Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

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

Leave a comment

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.

Follow Dan Beaver on Twitter

Helio Castroneves ‘hustling’ for IndyCar, IMSA rides; talking with four to five teams

Helio Castroneves IMSA IndyCar
IMSA
Leave a comment

As his season gathers steam, Helio Castroneves said his prospects for finding new rides for 2021 in IMSA and IndyCar also are gaining momentum.

The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner said Monday he is optimistic about landing in either or perhaps a combination of both series when Team Penske and Acura end their DPi partnership after this season.

“A lot of people I spoke with, four to five teams, are interested,” Castroneves said. “Whether it’s doing Indy 500 only, whether it’s pushing to do full time or do the sports cars as well. It’s been a very nice conversation.

LOOKING AHEADTeam Penske drivers seeking new rides for 2021

“I have a lot of respect for all the teams that have been talking, and I feel the same feedback. We just have to wait for their (sponsor) connections, and I’m also looking for some connections on my side as well, so hopefully we’ll be able to put this together and get something very soon.”

Given two decades of success with Penske in IndyCar and IMSA, Castroneves’ resume hardly needs burnishing. But the Brazilian has combined with co-driver Ricky Taylor in the No. 7 Acura DPi to win the past two overall victories at Road America and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.

But Castroneves, who doesn’t have a manager, said he has been working the phones hard rather than wait for the strong results to bring in the calls.

“At this point, I feel like I’m the one who needs to be talking to them because people need to know I want to continue racing and understand my desire,” Castroneves, 45, said. “There is opportunity, no question, in both (IndyCar and IMSA), which I’m really happy about it. However, because of the COVID-19, a lot of things sometimes have to be a little delayed. But I’m excited. Whatever the opportunity and whatever destiny guides me, whether IndyCar or sports cars, trust me I’ll be as happy as it could be and doing my 100 percent like I always did.

“It’s like politics, you need to be out there, good news or bad news. People have to make notice of your presence. I’m hustling. I want to continue to keep it going. Hopefully, we’ll have good news very soon.”

The news has been all good lately on track for Castroneves and Taylor, who hope to continue their run Sunday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

The No. 6 duo has surged to sixth in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship standings, 10 points out of the lead with four races remaining. After thinking there was “no hope” to be competitive after opening the season with three consecutive poor finishes, Taylor now sees an opportunity for a happy ending.

“With the program going away, Helio has won all the big races and given so much back to the team and left such a mark, he’s really part of Penske history,” Taylor said. “For me, it’s been an opportunity of a lifetime to be a part of it. I’d like to leave my little mark as well. Helio has won everything except for a championship.

“Obviously, we’ve won races already together, but we can win a championship now. I think if both of us can do that together and both win our first championship for ‘The Captain,’ that would be an absolute dream come true, and we can tie a bow on it and be happy.”