IndyCar Preview: Honda Indy Toronto

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The Verizon IndyCar Series makes its annual trek north of the border this weekend for the Honda Indy Toronto, the lone event outside of the United States on the IndyCar calendar. With only six events remaining in the 2018 season, the championship picture is very much at the forefront.

Last year, this race saw Josef Newgarden’s title push begin – his Toronto win was the first of three in a four race span, with second place finishes at Pocono Raceway and Sonoma Raceway also bolstering his late-season push. And with 53 points currently separating the top five, any one of them could make a big dent in the points chase.

Talking points ahead of the Honda Indy Toronto are below.

Dixon Looks to Rebound from Troublesome Day in Iowa

Scott Dixon languished in 12th at the end of the Iowa Corn Indy 300, his worst outing of the season. Photo: IndyCar

Iowa Speedway saw points leader Scott Dixon have his worst race of the year. Starting sixth, Dixon started going backward early and fell outside of the top 10 after the first round of pit stops. A combination of poor handling and a mistake on their final scheduled stop – his No. 9 PNC Bank Honda team mistakenly swapped the right front and left front tires – ultimately saw Dixon finish 12th, four laps off the lead.

Along with the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, where he finished 11th, it’s Dixon’s only other finish outside of the top 10 – and his Long Beach result was down to falling victim to an untimely caution that hurt the team’s strategy. Rest assured, Iowa was the rare instance where Dixon and the Chip Ganassi Racing team were just off.

“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,” Dixon said of the Iowa result. “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.”

It would be a genuine surprise if Dixon struggled for a second weekend in a row. He is a previous Toronto winner – he swept both races in the 2013 Toronto double header – and the event provides a great opportunity for him to put Iowa to bed.

The Canadian Contingent

Toronto natives James Hinchcliffe and Robert Wickens look to wow the home crowd this weekend. Photo: IndyCar

This weekend will be a case of metaphorical “home cooking” for three IndyCar drivers, as Canada welcomes back homegrown sons James Hinchcliffe, Robert Wickens, and Zachary Claman De Melo.

Unsurprisingly, the lion’s share of the home crowd’s attention might be directed toward the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports duo of Hinchcliffe and Wickens. Hinch is the most recent IndyCar winner, having taken his sixth career win at Iowa Speedway, while Wickens has done everything but win in 2018, though he has come tantalizingly close on multiple occasions.

Hinchcliffe has back-to-back podiums at Toronto and has his sights set on his first back-to-back wins of his career. Wickens, meanwhile, looks to get the monkey off his back and take his first IndyCar win.

Wickens is particularly amped up to compete in Canada – it will be his first race on home soil since 2009, when he raced at what is now Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in the Atlantic Championship.

“I can’t express enough how excited I am to race the Lucas Oil car in front of my hometown in Toronto,” Wickens revealed. “The team is coming off a great result in Iowa with both cars in the top five and James’ 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.”

However, while Hinch and Wickens may get the most attention, don’t sleep on the third Canadian driver in the field. Dale Coyne Racing’s Zachary Claman De Melo, a native on Montreal, gets better with every IndyCar outing, and is a genuine dark horse entering the weekend. He finished second and third in the two Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires races last year, and he’s keen to make a strong showing in front of the Canadian crowd again and score his first IndyCar top 10.

Zachary Claman De Melo is looking for a career-best finish in front a home crowd in Toronto. Photo: IndyCar

“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,” Claman De Melo said of competing at Toronto. “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.”

Dixon’s Championship Rivals Aim to Gain Ground

As previously described, four drivers are within 53 points of Scott Dixon for the championship lead. Josef Newgarden (-33), Alexander Rossi (-41), Ryan Hunter-Reay (-52), and Will Power (-53) are all within range of Dixon, and recent street course history, both in Toronto and elsewhere, has been kind to all of them.

Newgarden is the defending Toronto winner, and currently leads the series in wins (with four). Rossi and Hunter-Reay are winners at prior street races this year (Rossi at Long Beach and Hunter-Reay in Race 2 of the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit), and Hunter-Reay is a previous winner in Toronto (2012). Power, meanwhile, has won three times on the streets of Toronto (2007, 2010, and 2016).

In short, Toronto has historically been a strong event for everyone in the title chase, and Sunday’s race could be a titanic battle amongst the title contenders.

Misc.

