Every time the Honda Indy Toronto shows up on the calendar, I can’t help but think of Jeff Krosnoff – the CART rookie, who was fatally injured in the closing laps of the 1996 race on the streets of Exhibition Place at Toronto. If the IZOD IndyCar Series ever returns to Las Vegas Motor Speedway, memories of Dan Wheldon will evoke similar thoughts. Jeff Krosnoff was not a two-time Indianapolis 500 winner. Nor was he a series champion. In fact, the bulk of Krosnoff’s racing success came in Japan in Formula 3000, along with a second-place finish at Le Mans in 1994. Krosnoff’s CART legacy was tied to the debut edition of the Toyota engine in CART, which had just slightly better results than Lotus has posted thus far in the 2012 campaign. Due to his lack of notoriety, there was no mass hysteria in the months that followed his death. But he was a competent driver and this weekend, racing fans should pause and remember Jeff Krosnoff and Gary Avrin – the volunteer corner worker who lost his life when he was struck with debris from the Krosnoff accident.
The next person that comes to mind when thinking of the Honda Indy Toronto is Michael Andretti. From 1989 to 2001, Michael won this event a record seven times. No other driver has come close to matching that type of dominance. The driver with the next most wins at Toronto is Dario Franchitti, with three; followed by Al Unser, Jr., Will Power and local favorite Paul Tracy with two wins apiece. Franchitti and Power have the distinction of having won at Toronto under different sanctioning bodies. Franchitti won the CART race there in 1999 and IndyCar races in 2009 and 2011. Power won the Champ Car race in 2007 and the IZOD IndyCar Series event in 2010.
As most know, I’m not a lover of street races – but this is one that I’d like to attend at some point. I’ve been to the layout before – about two weeks after the 1995 race had run. It’s an interesting layout with some very fast sections. Other than being a victim of the unification with no race held in 2008, this event at its current track dates back to 1986 when Bobby Rahal won. Prior to that, USAC ran four races at nearby Mosport between 1967 and 1978.
Last year’s race was when Dario Franchitti punted Will Power, causing Power to utter his now famous line; “Dario – I also race him clean, and he always races me dirty”. Dario went on to win the race and ultimately, the championship.
This year’s race will be the first race this year to feature “push-to-pass”. All indications were that this was something we wouldn’t see for 2012. Suddenly, it’s available for the remaining road/street races of the season. I’m not quite sure how I feel about this. I never thought it was an effective tool with the normally aspirated engines, seeing as it only generated about 5-10 more horsepower. When CART/Champ Car introduced this feature with turbocharged engines about ten years ago, the resulting gain was about fifty more horsepower. Now, that was significant. From what I can tell, this incarnation of push-to-pass will be closer to the previous IndyCar version than the old Champ Car version. Supposedly, this is to not add any further stress on engines that are failing at a quicker rate than some expected. My personal opinion is that they should have waited until next year at the beginning of the season and give the engine manufacturers a little more time to improve their reliability and plan for the push-to-pass. But what do I know?
This is the next to last ABC race for the season. The bad thing about that is that this is the next to last time to garner decent over-the-air ratings. The ratings for the late starting Iowa race were down forty percent from last year. Not good. Regardless of what we all think about the coverage, it is always a plus to have the races carried by a major outlet. The good thing about it is that we’ll only have to listen to Marty Reid for just one more race after this. Bob Jenkins and his crew are a lot easier for me to listen to, plus NBC Sports Network does a much better job in general with race broadcasts. I will savor the remaining Bob Jenkins broadcasts as he is slated for retirement at the end of the season.
The last time someone other than Dario Franchitti or Will Power won this race was in 2006, when AJ Allmendinger took the checkered flag. While I would personally like to see James Hinchcliffe win his first race on his native soil, it’s tough to bet against recent history at this track. Franchitti has been having an overdue batch of bad luck lately. I don’t expect that to change this week. Team Penske hasn’t won a race in over two months. I do expect that to change. Therefore, my pick to win this year’s version of the Honda Indy Toronto is Will Power – who will stretch out his points lead over second place Ryan Hunter-Reay. We’ll see.