INDYCAR Pre-Race Media: Toronto Track Trends, favorites, sleepers, fades, etc

TRACK: Exhibition Place (1.786-mile, 11-turn street course), DISTANCE: 90 Laps (152 Miles)

This is the first time since 2019 that the series has visited our friends north of the border. The question is, how much has changed? We know we have the Aeroscreen added now which should change a lot on the teams/driver side.

It did so in all the other street circuits ran with this device because of how high it sits. Even if nothing has changed on the track in terms of cornering or even bumps, the Aeroscreen will make the cars feel vastly different.

How much else?

INDYCAR started coming to Toronto in 1986. They came for 22 straight years before missing out in 2008 due to the merger of Champ Car and INDYCAR. But, they were back in 2009 for the next 11 years making this one of the longer tenured races on the schedule. Unfortunately, the pandemic stopped it in 2020 and with another year off in 2021, the history of this race was in jeopardy.

Now, it’s back.

  • Penske has won 3 of the last 4 here with Scott Dixon in a Ganassi car (2018) as the only outlier since 2017. They’re also 3-for-3 on the season on street courses too.
  • You can also get fluke winners here too. Sebastien Bourdais with KVSH Racing won in 2014. Mike Conway with ECR won the second doubleheader race that year with CFH Racing. Josef Newgarden won a year later with ECR too.
  • Still, mainly the best win here with Conway being the only non series champion to win at Toronto since 2007.
  • Toronto was a doubleheader in 2013 and 2014 before being moved back to a single race in 2015 on.
  • 17 of the last 19 including 28 of the last 31 races were won from the top seven. The only other starting spots since (13th in 2001, 11th in 2014 and 11th again in 2015).
  • However, on street courses in general in INDYCAR now, the winners lately have come from 15th (Belle Isle 1), 16th (Belle Isle 2), 18th (Nashville), 14th (Long Beach 2021), 1st (St. Pete 2022), 2nd (Long Beach 2022) and 16th (Belle Isle 2022).
  • 3 of the last 4 years has seen a crash in the 1st two laps. One was starters 16, 17 and 18, another 4-5 and the last 12-15-16-19-20.

TRACK COMPARISONS/WHO’S BEEN GOOD ON THEM

Toronto being a street course is unique in the sense that we don’t have many of them on the schedule. In 2020, there was just one – St. Pete. Last year, we have a few more in Belle Isle, St. Pete, Nashville and Long Beach. The same are back with the addition of Toronto again this season.

These are the best comparisons to Toronto in the fact that the top drivers on those places are also good here too.

With Toronto only being 1.7 miles though, it’s a short track in a sense where you can get bottlenecks out on track like we saw in St. Pete and Long Beach.

If you go back to the start of the 2019 season, we’ve had 14 races on these tracks with 9 different winners. Josef Newgarden (4), Marcus Ericsson (2) and Colton Herta (2) are the only multi-time winners during this span.

The big teams are strong on them with Penske winning 7 of those last 14 races, Ganassi and Andretti each with 3 wins a piece. Arrow McLaren SP is the only other team to have won.

Josef Newgarden enters as the favorite for Sunday’s race at Toronto

Favorites – Can Penske Get 4th Win in Last 5?

Josef Newgarden

He has 2 wins in his last 5 Toronto starts and 4 top 10’s in that same span. Prior to that, his best finish was 11th in 5 tries. Newgarden has a win at Long Beach this year too including 2 straight front row starts on street courses in 2022. He’s made the 2nd round in each of his last 5 Toronto starts too (11th, 8th, 7th, 1st, 5th).

Scott Dixon

Hard to bet against him here. He won in 2018 and was runner-up in 2019. Dixon, has 9 straight Toronto top 10’s including three wins and a runner-up in that span. Does his 22 race winless drought end here? He qualifies well here too. He’s started in the top 10 in all 13 tries including 10 of which in the Fast 6. Since 2015, he’s qualified 4th, 1st, 5th, 2nd and 2nd respectively. On the season, he was 7th, 16th and 9th in 3 street course qualifying attempts.

