IndyCar: What drivers are saying about Honda Indy Toronto

Defending Toronto winner Josef Newgarden. Photo: IndyCar
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Here’s What Drivers Are Saying about this weekend’s Honda Indy Toronto INDYCAR race north of the border:

JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 1 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet): “Toronto is always a race I look forward to. It’s such a fun city with a lot for everyone traveling with the series to do and the racing is great. It can be challenging but always exciting. The new car is going to be fast there and I think that’s going to make it really fun. Strategy will be really important here as with any road or street course, so that’s something I know a lot of teams are really thinking about. The No. 1 Hitachi Chevy is going to be all dialed in and I know myself and my crew are really working to win there again.”

MATHEUS LEIST (No. 4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “I’m excited to be racing at Toronto again, it’s a pretty cool track. It’s a street course which are tracks that I love, so we’ll try to have a great car so we can finish up front. The city is a pretty cool place in itself. I’ve only been there once, which was last year when I raced Indy Lights. It was good fun and I had a great time so I’m looking forward to going back.”

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 5 Arrow Electronics SPM Honda): “It’s been pretty nonstop since the win in Iowa, but the momentum we have is hopefully going to carry over into the race this weekend in Toronto. It’s always so special to be able to race in front of my hometown, and I’m really looking forward to sharing that with Robbie (Wickens). The support coming home is always so incredible. The Arrow Electronics crew have been working really hard all year, and after the win, we are all hungrier than ever.”

ROBERT WICKENS (No. 6 Lucas Oil SPM Honda): “I can’t express enough how excited I am to race the Lucas Oil car in front of my hometown in Toronto. The team is coming off a great result in Iowa with both cars in the top five and James’ (Hinchcliffe) win. It’s already been a crazy week here, and the rest of the week is going to be so much fun. I can’t wait to get my helmet on and get on with practice because it’s a track I’ve always wanted to drive an Indy car on. It’s a bucket list item of mine to race as a professional driver in front of my hometown, so I’m really looking forward to checking that off the list.”

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): “I don’t think we really had the weekend we wanted to in Iowa after having a string of five or so podiums over the last six races. We stayed with it as best we could, though, in the PNC Bank car and had a reasonable points day with some of the other top point contenders having issues in the race. So, it’s on to Toronto where we’ve had some success in the past. It’s a great city that I know we all love coming to, and I hope it’s a good show Sunday and a good performance for the No. 9 team.”

ED JONES (No. 10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): “We’re really looking forward to Toronto this weekend. We were very strong at the last two street circuit races in Detroit, and I hope we can continue that on Sunday. I’ll be hoping to keep up that run of strong results going for the team. We had a rough go of it last weekend in Iowa and will be pushing hard to turn that around in the NTT DATA car this weekend.”

WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “I’m really looking forward to going to Toronto. I’ve won there three times, so I know myself and the No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet team feel strong there. I know it’s been resurfaced so it’s always a fun track. It’s going to be very tough with there being so many good cars now. I think it’s going to be good with the new car. The racing at Iowa was phenomenal. There were so many passes. It was amazing. It’s going to be really exciting for the fans there to watch and will be fun for all us racing there.”

TONY KANAAN (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “Toronto is always a fun track to go to – it’s a really fast street course. I love the venue, it’s one of the most fun races of the year. I know we have a good street course car so I’m looking forward to maybe getting a podium for A.J. (Foyt) and cheer him up a bit. The fans in Toronto support INDYCAR big time there, and the city’s a lot of fun. We always take the kids. There are a lot of things to do and a lot of great places to go to dinner. We go to the aquarium all the time – they have a beautiful one downtown. Usually, we go on Saturdays because we finish up early at the track. We take the kids there and to the CN Tower. Toronto is definitely a fun place to go and not just to race but also because you can take your family and have fun, too.”

