Castroneves has sights set on first win of 2016 and first ever at Toronto

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The first 10 races of this season has been somewhat of an elevator ride for Helio Castroneves.

Up, down, up, down – that’s how the Brazil native has been scored in the Verizon IndyCar Series standings.

He was sixth after Phoenix, third after the Indianapolis 500, second after Belle Isle Race 1, back to third after Belle Isle Race 2, second after Elkhart Lake and then fell back to fifth after this past Sunday’s race at Iowa.

“We keep shuffling around in the points standings, so it would be nice to start setting ourselves apart from that little group we’ve been in,” said Castroneves, who is still looking for his first win of 2016. His best finish thus far has been second in the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis.

Castroneves now prepares for Sunday’s Honda Indy Toronto, a place that has been very good to him of late. He finished third there in last season’s race, and was second in 2013’s Race 2 and 2014’s Race 1 in the doubleheader events there.

While he has one pole there (2014 Race 2), he’s never won on the temporary street course in 13 tries (including four in the former Champ Car World Series league).

Could it be that Castroneves may be able to not only check off his first career win at Toronto and his first win of 2016 with the same effort on Sunday?

He sure thinks so.

“Toronto has been pretty good to us overall,” Castroneves said. “On the track, we’ve done pretty well over the last few years.

“The Pennzoil Chevy team definitely is looking to break through with a victory. Last week at Iowa was frustrating, but we have to move on and keep it in the past.”

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Alex Palou fastest as several go off course during IndyCar practice at IMS

IndyCar Harvest GP practice
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Alex Palou paced the opening practice Thursday for the IndyCar Harvest GP at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

The Dale Coyne Racing rookie turned a 1-minute, 10.177-second lap around the 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course in his No. 55 Dallara-Honda.

Jack Harvey was second, followed by Colton Herta, points leader Scott Dixon and Max Chilton.

PRACTICE CHART: Click here to see the speed rundown from Thursday’s session

FRIDAY AT IMS: Details for watching Race 1 of the Harvest GP

Qualifying for Friday’s race will be at 6:20 p.m. ET Thursday on NBC Sports Gold.

Will Power, who won the pole position for the July 4 race at the track, spun off course with just more than a minute left in the session after the left rear of his No. 12 Dallara-Chevrolet made slight contact with the right front of Alexander Rossi’s No. 28 Dallara-Honda.

Power was among several drivers who went off track, but there were no damaged cars during the session. Marcus Ericsson missed the final 5 minutes of the practice after being penalized for causing a red flag with a Turn 8 spin.

Arrow McLaren SP drivers Pato O’Ward and Helio Castroneves, who is driving for Oliver Askew (who is recovering from concussion-like symptoms), also veered off course as did rookie Rinus VeeKay and Santino Ferrucci.

Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson was in attendance at the session before racing Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway. Johnson will be driving a partial schedule of road and street courses in IndyCar next season for Chip Ganassi Racing.

“Literally, the smallest of details, I can pick up on,” Johnson told NBC Sports pit reporter Kevin Lee. “It’s been really nice today just to see how a session starts and obviously to jump on the radio and listen to how the systems work and then obviously you get into the car and the setup and such. I’m at ground zero right now, a 45-year-old rookie trying to learn my way into a new sport essentially.”

Johnson told Lee his sponsorship hunt to run a Ganassi car “has gone really well. The fact that I’m here today and ingrained so deeply in the team is a great sign of where things are going. Looking forward to getting behind the wheel of a car soon and hopefully having some announcements for the world to see soon, too.”

Fans were in attendance Thursday for the first time this season at IMS, which is allowed a limited crowd of 10,000 for its races this weekend.