  • Conor Daly returns to the Verizon IndyCar Series in what is currently a one-off effort with Harding Racing, standing in for Gabby Chaves. (Note: Harding has stated that they’re not looking to replace Chaves, but are rather evaluating options for a second full-time driver next year).
  • To date, Honda powered cars have won the four previous street races in 2018 (Sebastien Bourdais in St. Petersburg, Rossi in Long Beach, and Dixon and Hunter-Reay in Detroit). Honda nearly swept the street courses last year – Newgarden’s Toronto triumph spoiled that effort – and a Honda win on Sunday would complete the 2018 street course sweep.
  • Several cars sport new and/or different sponsor liveries this weekend. Sebastien Bourdais’ No. 18 Honda for Dalye Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan features Mouser Electronics and Molex. Charlie Kimball sports Novo Nordisk colors, departing from his now usual Tresiba livery, on his No. 23 Carlin Chevrolet. Marco Andretti sees Oberta Beef Jerky on his No. 98 Andretti Autosport Honda. And Spencer Pigot sees Preferred Freezer Services return to his No. 21 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet.

The Final Word…

From Iowa winner and two-time third place finisher at Toronto James Hinchcliffe:

“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.”

Here’s the IndyCar weekend schedule:

At-track schedule:

Friday, July 13
10:40 – 11:25 a.m. ET – Verizon IndyCar Series practice #1, RaceControl.IndyCar.com (Live)
2:30 – 3:15 p.m. ET – Verizon IndyCar Series practice #2, RaceControl.IndyCar.com (Live)

Saturday, July 14
9:50 – 10:35 a.m. ET – Verizon IndyCar Series practice #3, RaceControl.IndyCar.com (Live)
1:55 p.m. – Qualifying for the Verizon P1 Award (three rounds of knockout qualifying), RaceControl.IndyCar.com (Live); NBCSN (Same-day delay, 5:00 p.m. ET)

Sunday, July 15
11:40 a.m. – 12:10 p.m. ET – Verizon IndyCar Series warmup, RaceControl.IndyCar.com (Live)
3:00 p.m. ET – NBCSN on air
3:35 p.m. – Honda Indy Toronto (85 laps/151.81 miles), NBCSN (Live)

Here’s last year’s top 10:

1. Josef Newgarden
2. Alexander Rossi
3. James Hinchcliffe
4. Marco Andretti
5. Simon Pagenaud (pole)
6. Ryan Hunter-Reay
7. Max Chilton
8. Helio Castroneves
9. Graham Rahal
10. Scott Dixon

Here’s last year’s Firestone Fast Six:

1. Simon Pagenaud
2. Graham Rahal
3. Helio Castroneves
4. Will Power
5. Scott Dixon
6. James Hinchcliffe

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World of Outlaws release 2023 Sprint Car Series schedule

2023 Outlaws Sprint schedule
World of Outlaws
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The 2023 World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series schedule features 87 races, almost identical to the last year’s number, to be contested at 36 venues across 19 states. With cancelations for mostly weather, they closed out this year’s calendar on November 5 with 69 events in the books. Carson Macedo won a series high 11 races.

In 2022, David Gravel chased Brad Sweet into the three-race finale on the Dirt Track at Charlotte Motor Speedway in one of the most hotly contested championships in Outlaws history. Sweet emerged victorious for the fourth straight year.

For the 19th consecutive season, the Outlaws Sprints will begin their season at Volusia Speedway Park for the DIRTcar Nationals from Feb. 9-11 and will return March 5-6 for another two-day show before hitting the road with a three-track swing into Pennsylvania to take on the Posse.

MORE: 2023 World of Outlaws Late Model Schedule

“Every year we continue to build the best schedule we can for drivers and fans across the country,” said World of Outlaws CEO Brian Carter is a series release. “I’m excited for the journey we’ve put together, which includes the biggest races in Sprint Car racing, our new Spring Swing through Pennsylvania, the thrill of combining the World of Outlaws and ‘Bike Week’ and so much more.”

Some tracks returning from hiatus and one brand new course include 81 Speedway in Park City, Kans. in April and again in October, Tri-City Speedway in Pontoon City, Ill. in April, Ogilvie (Minn.) Raceway in June and BAPS Motor Speedway in York Haven, Penn.

BAPS hosts its first race in more than 30 years when the track was known as Susquehanna Speedway. This midweek show will give the local Pennsylvania Posse 14 attempts to beat the traveling Outlaws.

Ogilvie Speedway is completely new to the series and makes it the 224th different venue they will have challenged.

MORE: Brad Sweet protects his place in history

Notably missing from the calendar are Vado (N.M.) Speedway Park, Cotton Bowl Speedway in Paige, Texas, Bakersfield (Calif.) Speedway and the Bristol Motor Speedway Dirt Track.

In addition to the new spring Pennsylvania Swing, the second date at Volusia Speedway will coincide with Daytona Beach’s Bike Week and bring new eyes to the sport.

Knoxville Raceway adds another multi-night show to the calendar in April, giving this track eight sanctioned events in 2023.

And of course, there are plenty of mainstays and high dollar events, such as the Memorial Day Spectacular at Lawrenceburg (Ind.) Speedway, the 35th running of the Brad Doty Classic in July and the Labor Day Spectacular at Gray’s Harbor in Elma, Wash.

