The IZOD Indycar Series returned to the track in 2009 after the unification of open wheel racing, with Dario Franchitti taking the checkered flag.
The past history gives us several former winners in the field this weekend. Paul Tracy, Justin Wilson, Will Power, and Dario Franchitti all won at the track during their years in Champ Car. Michael Andretti was the master of the track throughout his career, capturing seven titles at the track. In addition to all this, Helio Castroneves captured a race win while in the Indy Lights series in 1997.
The track through the streets of Toronto features an unique element in street racing, the ability to pass. There are several passing zones at Exhibition place that will allow the drivers to really mix it up on the track.
Turn one features a full right hand, right angle turn which is a major passing zone on the track. The most exciting corner however, might be turn three this weekend. It features the longest approach straightaway for the drivers to gain speed, and many drivers has misjudged the turn in practice already. This has caused them to lock the brakes, and slide off the track.
Turn eight also features an opportunity to gain position, with a tight right turn before entering an S-turn and heading back to the start-finish line. Drivers who can gain speed and position through turn eight will be able to overtake in the S-turn.
Three drivers will return to the series this weekend. Paul Tracy will be driving the fourth car for KV Racing Technologies, with sponsorship by the Canadian Make a Wish Foundation. Tomas Scheckter will be filling in for Mike Conway at Dreyer and Reinbold Racing again, as the No. 24 car will feature the Mona-Vie sponsorship.
Graham Rahal also returns to Newman Haas Racing in the No. 02 car with sponsorship from QuickTrim borrowed from his efforts with Rahal Letterman Racing. Rahal is expected to compete in the majority of the remaining events with Newman Haas after being a true journeyman in the first half of the 2010 season.
In addition to all our new drivers this weekend, several cars will also feature new liveries. Tony Kanaan, Dario Franchitti, and Alex Tagliani will all feature very different cars. Tagliani has a new Hot Wheels livery that is a must-see this weekend.
All the action gets under at 12:30 ET on the ABC network. Qualifying will be Saturday afternoon starting around 12:30 and can be seen on Indycar.com.
So without further previewing, we bring you our Writer's Picks for the Honda Indy Toronto.
Win : Will Power – The series’ only multiple winner is also a former Toronto winner, and has been the class of the field all year.
Place : Dario Franchitti – Defending race winner will again be chasing Power to the checkers, except this time without Ryan Briscoe slipping by him in the late stages of the race.
Show : Justin Wilson – Four top-fives, including one win, in five career Toronto starts suggest that he has the track figured out.
Dark horse : Ryan Hunter-Reay – Fast in practice, pumped about his full-season deal, will be looking for another street course win at a track where his team owner, Michael Andretti, won seven times.
First to crash : Mario Moraes – Sorry Jimmy Vasser, just an unfortunate hunch about more torn up KV equipment (hey, Justin Wilson’s contract only runs one year and you guys have the Lotus sponsorship, how about assembling an all-British team next year?).
First to Crash : Alex Lloyd
Of course this one is always a crapshoot. I think this one will go to a car in the middle of the pack, or near the rear of the field, just about where Alex will be.
Dark Horse : Alex Tagliani
I think Alex has what it takes to win, both from the driver’s talent side of it, as well as the right equipment. I wouldn’t be shocked to see Alex on the podium at the end of the day.
Third Place : Scott Dixon
Scott has been here for awhile, he knows this track and he will certainly be towards the top of the leader board most of the day.
Second Place : Ryan Hunter-Reay
Ryan has proven he is a great road course driver, and he is consistently at the top of the speed charts. Toronto will be no different.
Race Winner : Helio Castroneves
I think it’s about time Helio gets his act together and starts contending for wins. The season is more than halfway through, and if he wishes to be in contention for the championship, he needs to find some good finishes.
Win: Ryan Hunter-Reay. Hunter-Reay has been outstanding on the temporary street circuits all year long. With his announcement at Watkins Glen that he will be granted a full season ride with Andretti Autosport, Hunter-Reay will be looking to show that he was worth the effort.
Place: Justin Wilson. Justin has also been a beast on the street courses, but has come up short every time. This will be another instance of that, as he will just miss the race win. Wilson has won here before and is very confident on non-oval tracks.
Show: Will Power. He has been the best driver all year long, but especially on road and street courses. I don't think he will be up front this weekend because I think he won't be taking as many chances as other drivers. Power has a 32-point season lead over second place Dario Franchitti and will look to protect that lead while being more conservative than normal.
Dark Horse: Marco Andretti. Marco is the true up and down racer this year, managing a great finish followed by an awful one. He will appear to have the right setup but after the first pit stop things go horribly wrong. Look for that to change this weekend. The combo of his three teammates gives Andretti a great set of data to work with, and his finishing order is likely to improve.
First to Crash : EJ Viso. Unfortunately for KV Racing, the only thing they are leading in this year is Dallara replacement part orders. Viso has been very fast in practice so far, but he is a very young driver that has a hard time containing his emotions. I'm thinking he's going to lock it up going into turn three and KV will have another repair bill.
Control Pick Josh : Josh is my buddy who is studying for the BAR exam with me.
Win: Helio Castroneves. The first race I ever saw was the 2009 Indy 500. Helio dominated all month, so he is my pick.
Place : Alex Taglianni. Ryan showed me the new Hot Wheels paint job on the car and that just looks fast.
Show: Paul Tracy. Mexican wrestling masks return to pit lane? Yes please.
Dark Horse : Takuma Sato. The Lotus car paint job is pretty cool. Also, wasn't this guy in F1? He should be better at road racing.
First to Crash : Milka Duno. She is pretty much awful (note: What Josh doesn't seem to know is that Milka is likely to be parked well before she will even have a chance to wreck).
That'll do it for us today, pop a big bowl of popcorn, grill some brats and enjoy the great race from Toronto on your Sunday afternooon.
Who do you got? Feel free to comment below with your picks and predictions for this week's race and beat our writers! The author can be reached at email@example.com .