Simon Pagenaud

He has alternated with Dixon the last two years. Dixon was first and Pagenaud second in 2018 and Pagenaud first and Dixon second in 2019. Pagenaud has four straight top 10’s and three consecutive top fives. He looked great in Belle Isle with a lot of speed in his No. 60 Dallara-Honda too. He has 4 top 10’s in his last 5 races run on the season. For qualifying purposes, he’s a Fast 6 contender for sure. All 10 of his Toronto starts have seen him make at least the 2nd round. His last 4 were all in the top 2 rows (4th, 3rd, 2nd, 3rd, 1st, 3rd, 1st) and he has 2 Fast 6’s in 3 street course races run in 2022 as well and 10th in the other.

Colton Herta

He won twice on street courses in 2021 and should have had a third in Nashville. Herta, was seventh here as a rookie in 2019 after qualifying 16th. He has 3 top 7 starting spots in 3 street course races in 2022 at that.


Sleepers

Helio Castroneves

He has seven straight top eight finishes including three runner-ups and a third place run in his last five tries. Like Pagenaud, he too had a lot of speed in Belle Isle last month. Castroneves has 8 straight top 7 starts at Toronto and was 17th, 14th and 4th on street courses this season.

Alexander Rossi

He’s been solid at Toronto with being 2nd, 8th and 3rd in his last three starts. He was 16th as a rookie. That’s 2 podiums in his last 3 and a runner-up finish in Belle Isle last month. He qualified 19th, 8th, 5th and 4th in 4 Toronto tries and was 13th (St. Pete), 5th (Long Beach) and 11th (Belle Isle) in qualifying efforts this season too.

Marcus Ericsson

He was 20th in his lone start but does have 2 street course wins since and a pair of top 10’s in 3 street course events in 2022. He’s qualified 8th in all 3 street course races this season too.

Felix Rosenqvist

He was 5th as a rookie in 2019. In 3 street course starts in 2022 though, he’s only qualified 21st, 4th and 26th.


Fades

Rookies

With most Toronto race winners being champions of this sport, I don’t necessarily like the rookies here. Pato O’Ward, Scott McLaughlin, Alex, Palou, Jimmie Johnson, Romain Grosjean, Devlin DeFrancesco, Rinus VeeKay, Jack Harvey, Christian Lundgaard, David Malukas, Dalton Kellett, Tatiana Calderon and Kyle Kirkwood have each never raced on this track before. That eliminates 13 drivers right off the bat.

Will Power

Be wary here. He’s a three time winner (2007, 2010, 2016) but his last three are 21st, 18th and 18th respectively too. Power, has just two podiums in his last 11 Toronto starts with 7 of those 11 seeing him finish 15th or worse at that. He qualified 15th his last time out in Toronto and 4 of his last 5 qualifying efforts on the season have seen him be 15th or worse.

Graham Rahal

Not one of his better tracks. Rahal, has 1 top 5 in 13 tries and that was only a 5th place run in his second Toronto start. His last 11 finishes have seen him 13th or worse in 7 of them. He has made it to the 2nd round in 4 of the last 7 Toronto starts and 2 of the 3 street races in 2022 as well but Saturday may be the lone bright spot of Rahal’s weekend.

Takuma Sato

His last 3 finishes here are 16th, 22nd and 22nd respectively. Furthermore, 7 of his 12 Toronto starts have seen him finish 20th or worse. He’s qualified well in each of his last 5 street races at Toronto (8th, 20th, 10th, 7th, 10th) and was on the front row in Belle Isle. Like Rahal, Saturday may be well for him but not necessarily on Sunday.

Conor Daly

He has finishes of 12th, 17th and 13th on this track. He’s made it out of the 1st round just once all year and has qualified 20th, 18th and 13th on street races. He was 19th, 7th, 18th and 11 in 4 Toronto qualifying efforts as well.


Key Stat

We’ve seen some dominating performances here with the last 3 winners leading at least 46 of the 85 laps. Simon Pagenaud led 80 of 85 in his win in 2019.

Top Quote

“Yeah, I do actually — having been around so long, I understand the tracks that I’m good at and what I’m — Toronto is always one that I struggle in qualifying for whatever reason. Usually good in the race,” Will Power said.

“After that they’re all — you’ve got to be good at all of them, and some that you think you’ll be really good at you may have a bad day, so you’ve got to make the most of everything. But there are some tracks your car is better, you’re stronger at, some click with you very well. That’s a path that you’ve got to keep working on, so be strong everywhere.”

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