Sebastien Bourdais closed out practice for the Honda Indy Toronto at the top of the timesheets as drivers continued to dial in ahead of qualifying later today.
Race officials made minor changes to the track overnight, moving the wall at Turn 8 back six feet to give drivers more room and sandblasting Turns 1 and 9 to provide more consistent grip through the corners.
The changes would quickly improve lap times, and the potential of a sub-1-minute lap is possible if there’s a big enough delta gain from the Firestone black primaries to the softer red alternates.
Simon Pagenaud’s benchmark of 1:01.7 from Friday was quickly dwarfed, the Frenchman leading the way early on before teammate Will Power shot to the front.
Power was the first to dip below the 1:01 barrier, with Helio Castroneves following suit soon after in second place as the Penske drivers dominated much of the session.
With 13 minutes remaining, Bourdais produced a lap of 1:00.6035 to edge out Power by three-tenths of a second, laying down the gauntlet for the Australian in the final stages of the session.
Pagenaud popped up into second place, two-tenths shy of Bourdais’ time before the session was red flagged after Mikhail Aleshin hit the wall at Turn 5.
Although Aleshin was able to return to the pits under his own power, a swift clean-up was required under the red flag before the session resumed with less than two minutes remaining.
Bourdais led at the checkered flag ahead of the Penske trio of Pagenaud, Power and Castroneves, the fourth car of Juan Pablo Montoya limited to just 13 laps as the team continued to work on his engine amid ongoing problems.
Scott Dixon finished the session fifth for Chip Ganassi Racing ahead of Jack Hawksworth and Graham Rahal, while teammate Charlie Kimball rallied to P8. Aleshin and Tony Kanaan rounded out the top 10.
Chip Ganassi Racing announced a new primary sponsorship deal with The American Legion this week, shoring up the funding on its No. 10 Dallara-Honda of Alex Palou.
The 2021 NTT IndyCar Series champion primarily had driven with NTT Data sponsorship the past two seasons. But NTT Data will move next season to McLaren Racing as a primary sponsor for Felix Rosenqvist in 10 races and on the Indy 500 car of Tony Kanaan (who drove an American Legion car for Ganassi at the Brickyard last year).
It was the latest twist in a McLaren-Ganassi saga that included a contract dispute for the services of Palou (who is expected to move to McLaren in 2024 after reaching an agreement to race with Ganassi next year).
Ganassi stayed within its own walls to help plug the sponsorship gap left by NTT Data, re-signing The American Legion to a multiyear extension. The Indianapolis-based non-profit organization, which has been sponsoring Ganassi cars for the past few seasons, also will be associated with other Ganassi drivers, including Indy 500 winner Marcus Ericsson and development driver Kyffin Simpson in Indy NXT.
The Ganassi organization will continue promoting The American Legion’s “Be The One” campaign aimed at reducing veteran suicides. The team launched an online auction for the initiative this week.
“Supporting our nation’s veterans is of immense importance to our organization and we are humbled to continue supporting The American Legion’s mission in ending veteran suicide,” team owner Chip Ganassi said in a release. “We will do absolutely everything we can to help veterans get the support they need while raising public awareness of the ‘Be The One’ platform.”
“We have received an overwhelming amount of support from fans, active-duty military members and veterans as a result of this partnership and we’re pleased to see it grow,” said Dean Kessel, chief marketing officer at The American Legion. “Thanks to the continuous collaboration with the team’s other partners, and the promotion of the ‘Be The One’ initiative, we are discovering more ways to engage with the military community than ever before. We want all veterans to know that it’s okay to ask for help.”