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Five things to watch for at Honda Indy Toronto at Exhibition Place

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With last week’s victory, Alexander Rossi has clawed his way to within seven points of Josef Newgarden as the series heads into Round 11 of the NTT IndyCar Series. Based on their performance so far on street and road courses this season, one would have to give good odds that a change could change at the end of the Honda Indy Toronto at Exhibition Place.

Looking back on the past two runnings of this race, however, that might not be as simple as it would appear.

Here are some of the storylines to watch this Sunday:

  1. Based on recent performance, Rossi can easily lay claim to being the hottest driver on the circuit. The first 10 rounds for the Andretti Autosport hot shoe have ended outside the top 10 only twice this year and he has a current five-race, top-five streak to his credit.
  2. The top two in the standings hold a considerable lead over the field with a 61-point advantage for Newgarden over third-place Simon Pagenaud. That means the leaders need only keep their principle rival in sight – and it appears Newgarden and Rossi have been well-matched at Toronto over the past two seasons. In 2017 Newgarden won this race with Rossi on his heels in second. Last year, Rossi edged Newgarden by one spot as they struggled to finish eighth and ninth.
  3. Still looking for his first top-five of the season, James Hinchliffe could finally finish in the low single digits this week. He enters Toronto with a current three-race streak of top-fives that is unmatched. Earlier this year, his best result came on another temporary circuit of St Petersburg; he backed that up with another sixth on the permanent road course of Barber Motorsports Park.
  4. With three sub-15th-place finishes in his last five starts, Scott Dixon should rebound this week. Six of eight attempts on street and road courses have ended in top-five finishes including his victory in the second race at Belle Isle. He won last year’s edition of this race, which is past of an eight-race streak of top-10s.
  5. If Pagenaud is going to make up any ground on the points leaders, this is a good week to do so. Pagenaud is one of four active drivers (along with Dixon, Hinchcliffe and Marco Andretti) with at least a three-race streak of top-10s. He finished ninth in 2016, fifth in 2017 and second last year.

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Kyle Busch happy with first stint: ‘Put me in the car, there’s excitement!’

AP Photo/Terry Renna
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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The Rolex 24 at Daytona debut of the “KB Show” was cut short by a strategy maneuver but still delivered drama and a positive result.

Kyle Busch got the No. 14 RCF GT3 Lexus back on the lead lap and back in contention for a GTD victory at Daytona International Speedway.

“It was good,” Kyle Busch said with a broad smile after a 42-minute stint. “Just, uh, shit, put me in the car, and there’s excitement around! Drove all my way back to the lead lap and everything.

“Overall, we’ve had a good experience and hell I only got one stint in, so I’m ready for more. Sign me up, coach!”

The two-time Cup champion was expected to drive for at least 90 minutes, but the first full-course caution of the race (with 19 hours and 16 minutes remaining) caused AIM Vasser Sullivan to change up its drive plan. Busch was called to the pits in favor of Parker Chase.

“With all the strategy and the way the wave-bys work here, it’s quite different than what we’re accustomed to (in NASCAR),” said Busch, who likely will drive longer now later in the race. “That wasn’t bad. To get ourselves back on the lead lap and back to a position where we can start scrapping again hopefully is what we needed.

“So I got one stint in, but I’m trying to save myself and (teammate) Jack (Hawksworth) for a little later.”

Busch climbed into the car shortly after 6 p.m. as the last of the No. 14’s four drivers. He complained a few times on his radio about traffic, which he said was his biggest challenge.

“There were a couple of instances we ran down a smaller car, and (it was) just mirror driving in front of us,” he said. “That was pretty bad. We lost probably 2 seconds on that. Overall, I guess that’s road racing.

The yellow flag was exactly what Busch’s team needed after being forced to start from the rear of the field when it missed qualifying because of an engine change. Hawksworth, who started the race, said the car was “quick in the wrong places and slow in the right places” after struggling with handling and speed in the first stint.

“I don’t feel we’re out of it,” Hawksworth said. “It’s a very long race. Still early days. We need to work on having speed for the end of the race. The position right now doesn’t really make any difference. We’ll need to find some performance at the end of the race to fight for the win.”