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 Rousseau Honda): “It looked like we were going to have a good race last year after starting second. The Rousseau Metal car was solid. We just got really hosed by a yellow that basically put Helio (Castroneves), (Simon) Pagenaud and myself to the back and we were the lead three, so obviously that ruined our day. The car was pretty good though, there were no major complaints. Were we good enough to beat Helio or Pagenaud on that day if we didn’t get hosed by that yellow? I don’t know, but we were certainly a podium contender so it was disappointing not to make it all happen. I’m excited to go back. If I look at our street course performances so far, it’s our strongest package. Hopefully, we can just make it happen. Right now, we need to get a win and need to get some points. Toronto is an iconic event in our sport. There is always great crowd support. Nowadays with Hinch (James Hinchcliffe) and with Robbie (Wickens), I fully expect there to be a ruckus crowd as usual. Hopefully, we can go up there and try to spoil their dreams.”

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 18 Team Mouser Electronics/Molex Honda): “I like the Toronto race. The fans and the atmosphere are really great. The circuit is fun and, other than my first year, my results have been consistently good. Hopefully, we can collect another win there this weekend for our sponsors Mouser Electronics and Molex.”

ZACHARY CLAMAN DE MELO (No. 19 Paysafe Honda): “I’m extremely excited to go to Toronto. I have a lot of friends and family there that will be watching, so it’s a really special race for me. I love the track and I think it should be a fun race. I got a double podium in Toronto last year in Indy Lights, so hopefully I can be strong there again and get a really good result for the team in front of my friends and family.”

JORDAN KING (No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet): “I haven’t been to Canada in a very long time so I am actually quite looking forward to going to Toronto. I’ve got some good support from my family coming over, so that will be nice. I’ve been on the simulator but it’s really difficult to say what the track will be like until I get in the car. It seems quite tight and twisty and seems very bumpy, but I’ve also been told it’s been resurfaced in a couple of areas. Learning the circuit as a whole might be a bit easier just because it’s a short one, but it seems to be a very nice track. It will be quite tough to learn all of the small characteristics, where the bumps are, how much curb you can use, how close you can get to the walls. It will be an interesting challenge!”

SPENCER PIGOT (No. 21 Preferred Freezer Service Chevrolet): “Toronto is always a great event. I really enjoy both the city and the track. It’s one of the most challenging street courses that we go to. It’s very unique in the amount of surface changes we encounter during a lap. In some cases, you drive over three different surfaces in one corner, so it’s difficult to find a setup that is compliant around the entire circuit. I’m also excited to be back in the blue Preferred Freezer Services car this weekend. Ed Carpenter Racing and I have both had success at Toronto in the past, so we are all really looking forward to this event.”

SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 22 DXC Technology Team Penske Chevrolet): “Toronto is a great track and a great city. I really enjoy going there. It’s on Bastille Day, which is independence day for France. It’s always an interesting weekend with the French touch there. I’m excited. We’ve performed well in the past at Toronto but haven’t had the best luck recently, but we’re ready to turn it around this year for the No. 22 DXC Technology Chevrolet and perform stronger. I think the fans are going to be interested in seeing the new cars there. They’re very sexy and good-looking. I think the show is going to be even better than it used to be. It’s going to be a lot faster down the straightaway and there’s going to be a lot more sliding around. It’s going to be all good for the show.”

CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 23 Novo Nordisk Chevrolet): “I’m really looking forward to going back to Toronto this weekend. I’ve had some good memories there – my first podium finish and a few strong runs. I’ve read about the road repavement improvements, so it will be interesting to see how it has changed since last year once we take our first laps. With the Diabetes Canada livery on the No. 23 in Toronto, we’ll have both Carlin cars in blue and white, so hopefully we’ll see those colors out front on Sunday.”

ZACH VEACH (No. 26 Relay Group 1001 Honda): “I’ve gone to Toronto for five or six years – and every time I do, I say I’ll end up living there. I love the city, I love the track, I love the people. The whole atmosphere is something that, I think, all of us look forward to every year. Everywhere I’ve gone in an Indy car, it’s been amazing how small the tracks have felt. You go from an Indy Lights car to an Indy car and it just makes the track feel smaller, so it will be cool to see how Toronto feels. I heard they repaved the front straight, so hopefully, it will make for some really good racing.”

ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda): “I’m super excited to get to Toronto – that was kind of the start to our strong end last year and we’ve been really good on street tracks this year. It’s the last street course on the calendar, and we’re doing our best to capitalize on our performance there and cut down the gap to the leader in the championship. It’s so important to stay consistent at this point in the season with points. You just have to try to maximize the good days and minimize the bad days.”

RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): “We just need to not have issues in Toronto and have a strong result after our race in Iowa. We’ve won there in the past and hopefully, we can get it again and get a good drive forward going in the points. We need to rack up a couple of wins and close the points gap. Right now, every point counts and that’s what we’re focused on.”

TAKUMA SATO (No. 30 Mi-Jack / Panasonic Honda): “I’m very excited to go back to the Honda Indy Toronto. We think we have a good car for a street course and it’s the final street course of the season, so I really want to have a strong race and I think we can. We have good momentum right now so I hope we can continue in Toronto. Toronto is a challenging track. It’s probably one of the bumpiest tracks of the season and is also challenging because the track surface changes multiple times in one corner, from asphalt to concrete. On the engineering side and the driver’s side, it’s always very challenging because no matter what setup you apply, the cars go all over the place. However, it’s a good track. There is a long straight followed by heavy braking which gives the drivers opportunity for overtaking and make the race exciting for the drivers and the spectators. The weather usually is great but it can be sketchy, which adds another factor and another reason why the Toronto race is always exciting. Toronto is great. It’s a metropolitan city but there are a lot of Japanese communities there as well and Honda Canada makes a huge commitment for the race, so we always have great support from them, too. I love Toronto. There are great restaurants, a great downtown area and enthusiastic fans which make the Honda Indy a great venue for the IndyCar Series. I’m looking forward to it.”

RENE BINDER (No. 32 Binderholz tiptop timber Chevrolet): “This will be my first time in Toronto and from what I have heard it is a pretty nice place to visit. Some drivers say this is one of the most exciting tracks on the INDYCAR schedule. We completed some laps on the Chevrolet race simulator two weeks ago, and we also invested some time in molding my steering wheel, so hopefully, we will be as prepared as possible. Looking back at my first three event weekends in the Verizon IndyCar Series, I have learned a lot. Even though there is a huge lack of experience and track time, my lap times have been competitive at times. Our goal is to have a trouble-free weekend, figure out a great setup with the engineers and to pick up some more championship points for the No. 32 Juncos Racing Chevrolet/Dallara.”

MAX CHILTON (No. 59 Gallagher Chevrolet): “I’m looking forward to going to another country next weekend – it’ll be nice to stir things up a bit. Toronto is a great city and, with parts of the track being resurfaced since last year, it’ll be a bit less bumpy than the last time we were there. Hopefully, we can improve on our Detroit pace, which was actually quite quick, and grab a top-10 finish for the No. 59 Gallagher Chevrolet.”

CONOR DALY (No. 88 Harding Group Chevrolet): “Obviously, I’m excited to be back in a Chevy-powered Indy car again. I have to thank the Harding Racing team for trusting me with the driving responsibilities this weekend at a track I’ve always loved over the years. It’ll be a new experience for me with this year’s road course aero package, but I intend to give the best feedback I can to the team so we can fine-tune the car for a great race on Sunday.”

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 98 Oberto Circle K / Curb Honda): “I’m hoping that going into Toronto, we can build on Detroit. That was a strong weekend for us. Pace is what we need, and I think we have that on the streets. It’s a fun track and the fans are passionate, so we’ll be looking forward to a good weekend.”

Heather Lyne, Dennis Erb Jr. make history in the World of Outlaws Late Model Series

Lyne Erb Outlaws Late
Jacy Norgaard / World of Outlaws
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More than two decades in the making, the pairing of Heather Lyne and Dennis Erb Jr. produced a historical milestone in Dirt Late Model.

Last month, Erb and his long-time crew chief Lyne won their first World of Outlaws Late Model Championship and with this achievement, Lyne became the first female crew chief to win in a national late model series. Their journey together goes back 21 years and tells the story of hard work, persistence and belief in oneself.

After a career-best season with the World of Outlaws, Erb and Lyne secured the points championship at US 36 Raceway in Osborn, Mo. with three races remaining in the season. The consistency and success of their season came down to pinpoint focus. Lyne and Erb are a team of two living out a David vs. Goliath tale. In order to be as successful as possible this year the duo knew they had to do as much as possible with the resources they had.

