2017 IndyCar series: Toronto talking points

Andrew Kitchener Roar Guru

By , Andrew Kitchener is a Roar Guru & Live Blogger

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    IndyCar driver Justin Wilson and his rosella helmet. (Image: Andretti Autosport)

    One week after a memorable victory for Helio Castroneves in Iowa, the IndyCar Series headed north of the border for the annual event on the streets of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Here are my talking points.

    Newgarden wins
    The Tennessean native led 58 of 85 laps en route to his second victory of the season for Roger Penske, avoiding a first lap conflagration that ended basically ended the races of championship leader Scott Dixon and Australia’s Will Power. Newgarden took advantage of a yellow flag appearing during a pit stop (for Tony Kanaan’s slide into the turn one barrier) and led Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi home by a little less than two seconds.

    Newgarden is unquestionably the future of the series. He’s smart, well-spoken, personable and as fast as hell in a race car – all the things that Roger Penske covets. It’s fantastic seeing the young American taking these strides and let’s not count him out as far as the championship goes, either. Another win, and he’s right there among the fight.

    Hinchcliffe third
    The Canadian hope ran a solid race and brought his Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda home in third place to cap a decent weekend for the Oakville, Ontario native who unarguably carries more pressure in Toronto than any other driver. One day, he’s going to crack the top step of the podium at Exhibition Place and then we’ll see a celebration.

    A solid run for Alexander Rossi
    The #98 Andretti Honda has been better in 2017 than race finishes would suggest. Sunday’s second-place finish was a good reward for a team that’s worked very hard to elevate their performance everywhere.

    The 2016 Indianapolis 500 champion is benefitting from visiting all these venues for a second time after a rookie season that, other than winning Indy, didn’t have many bright spots, and I think he’s going to be a serious threat everywhere next season.

    More Canadian races, please
    The old days when IndyCar used to visit Toronto and Vancouver – and, in more recent times, Montreal as well – in the same season were fantastic. It was a shame to see the Vancouver street circuit go away due to the 2010 Winter Olympics, and even more of a shame when the Edmonton’s airport circuit also ended. That was a great track and always drew a great crowd.

    Canadian fans are great. They love IndyCar racing with a passion, and deserve more than one race a year.

    IndyCar’s Australian TV broadcast is an embarrassment
    Great race. Would’ve been better if the folks in charge of IndyCar’s broadcast into Australia – that’s ESPN, in case you were wondering – could have hit the right buttons to ensure that the race featured on-track noises. That’s right, thousands of fans across the country were subjected to a broadcast that exclusively featured the voices of NBC commentators Kevin Lee, Paul Tracy and Townsend Bell. The only time we heard the cars on track was in the pits, through the microphones of the reporters covering the action there.

    Justin Wilson

    (Image: Andretti Autosport)

    This isn’t the first time we’ve had this problem in 2017. The same thing happened at Long Beach (although the issue was sorted late in the race there) and that was one too many times. For it to happen a second time is unforgiveable.

    IndyCar needs to take a good, long hard look at the contract for it’s international coverage and how it’s produced, because they’re short-changing a lot of fans who don’t get a proper race experience through their televisions and who don’t have the option of travelling to any given event.

    Memo, IndyCar: get it fixed.

    Marco Andretti to sports cars?
    One week ago, the IndyCar paddock was buzzing with the news that Helio Castroneves might be heading to Team Penske’s Honda/Acura IMSA sports car program in 2018, and the persistent – but denied – rumour doing the rounds in Toronto was that Marco Andretti would be heading up an Andretti Autosport program in the same series, with an Indianapolis 500 appearance thrown in.

    Rumours like this don’t normally come out of thin air. It’ll be interesting to see if the story develops through the year. One thing is certain: Marco hasn’t been a threat anywhere other than Indy for a good five years, so it makes sense that if Michael Andretti is indeed looking for someone to head up a new sports car project, Marco would be a good, recognisable name.

    Points race
    Although Dixon recovered from the lap one incident with Power to finish tenth, the New Zealander saw his points lead cut down to three points. Helio Castroneves is stalking the Ganassi driver as he attempts to win his first IndyCar Series championship.

    It’s Dixon leading the four Team Penske drivers – Castroneves, then Simon Pagenaud, Josef Newgarden and Power, tied for fifth place with Graham Rahal – as the series heads to Mid-Ohio in two weeks’ time.

    Not a good weekend for Dale Coyne Racing
    The smallest team in the IndyCar Series paddock just can’t seem to catch a break. After tearing up cars at Phoenix, Indianapolis – where star driver Sebastien Bourdais was seriously injured in a horrifying qualifying shunt – and Texas, the Coyne crew, no stranger to long overnight rebuilds, were at it again in Toronto when Esteban Gutierrez, filling in for Bourdais, crunched the wall hard on Saturday during qualifying, necessitating another rebuild.

    Robin Miller reported on Racer.com that the Coyne squad is now down to it’s last two cars. I can’t even imagine how much money the perennial underdogs have burned through this year. If anyone deserves a good karma win before the season’s out, it’s these guys.

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