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Toronto a final chance for street course success in 2017

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Sunday’s Honda Indy Toronto (3:00 p.m. ET, CNBC) marks the final street course of 2017 for the Verizon IndyCar Series. The previous four street races (St. Petersburg, Long Beach, and the Detroit doubleheader), have been a mixed bag of sorts.

Heavy hitters Scott Dixon, Helio Castroneves, and Josef Newgarden have all finished inside the top ten at every street race this year, with Dixon faring the best with finishes of third, fourth, second, and sixth.

However, a number of drivers will be hoping to turn around a season of hard luck on street courses this weekend. Chief among them is likely Ryan Hunter-Reay, who has been fast at every street course this year, but has also suffered horrible luck.

Though his season started off well with a fourth-place finish at St. Petersburg, Hunter-Reay has finishes of 17th, 13th, and 17th at the other street events, this despite showing strong pace at Long Beach and Detroit Race 2 in particular. However, an electronics failure at Long Beach and contact at Detroit Race 2 left him with finishes far worse than expected.

Still, Hunter-Reay remains upbeat ahead of the weekend. “Toronto is such a great track and is a great city. It’s one of my favorite cities to go to and Racing for Cancer is having The Rally there this year, co-hosted with James Hinchcliffe. It’s going to be a fun weekend, and hopefully, we can go for win No. 2 for the DHL team in Toronto,” said the 2012 Toronto winner.

Ryan Hunter-Reay in practice at St. Pete: Photo: IndyCar

Teammate Alexander Rossi will also look to score better at Toronto than the other street circuits, notably at St. Petersburg and Long Beach, where he finished 11th and 19th (Long Beach saw him suffer an engine failure). However, he rebounded nicely at Detroit, scoring finishes of fifth and seventh.

Max Chilton (16-14-11-15), JR Hildebrand (13-11-17-18), Marco Andretti (7-20-12-13), and Conor Daly (15-16-22-12) are also among those looking to end the 2017 street courses on a high note in Toronto.

One driver to watch, however, will be Graham Rahal, the man who swept the weekend at Detroit and could have finished on the podium at Long Beach if not for contact that punctured a tire late in the race.

Rahal Letterman Lanigan’s road and street course program has become as strong as anyone’s in the Verizon IndyCar Series, with Rahal scoring three wins and eight total podiums on road and street courses since 2015.

“I feel like we are in a pretty good spot with the basic setup for our race car for street courses, so I hope it’s a really strong weekend for the Rousseau Metal Honda,” said Rahal.

“The course is very similar to Detroit in many ways. It’s very bumpy, very tight and there are no margins for error. There are a lot of different pavement types and it’s very slippery on the concrete, which make it similar to Detroit. Going there with the setup basics that brought us two wins in Detroit gives us reason to be confident heading to Toronto and hopefully it works out like it did in Detroit.”

First practice for Sunday’s Honda Indy Toronto begins Friday at 10:40 a.m. ET.

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Indianapolis Motor Speedway can have 10,000 fans for IndyCar races

Indianapolis Motor Speedway fans
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Indianapolis Motor Speedway will have crowds for its NTT IndyCar Series race weekend next month, the first time fans are allowed at the track this year.

The track announced Friday that up to 10,000 fans will be allowed in the grandstands daily from Oct. 1-4. The IndyCar Harvest GP race doubleheader will be held on the track’s road course Oct. 2-3.

IMS has played host to several events this year without fans, including the 104th Indianapolis 500 on Aug. 23 and a NASCAR-IndyCar weekend July 4-5 that included the Brickyard 400. Plans originally were made to have fans at the Indy 500 before reversing course a few weeks ahead of the race. In a letter last month, Roger Penske vowed that fans would return for the 2021 Indy 500.

“We can’t wait to see fans come through our gates for the first time in 2020,” IMS president Doug Boles said in a release. “They’ll be greeted by a vastly improved facility, featuring significant upgrades to the spectator experience. We’re also extremely grateful to have a presenting sponsor with the expertise and resources of GMR as we look to implement our detailed and comprehensive health and safety plan.”

Fans will undergo temperature screenings upon entry and also be required to wear face coverings at all times on property. The track said each attendee will receive a mask and bottle of hand sanitizer.

The Friday, Oct. 2 race will be shown at 3:30 p.m. ET on USA, and NBC will broadcast the Saturday, Oct. 3 race at 2:30 p.m. ET.

Here’s the release from Indianapolis Motor Speedway:

INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, Sept. 18, 2020 – For the first time in 2020, Indianapolis Motor Speedway will welcome fans to the Racing Capital of the World for the INDYCAR Harvest GP presented by GMR weekend. Up to 10,000 spectators can be in the grandstands each day of racing action Oct. 1-4, per approval from the Marion County Public Health Department.

Tickets are available now via IMS.com and will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis.

The massive facility, which holds more than 300,000 people, will provide two spectator zones with up to 5,000 fans in each. The zones will be located in Turns 1 and 4 of the oval, offering strong sightlines of the road course. Strict health and safety rules will be in place, including the following:

  • Face coverings must be worn throughout the property at all times;
  • All fans will receive temperature screenings before gate entry;
  • Grandstand seats will be marked for distancing;
  • Attendees must use pre-assigned gates and remain in their designated zones.

Global Medical Response, the world leader in compassionate, quality emergency medical and patient relocation services, will be the presenting sponsor of the penultimate weekend of INDYCAR racing this season.

“We can’t wait to see fans come through our gates for the first time in 2020,” IMS President J. Douglas Boles said. “They’ll be greeted by a vastly improved facility, featuring significant upgrades to the spectator experience. We’re also extremely grateful to have a presenting sponsor with the expertise and resources of GMR as we look to implement our detailed and comprehensive health and safety plan.”

The plan, which includes each attendee receiving a mask and a bottle of hand sanitizer upon entering the track, was developed in consultation with state and local health officials.

This event weekend is highlighted by an NTT INDYCAR SERIES doubleheader, with races Friday, Oct. 2 and Saturday, Oct. 3. It will be the penultimate event of the series’ season as the field pursues the champion’s prestigious Astor Challenge Cup to be awarded Sunday, Oct. 25 at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

The INDYCAR Harvest GP will pay tribute to a storied IMS event, the Harvest Classic in September 1916. The Harvest Classic was the only racing event held outside of May at IMS from 1911 through 1993. The event featured three races, all won by legendary driver Johnny Aitken.

Fans also will see a host of facility improvements during the event weekend, including more than 30 new LED video boards, refreshed concession stands and restrooms, and 5G wireless connectivity throughout the facility.

The first race will air at 3:30 p.m. (ET) Friday, Oct. 2 on the USA Network. NBC will broadcast the second race at 2:30 p.m. (ET) Saturday, Oct. 3, with WTHR-13 airing the action live in Central Indiana.

Also racing that weekend will be the first pairing of two major sports car series — the Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered by Pirelli and its North American counterpart, GT World Challenge America Powered by AWS. Former Indianapolis 500 pole winner Ryan Briscoe is among the drivers in the Indianapolis 8 Hour event held Sunday, Oct. 4.

The event also will showcase drivers in SRO America’s Pirelli GT4 America, GT Sports Club America and the TC America series.

The full on-track schedule is available at IMS.com.