“It’s always a challenge when you only have two people, both at the racetrack and at the shop,” Lyne told NBC Sports. “I also work full time, so during the day, Dennis has to do a significant amount of work so that when I get down there I can start working and maintaining. It’s planning ahead. It’s having that system in place and making sure that you’re prepared ahead of time.

“When you have a problem at the track, making sure you have all that stuff ready so it’s a quick change and not a lengthy process to make a repair. We had zero DNFs in the World of Outlaws, we had only one DNF out of 96 races [combined among all series].”

Dennis Erb clinched his 2022 championship before the World of Outlaws World Finals. Jacy Norgaard – World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Taming Time

This was not an easy feat. Between a full travel schedule and Lyne’s full-time job as an engineer, time comes at a premium. What they lack in time and resources they made up for in patience and planning.

“We buckled down, and we got all the equipment that we needed back, motors freshened, and things of that nature,” Lyne said about the mid-point of last season. “We were able to keep up with that. We just had a higher focus. I tried to reduce my hours at my day job as much as I possibly could while still maintaining what I need to get done at work. I got rid of a lot of the other distractions and got a more refined system in place at the shop.

“We did certain tasks on certain days so we had time to recover. We were on the road a little bit more, as opposed to coming home to the shop. So we had to be more prepared to stay out on those longer runs. It was just really staying on top of things a little more. It was a heightened sense.”

This was Lyne and Erb’s fourth full season with the Outlaws, but they’ve been on the road together for the last 21 seasons starting in 2001. Their partnership began with Lyne’s bravery. When one door closed, she was quick to open another. In 2001, Lyne’s dad was ready to stop racing. Her mother wanted to regain her weekends, but Lyne knew this was her life path and wasn’t prepared to lose it.

“I’ve always been a tomboy at heart,” Lyne said. “I watched racing with my dad. Growing up he watched NASCAR. In high school, I got tired of playing at the lake house, so I went to the local dirt track and fell in love with it. I just couldn’t get enough. It took a year for me to convince my dad to come to the track with me. He finally did and we sponsored a car that year, the following year he started to race limited cars. He ran hobby stocks and limited late models.”

At some point, Lyne and her father’s level of commitment drifted apart.

“He did it for about five years,” Lyne said. “And then my mom said: ‘I’m done racing. I want my weekends back. It’s just not fun anymore.’ I wasn’t ready to hang up my wenches and Dennis raced out of the same hometown so I, on a dare, went down and introduced myself; told him if you ever need any help, I’ll drill out rivets, I’ll help wash, whatever you need. Twenty-one years later here I am.”

Heather Lyne became the first female crew chief to secure a national touring late model championship in 2022. Paul Arch / World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Breaking Through

Lyne entered a male-dominated job in a field that is also male-dominated – and where there were few examples of women creating these places for themselves. In this way, Lyne became a blueprint for other women as they strive to find a place for themselves in racing and in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) overall. She has her mother to thank for providing a strong role model, her father for sharing her passion, Erb for taking a chance on an unknow entity and most importantly herself.

“I was raised to believe that I can do anything, I want to do, as long as I put my heart and soul into it.” Lyne replied when asked about role models in the sport growing up. “My parents did not raise me to have that limitation. But from a racing role model perspective, I went in there completely green and just introduced myself to Dennis, the fact that he was brave enough to take that risk and bring a girl to the racetrack. Someone he didn’t know at all speaks volumes for him.”

Lyne and Erb have learned how to survive and succeed with each other on the road. They do this by leveraging decades of combined experience and an ability to adapt to the everchanging landscape of dirt late models. Next year the World of Outlaws visits nearly a dozen new tracks and Lyne sees it as an opportunity for continued success.

“I just want to do it again,” Lyne says going into next season, “I’m looking forward to the competition, I always do. I wouldn’t do it if I wasn’t competitively driven.

“There are some new tracks on the schedule that I’m looking forward to trying for the first time that I haven’t been to myself,” Lyne said of the 2023 season, “Dennis seems to do well on those first timers. We won out at Marion center, we finished second at Bloomsburg. We have a good solid notebook of information to tackle them over the last three years with these rocket race cars that we’re running. It’s good to have that information and leverage it to try some new things.”