For the first time since 2019, IndyCar returns to the Streets of Toronto for the Honda Indy Toronto, but that’s not the main headline coming into Sunday’s (July 17) event.
Reigning NTT IndyCar Series champion Alex Palou returns to the track in what can only be described as an extremely awkward situation — to say the least.
IndyCar’s 2022-23 silly season was a relatively quiet one, until Chip Ganassi Racing and McLaren both swung mean left hooks in the form of tweets, made-up quotes, and contracts.
CGR falsely announced the team had exercised its option to extend Palou through 2023 on Tuesday. If you thought that was bad enough, they went on to fabricate a statement from the 25-year-old Spaniard.
“It’s a great feeling knowing I’ll be back with Chip Ganassi Racing next season,” the quote stated. “The team welcomed me with open arms from day one, and I’m excited to continue working with Chip, Mike Hull, the folks on the No. 10 NTT DATA car and everyone within the organization. The goals remain the same and we will continue to work relentlessly towards achieving them.”
Within hours, Palou, a three-time IndyCar winner and 2021 Indianapolis 500 runner-up, not only confirmed the news and the quote were untrue, but that he had also signed with rival McLaren for 2023.
Contingencies were explored by Ganassi to have a replacement driver step into the car, but the team ultimately chose to lick their wounds and stick with Palou, who sits fourth in the championship standings heading into this weekend’s 85-lap event.
The “fake news” article still remains live on CGR’s website, to boot.
WHO TO WATCH
It has been a season of highs and lows for Team Penske’s Scott McLaughlin, but he captured his second win of the season and of his career at Mid-Ohio (July 3), leading 45 of the 80 laps. It was a breath of fresh air for the 29-year-old New Zealand native, who had finished outside the top 15 in three of his last four races entering Mid-Ohio. But with a win, McLaughlin catapulted himself into seventh in the championship standings.
McLaughlin has never raced at Toronto in an IndyCar, but we’ll see if he conquer the beast on Sunday.
While one team was in jubilation at Mid-Ohio, the other was in deterioration. Team Andretti was left seething after a plethora of intra-team incidents that costed all four of their drivers solid finishes. Alexander Rossi overshot the apex in turn 2 and sent teammate Romain Grosjean nose-first into the tire barrier.
After the final restart, Grosjean outbraked himself entering the same corner and nudged teammate Colton Herta off course.
But, wait! It’s not over!
This race could simply boil down to a Penske vs. Ganassi battle. Six-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon and 2014 titlist Will Power are theoretically tied with three wins at Toronto among active drivers. Power scored his first win at Exhibition Place in the 22nd and final running of the Grand Prix of Toronto in the now-defunct Champ Car World Series in 2007, prior to the Champ Car/IndyCar merger. All three of Dixon’s wins have taken place in the IndyCar Series, following the Champ Car/Indy Racing League merger.
In the most recent Indy race at Toronto, 2016 series champion Simon Pagenaud led 80 of 85 laps en route to scoring the win. Dixon wound up 2nd, while Power was involved in a late-race crash and failed to finish the race.
And don’t forget about Josef Newgarden. The two-time NTT IndyCar Series champion has two wins at the 11-turn, 1.7-mile circuit with two different teams, the now-defunct CFH Racing, and Penske.
Another driver to watch—as far as finishing power is concerned—is Rossi. The 2016 Indianapolis 500 champion is leaving Andretti for McLaren at the end of the season, but Exhibition Place has been a good track for him historically. Rossi has scored podiums in two of his four races, so there’s a 50 percent chance he will score another. After a tumultuous weekend at Mid-Ohio, what could be better than ending a three-year dry spell and ending his long tenure with Andretti on a high note?
1. Marcus Ericsson, Chip Ganassi Racing – 321 points
2. Will Power, Team Penske – 301 points
3. Josef Newgarden, Team Penske – 287 points
4. Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi Racing – 286 points
5. Pato O’Ward, Arrow McLaren SP – 256 points
Indianapolis 500 winner Marcus Ericsson holds a 20-point advantage over Power, while the others look to make gains.
I believe Power exemplified at Belle Isle that he’s still the man to beat on the street courses, but Dixon and O’Ward will be right there with him. As cool as it would be to see Dixon tie Mario Andretti for 2nd all-time with 52 wins, I think Dixon will come up just short in this one.
- Will Power, Team Penske
- Pato O’Ward, Arrow McLaren SP
- Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing
HOW TO WATCH
Sunday, July 17 – 3:00 p.m. ET on Peacock (Green flag at 3:20)
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