I would be lying if I were to say that the IZOD IndyCar Series is racing at one of my favorite venues this weekend. It’s not. Don’t get me wrong – I have nothing against Toronto or Canada. Quite the contrary – Toronto is one of my favorite cities that I’ve been to, and I’ve been to several. It is clean, vibrant and has a very cultured metropolitan feel to it. Plus, Toronto is home to two of my favorite IndyCar bloggers – Meesh & Steph. I’m just not crazy about the actual circuit around Exhibition Place that they’ll be racing on. It’s sort of like Nashville and the IZOD IndyCar race at Nashville Superspeedway – great city with a so-so track.
It’s no secret that I’m not a fan of street circuits. I understand that they bring in festive crowds, but I find them boring for the most part. Two years ago at Toronto was an exception. There was action and controversy all throughout the 2009 edition. When I think of that race, I remember Paul Tracy and Helio Castroneves tangling about two-thirds of the way through the race. I also recall Mario Moraes punting someone on the long backstretch after the race was over (but I cannot remember the recipient of the punt). Then there was a very timely pit stop on Dario Franchitti’s part that enabled him to come away with the win.
Quite honestly, I don’t remember a thing about last year’s race except that Will Power won, as he did most street/road courses in 2010. Other than that, nothing really stands out.
At least the track offers some scenic areas. The Princes’ Gates offer an imposing structure at the head of Turn One. Lakeshore Drive is one of the fastest and most picturesque straightaways on the schedule. But it’s the second half of the layout that I’m not crazy about, as it twists and turns around buildings between framed concrete barriers on either side. As the cars snake through that section, I can never really tell where they are on the track. Perhaps that’s not very important to some, but I kind of like being able to recognize landmarks throughout a circuit.
Thinking back over the history of this event, two names come to mind – Andretti and Krosnoff. Although Mario Andretti raced on this track nine times, he never won. However, the same cannot be said about his oldest son. Michael Andretti won at this track seven times, all between 1989 and 2001. It would certainly make for some great conversation if Michael’s son, Marco, could continue his newly found winning ways at Toronto, after his hard-earner victory two weeks ago at Iowa.
The name Krosnoff brings back more difficult memories. It was at this track in 1996, that rookie Jeff Krosnoff lost his life. As the laps were winding down, Krosnoff touched wheels with Stefan Johansson and was launched airborne and into a light pole on the side of the city street. What was left of his Reynard-Toyota was thrown back onto the track. The young Krosnoff was fatally injured. Having grown up in the sixties, I’ve seen a lot of racing fatalities over time. I don’t know why, but that one bothered me more than most others. Maybe it was since it was so late in the race. Perhaps it was because he was a new face with a struggling team. It could have been that he was destined to be not much more than a footnote. Earlier that year, Scott Brayton lost his life at Indianapolis. Three years later, Greg Moore was fatally injured at Fontana. We still remember those vividly, but somehow Jeff Krosnoff has sort of been forgotten about. But I clearly remember seeing that accident, every time the IndyCars race through Toronto.
I’m sure Will Power is glad to be back on the road courses. You can say the same for Justin Wilson and Simona de Silvestro. This is where they tend to thrive. Will Power is only twenty points behind Dario Franchitti in the points battle. I think he has something to prove as he remembers how last week got away from him and how he also lost the championship last year. Although he finally got his first oval win in the second twin at Texas last month, he is still the master at turning right.
Along with the return of road courses, this week sees the return of Sebastien Bourdais to the cockpit of the Dale Coyne Boy Scouts of America sponsored Dallara. Speaking of returns, three Canadians will be returning to their homeland this weekend: Paul Tracy, Alex Tagliani and James Hinchcliffe. Tracy returns to the Dragon Racing cockpit for the first time after a decent showing at Texas. This is their first time together on a street course since a sixteenth place outing at Long Beach. Alex Tagliani has been the source of recent speculation as to whether or not he will return to the seat of the No. 77 Sam Schmidt Motorsports entry after Edmonton in two weeks. Funding and results have dwindled lately and there are persistent rumors that others might be destined for that seat later this summer. No such talk surrounds rookie James Hinchcliffe. he is coming off of a career-best oval performance with a sixth place finish at Iowa, surpassed only with a fourth place at Long Beach. He and Oriol Servia have led a season-long resurgence at Newman/Haas Racing. I expect Hinch to do very well this weekend.
I would like to think that a former winner of this event, Justin Wilson, might do well. But he and his Dreyer & Reinbold Racing team have been mired in a funk pretty much all season long. Buried into a forgettable sixteenth place in points, I might rank this team as one of the biggest disappointments of the season at the halfway point – along with Helio Castroneves and Ryan Hunter-Reay. At least Helio is showing signs of life after a dismal start. Wilson and DRR have been strangely anonymous all season long.
Based on what we’ve seen over the past few races, I would expect good results from KV Racing Technology-Lotus. they have been coming on strong and I’ll be surprised if they don’t win a race before this season is over. But it won’t be this week. So who am I predicting to win the Honda Indy Toronto? I’m not going out on a limb this week. Although I’d like to see another surprise winner this week, I don’t see it happening at Toronto. I think Will Power is going to shake out the cobwebs from his concussion at Iowa, maintain his focus throughout the weekend and come away with the victory and pull even in points. I don’t think I’ve been right all season, so now is a good time to start.