Qualifying on street courses haven’t mattered much lately, but for Toronto this weekend, it may, a look at why with who you should look at and who you shouldn’t for quals this weekend

INDIANAPOLIS — Parity has been the name of the game for NTT INDYCAR Series qualifying this season. We’re 9 races down with 9 different pole winners. Does that trend continue this Saturday on the streets of Toronto?

“Simply because it’s so competitive,” said the qualifying master Will Power. “There is no one that is dominating, no one stands out. You can try to pick the polesitter for this weekend. You simply couldn’t. Even the drivers, you couldn’t pick who might be on pole, which to me is a great thing.”

7 of the 9 races this season were won by a top 7 starter including 6 of which in the top 5. Also, for the Honda Indy Toronto (3 p.m. ET, Peacock, INDYCAR Radio Network) in general, 17 of the last 19 races on the Exhibition Place circuit were won by a top 7 starter. Really, if you go back to 1986 (22 races) 19 of them were won by someone qualifying in the top 7. 13th is the worst starting spot of a Toronto race winner.

In saying that, 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) the last 2 seasons. Does starting spots on these tracks even matter anymore?

“INDYCAR at the moment is so competitive that who knows,” said Power. “Like, at the end of the day you can never give up. Don’t be too down in the mouth if you don’t qualify well.

“But it matters, though. Qualifying up front, if you execute well, you’re certainly going to finish up front. Definitely the all-time high as far as driver talent, the quality of teams. Yeah, it hasn’t been this tough ever. Yeah, three big teams now, four big teams: Penske, McLaren, Andretti, Ganassi. You add Shank into that. I don’t think there’s a series more competitive around the world than this.”

I think it still may on Sunday since 2 of the 3 street races this year were won from the front row.

Part of that is due to the opening lap crash that usually ensues in Toronto. 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.

So typically the midpack on back cars are affected which means starting position is crucial for avoid the opening lap crash.

So, whom does this favor?

Power says that qualifying has been messy for them this year and Toronto hasn’t been a track that he’s qualified well out in the past either. While he is also one of the few drivers in the field that has a lot of experience at Toronto, does it give him any sort of an advantage?

He doesn’t think so. He feels like the young drivers show up now have so much prework at their disposal that they’re already ahead of the game when they show up to these tracks now.

“Definitely simulator work,” he said. “You know the braking points, you know the gears, you know the track. You don’t know the track condition. But, yeah, that’s a pretty big chunk of time you cut off trying to understand where a track goes by being on a sim the week before. That is a big, big help.

“Obviously video these days, so much on-board footage, there’s so much information to take in before you get there. You turn up, you’re going out first session knowing the track.”

Simon Pagenaud navigates the streets of Belle Isle last month. Photo Credit: INDYCAR Media Site

Fast 6 Potential

  • Scott Dixon – He has 2 top 10 starting spots in 3 street races this season but a top 10 in all 13 Toronto tries too. Dixon has 5 straight top 5 starting spots in Toronto including 3 of the last 4 being on the front row.
  • Simon Pagenaud – 2 of his 3 street course races in 2022 have put him in the Fast 6. His worst start this season is 10th in Long Beach on these circuits. For Toronto in general, Pagenaud has been in the 2nd round in all 10 starts including 7 straight landing him in the top 2 rows.
  • Colton Herta – He was 16th as a rookie in 2019 but 3rd, 1st and 7th in 3 street course tries in 2022 though as well.
  • Josef Newgarden – He has a top 10 in all 3 street course starts including 2 straight on the front row. For Toronto, he’s made it to the 2nd round in 5 straight races including his last 2 in the top 5.
  • Romain Grosjean – Was 5th in St. Pete, 6th in Long Beach and the only reason he was 12th in Belle Isle was because he crashed on his final lap.
  • Takuma Sato – Was 2nd in Belle Isle and has a top 10 start in 4 of his last 5 tries in Toronto.

7th-12th Potential

  • Helio Castroneves – Was only 17th and 14th in the 1st two street course races of 2022, but 4th in Belle Isle and he has 11 straight 2nd round appearances at Toronto. However, while he has 5 top 3 starts in his last 6 tries there, he also qualified 7th three times in his last 8 appearances too.
  • Marcus Ericsson – He was only 20th in his lone rookie qualifying effort in Toronto but 8th in all 3 street races run in 2022 as well.
  • Scott McLaughlin – He’s a rookie in Toronto but has a top 10 in all 3 street course starts in 2022. However, outside of his pole in St. Pete, his other 2 starts were in Row 5.
  • Alex Palou – He qualified 10th, 3rd and 18th in 3 street races in 2022.
  • Alexander Rossi – He was 13th, 5th and 11th on 3 street course qualifying attempts in 2022 but 19th, 8th, 5th and 4th in 4 Toronto qualifying tries too.
  • Kyle Kirkwood – He made the Fast 12 in Mid-Ohio and has 3 straight top 15 starting spots on street courses this season including 2 of the 3 being 12th. Only reason he was 15th in Detroit was due to a practice crash prior. He was quickest on the Friday practice of that weekend.

Fades

  • Graham Rahal – He’s made the Fast 12 in 4 of his last 7 Toronto starts and was between 11th and 13th in 2 of his 3 starts on the season, but was 23rd in Belle Isle too.
  • Pato O’Ward – He was 16th, 11th and 5th in the 3 street races in 2022. He’s a rookie in Toronto.
  • David Malukas – He was 24th, 19th and 6th in 3 street courses this season but for Toronto, he’s a rookie.
  • Rinus VeeKay – He was 4th, 15th and 14th in 3 street course appearances in 2022.
  • Will Power – Odd to have him here but 4 of his last 5 starts have seen him be 15th or worse plus his last qualifying effort in Toronto was 15th as well. He does have 11 top 5 starts in 13 tries north of the border in Toronto, but that’s not seemed to matter at other tracks this season either.
  • Felix Rosenqvist – He did qualify 3rd in 2019 for his lone Toronto start, but 2 of his 3 street course efforts have seen him qualify 21st or worse too.
  • Conor Daly – He’s qualified 20th, 18th and 13th in his 3 street races in 2022 and 19th, 7th, 18th and 11th in 4 Toronto starts as well.
  • Devlin DeFrancesco – The hometown kid was 18th, 17th and 21st in 3 street course tries in 2022.
  • Christian Lundgaard – He’s started 15th, 20th and 19th in 3 street course races this year.
  • Jack Harvey – He’s qualified 23rd, 21st and 20th on street courses this season.
  • Callum Ilott – He was 19th, 22nd and 17th in 3 street courses starts in 2022.
  • Dalton Kellett – He’s a rookie in Toronto and qualified 14th, 24th and 25th this year on street courses.
  • Tatiana Calderon – She’s also a rookie and has qualified 25th, 26th and 24th in 3 street course appearances in 2022.
  • Jimmie Johnson – He was 26th, 26th and 22nd in 3 street course qualifying efforts in 2022.

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