IndyCar: Toronto features only one Canadian driver for first time since 1990

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Canadians are known for being some of the most dedicated, hearty and passionate fans of open-wheel racing.

Ordinarily at the Honda Indy Toronto around the streets of Exhibition Place, they’ve had two or more Canadians to root for in the main race.

This year, there is but one: James Hinchcliffe. And Hinch, the sole Canuck in the field of 23 during this weekend’s pair of Verizon IndyCar Series races, is the first driver to fly the flag solo in this event since 1990.

Two veterans have seen their full-time IndyCar careers come to an end in the last few years since Hinchcliffe was a rookie in 2011, in the form of Alex Tagliani (a 14-time Toronto starter) and two-time Toronto winner Paul Tracy (a 19-time Toronto starter).

PT is, of course, now in the booth for NBCSN for coverage (Saturday and Sunday, 3 p.m. ET, NBCSN/NBC Sports Live Extra). A 19-time starter, a 16th-place finish for Dragon Racing in 2011 marked Tracy’s last ever race finished in the Verizon IndyCar Series. He’s also the most recent Canadian to win on home soil, having captured the 2003 Champ Car race there.

Here’s the Canadian honor roll between the first Toronto race in 1986 and today. But it’s been 24 years when the last Honda Indy – then Molson Indy – went off with just one Canadian. In 1990, it was Scott Goodyear.

  • James Hinchcliffe, 2011-present
  • Alex Tagliani, 2000-2013
  • Paul Tracy, 1992-2011
  • Andrew Ranger, 2005-2006
  • Patrick Carpentier, 1997-2004
  • Greg Moore, 1996-1999
  • Scott Goodyear, 1987, 1989-1994, 1996
  • Jacques Villeneuve (II), 1994-1995
  • Ross Bentley, 1992-1994
  • John Jones, 1988-1989, 1991
  • Jacques Villeneuve (I), 1986

It’s worth asking, then, who the talented Canadians are in the Mazda Road to Indy ladder. Here’s the quick summation of who’s where at the moment. Keep an eye on this group, particularly Hargrove, to see who could be next after Hinchcliffe to make his debut in the Verizon IndyCar Series:

  • Indy Lights: Zack Meyer, Matthew Di Leo
  • Pro Mazda: Scott Hargrove, Garett Grist, Dalton Kellett
  • USF2000: Daniel Burkett, Nathan Blok, James Dayson

NHRA: Brittany Force cleared to race this weekend in Phoenix after bad wreck 2 weeks ago

Photo: John Force Racing
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Drag racing is a Force family tradition. So, too, is not keeping a Force family member down.

Just 12 days after the most serious wreck of her six-year drag racing career, Brittany Force and John Force Racing announced late Thursday afternoon that the defending 2017 NHRA Top Fuel champion has been medically cleared and will indeed race in this weekend’s NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in suburban Phoenix, Arizona.

“I flew into Phoenix early this (Thursday) morning and headed straight out to the race track to meet up with my team,” Force said. “I suited up and got belted back into my car that I ran all last season.

“It honestly felt good to be strapped back in and I was surprised how comfortable I was. I’m looking forward to getting back in my car tomorrow (Friday’s first two rounds of qualifying) and getting back in the swing of things with my guys.”

The 31-year-old Force, one of four daughters of 16-time NHRA Funny Car champ John Force, suffered a concussion and bruising after the hard crash she was involved in on February 11 in the first round of eliminations of the season-opening NHRA Lucas Oil Winternationals in Pomona, California.

Shortly after leaving the starting line in a race vs. Terry Haddock, Force’s dragster crossed from the right to left lanes, impacted the retaining wall with a very hard lateral crash, bounced off, spun, went on its side and briefly caught fire after crossing the finish line wheels-up.

While she is still recovering from the bruising, Force feels strong enough to get back behind the wheel. Getting back in the race car could be the best medicine of all, since she has three runner-up finishes in Phoenix, including back-to-back second-place showings in both the 2016 and 2017 national events.

The three-day event kicks off Friday with qualifying rounds at 4 and 6:30 p.m. ET, the same times as Saturday’s qualifying. Final eliminations begin at 1 p.m. ET Sunday.