IndyCar: Can Ganassi team continue recent revival in Toronto?

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Last year’s Honda Indy Toronto was doubly good for Chip Ganassi Racing as Scott Dixon swept the weekend, completing a three-race win streak that set him off toward his third Verizon IndyCar Series title.

If recent performance is any indication, the Ganassi camp may be in for more celebrations in T.O. – where they’ve claimed four of the last six races.

Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Ryan Briscoe, and Charlie Kimball have been unable to secure a win between them in 2014, but it would appear they’re on the verge to break through shortly.

Kanaan in particular has stepped up as of late, even though his results haven’t always reflected his pace.

He lost a podium in Houston Race 1 when Graham Rahal spun him out under the final caution. At Pocono, he led the most laps only to finish 11th when his fuel strategy failed to work out.

And last weekend at Iowa, he flat-out dominated before settling for third when Ryan Hunter-Reay and Josef Newgarden blazed past him on fresh tires in the final laps.

To say that Toronto has not been one of Kanaan’s better tracks may be an understatement. Although he’s come close to a couple of podiums (fourth in 2010 and 2012), he’s suffered 7 DNFs in 10 open-wheel starts there.

But with as much momentum as he’s had recently, we may be wise to not bet against him this weekend. Ditto for Ryan Briscoe, who has also built up some steam. The Australian has strung together five Top-10 finishes in the last six races.

Of course, both of them plus Dixon and Kimball want more. As I’ve written before, expectations are high at Ganassi and wins are what matter.

But you get the sense that after Kanaan and Briscoe’s processes of getting used to the team (in Briscoe’s case, re-used), things have settled. Everyone’s on the same page.

And these boys are about to make a lot of noise.

“I’m not going to say I’m extremely happy about it, but I am extremely satisfied with the way we’re doing things in the team,” Kanaan said after his near-miss in Iowa.

“A win is around the corner, for sure. We’re going to Toronto, a race that Dixon dominated last year, both doubleheaders.  We have high hopes there, trying to finish the season on a high note.”

NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra will air both races of the Honda Indy Toronto LIVE this Saturday and Sunday at 3 p.m. ET.

Fernando Alonso likes NASCAR country, but he’s not leaving F1 any time soon

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Jimmie Johnson strolled into the Charlotte Convention Center and did a double-take when he saw Fernando Alonso hanging out in a hallway.

“What’s he doing here?” NASCAR’s seven-time champion wondered.

Alonso made the trip to North Carolina to make an appearance at NASCAR’s annual preseason media tour. No, a ride in NASCAR is not imminent, but the two-time Formula One champion is about to embark on his first major sports car race .

Alonso will race this weekend in the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona for United Autosports, the sports car team owned by his McLaren F1 boss, Zak Brown. It was Brown who paved the way for Alonso to compete in last year’s Indianapolis 500, and he is helping the Spaniard knock prestigious races off his wish list.

Alonso spent about 10 minutes chatting with Johnson, and the duo was eventually joined by sports car aces Scott Pruett and Joey Hand, who were brought to the NASCAR event by IMSA to help promote the Rolex, and then Cup champion Kevin Harvick.

The meet-and-greet with Alonso was a thrill for Johnson. Alonso was equally impressed.

“The first time I heard his name it was probably 2003 on the NASCAR video game,” Alonso said Tuesday. “I used to choose him, not knowing him, just because of the car. I remember playing with another friend of mine, he likes a chocolate company I will not name now, and he was choosing that car and I was choosing Jimmie’s car.

“But that was the first time I heard of him, and obviously the success that he has in the years in motor racing, he became a legend of our sport, and massive respect.”

Johnson said he’s always been a fan of Alonso’s and spent some time telling Alonso how well he ran in the Indianapolis 500 last May. Alonso led 27 laps and seemed to be in contention for the win until his engine expired 21 laps from the finish.

“He handled himself so well, really did a great job, and I think brought a lot to the table,” Johnson said. “He brought worldwide attention to motorsports and it was really good for us here stateside.”

While in NASCAR country, Alonso was asked about potentially trying a stock car someday. It’s not something that could happen soon, he said, but it is something he’d like to at least attempt.

“Right now, it looks quite far. The driving technique and the experience all those guys have, it’s difficult for me to achieve that level,” Alonso said. “I will never know until I try, so I would like one day to test a car and after that, driving the car, I will know how enjoyable it will be in racing.

“Outside (watching), the races are great because they are all in a group, it is not predictable at all and until the last lap, you don’t know what is going to happen. We love watching from the outside, but I don’t know from the inside.”

Alonso has so far only had three days of testing at Daytona in the sports car to adjust to a closed cockpit, as well as driving at night and in traffic. Trying different series has been a thrill for him, and he’s still eyeing a way to get Le Mans on his schedule.

“It’s one thing that I would like to do, I would like to compete in the best races in the world, and Le Mans and is one of the top races,” he said. “If that day will be this year or not is still to be discussed, but maybe yes.”

More AP Auto Racing: https://racing.ap.org/