Several big paydays are on the line in 2023 including the 40th annual Kings Royal at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio paying $175,000 to the winner, the Huset’s High Bank Nationals’ $250,000-to-win finale and the grandaddy of them all, the 62nd Knoxville Nationals with a total purse exceeding $1 million.

2023 Outlaws Sprint Schedule

Thursday-Saturday, Feb. 9-11 – Volusia Speedway Park (Barberville, FL)

Sunday-Monday, March 5-6 – Volusia Speedway Park (Barberville, FL)
Friday-Saturday, March 10-11 – Port Royal Speedway (Port Royal, PA)
Friday, March 17 – Williams Grove Speedway (Mechanicsburg, PA)
Saturday, March 18 – Lincoln Speedway (Abbottstown, PA)
Friday, March 24 – Talladega Short Track (Eastaboga, AL)
Saturday, March 25 – Magnolia Motor Speedway (Columbus, MS)
Friday, March 31-Saturday, April 1 – Devil’s Bowl Speedway (Mesquite, TX)

Friday, April 7 – US-36 Raceway (Osborn, MO)
Saturday, April 8 – 81 Speedway (Park City, KS)
Friday-Saturday, April 14-15 – Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 (Pevely, MO)
Friday-Saturday, April 21-22 – Knoxville Raceway (Knoxville, IA)
Friday, April 28 – Tri-City Speedway (Granite City, IL)
Saturday, April 29 – Tri-State Speedway (Haubstadt, IN)

Friday-Saturday, May 5-6 – Eldora Speedway (Rossburg, OH)
Wednesday, May 10 – Lincoln Speedway (Abbottstown, PA)
Friday-Saturday, May 12-13 – Williams Grove Speedway (Mechanicsburg, PA)
Friday, May 19 – Attica Raceway Park (Attica, OH)
Saturday, May 20 – Sharon Speedway (Hartford, OH)
Friday-Saturday, May 26-27 – Atomic Speedway (Chillicothe, OH)
Monday, May 29 – Lawrenceburg Speedway (Lawrenceburg, IN)

Friday, June 2 – River Cities Speedway (Grand Forks, ND)
Saturday, June 3 – Ogilvie Raceway (Ogilvie, MN)
Friday-Saturday, June 9-10 – Knoxville Raceway (Knoxville, IA)
Friday-Saturday, June 16-17 – Beaver Dam Raceway (Beaver Dam, WI)
Wednesday-Saturday, June 21-24 – Huset’s Speedway (Brandon, SD)
Friday, June 30-Saturday, July 1 – Cedar Lake Speedway (New Richmond, WI)

Friday, July 7 – 34 Raceway (West Burlington, IA)
Saturday, July 8 – Wilmot Raceway (Wilmot, WI)
Tuesday, July 11 – Attica Raceway Park (Attica, OH)
Friday-Saturday, July 14-15 – Eldora Speedway (Rossburg, OH)
Wednesday, July 19 – BAPS Motor Speedway (York Haven, PA)
Friday-Saturday, July 21-22 – Williams Grove Speedway (Mechanicsburg, PA)
Saturday-Sunday, July 29-30 – Weedsport Speedway (Weedsport, NY)

Friday-Saturday, Aug. 4-5 – Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 (Pevely, MO)
Wednesday-Saturday, Aug. 9-12 – Knoxville Raceway (Knoxville, IA)
Thursday-Saturday, Aug. 17-19 – Jackson Motorplex (Jackson, MN)
Friday, Aug. 25 – River Cities Speedway (Grand Forks, ND)
Saturday, Aug. 26 – Red River Valley Speedway (West Fargo, ND)
Thursday, Aug. 31-Saturday, September 2 – Skagit Speedway (Alger, WA)

Monday, Sept. 4 – Grays Harbor Raceway (Elma, WA)
Thursday-Saturday, Sept. 7-9 – Silver Dollar Speedway (Chico, CA)
Friday, Sept. 15 – Keller Auto Speedway (Hanford, CA)
Saturday, Sept. 16 – Placerville Speedway (Placerville, CA)
Friday, Sept. 22 – Eldora Speedway (Rossburg, OH)
Saturday, Sept. 23 – Sharon Speedway (Hartford, OH)
Friday-Saturday, Sept. 29-30 – Williams Grove Speedway (Mechanicsburg, PA)

Friday-Saturday, Oct. 6-7 – Port Royal Speedway (Port Royal, PA)
Friday, Oct. 13 – 81 Speedway (Park City, KS)
Saturday, Oct. 14 – Lakeside Speedway (Kansas City, KS)
Friday-Saturday, Oct. 20-21 – TBA

Wednesday-Saturday, Nov. 1-4 – The Dirt Track at Charlotte (Concord, NC)