Saturday, July 11, 2009

Toronto Indy Honda Race Preview

The IndyCar Series will conduct their 10th race of the 2009 season with the first ever race in Toronto sanctioned by the Indy Racing League. The last time open wheel racing was in Toronto, was 2007 when Champ Car conducted the Steelback Grand Prix of Toronto, formally know as the Molson Indy Toronto. The last time the IndyCar series was in action, we saw Justin Wilson take the checkered flag for his second career IndyCar victory and the first for Dale Coyne Racing in 558 attempts over 25 years. IndyCar Garage breaks down six race observations to watch for in the upcoming race.

1. Can a Ganassi or Penske machine return to victory lane?

For the first time in 10 IndyCar races a non Ganassi or Penske machine reached the winners circle last week at Watkins Glen. Justin Wilson scored an historic victory for Dale Coyne Racing and looks to make it back to wins at Toronto. The IndyCar series has shown in road/street course races that more drivers have the opportunity to reach the winners circle, and Toronto should be no different. Wilson, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Mike Conway, Graham Rahal, Mario Moraes, and Marco Andretti all represent drivers that offer the best chance of reaching the winners circle in Sunday’s race. You can bet that dominate four of Scott Dixon, Dario Franchitti, Helio Castroneves, and Ryan Briscoe will be chopping at the bit to get back into victory lane.

2. Speaking of Penske – Will Power returns to the IndyCar Series

Will Power returns to the IndyCar Series for his fourth race of the 2009 season and the first since the 93rd Indianapolis 500. Power filled in for Helio Castroneves during his legal troubles earlier in the spring. Power sat on the pole at Long Beach and finished 2nd, he also had a strong month of May as he recorded a fifth place finish. Power is a very talented driver who came over from Champ Car in the merger. The last time Power was in victory lane was in 2008 at Long Beach and prior to that came at Toronto while driving in Champ Car. This will mark the beginning of the five races that Penske has arranged for Power to drive in, outside of Toronto, Power will appear at Edmonton, Kentucky, Sonoma, and Homestead. Look for Power to be a threat in any race he appears in driving for Team Penske.

3. Paul Tracy back in his home country and in the middle of his three race endeavor for KV Racing

Paul Tracy will be competing in his fourth race of the 2009 season and third with the KV Racing team. Tracy will sport a newly designed car for this race, as this represents his hometown race, as Tracy is a native of Canada. This also marks the first time that Tracy has raced for a team in back to back races in the IndyCar Series since the merger, it remains to see what kind of chemistry can be developed throughout the team. KV Racing has fielded Mario Moraes for the entire season and field Tracy for Indy. Tracy has stated before that he is looking for a full-time ride next year and feels that he still has competitive juices for the sport. Every race that Tracy competes in for the remainder of the season is an audition for 2010.

4. Car Count & Driver Changes

23 cars are entered for this weekend’s race which represents the highest car count we’ve had since Texas Motor Speedway. Will Power as mentioned above, rejoins the mix, Alex Tagliani is also back with Conquest Racing and lastly, Tomas Scheckter replaces Milka Duno this week in the Dreyer & Reinbold Racing program. All these moves represent more improvements for the IndyCar Series and raise the competition level. Dale Coyne, who is fresh off his first career win as an owner, recently was quoted as saying “We need this sport to grow. We do not need subsidies. The teams need to be healthy and be here and functioning properly on their own.” Coyne’s team is looking to add a second car for next year and mentioned that sponsorship does play a role in who the drives the car. We’ve have touched on this before, the car count needs to be in the high 20’s and anyone who wants to take a shot at IndyCar’s needs to be able to attempt it at a reasonable price. Without lower cost, the IndyCar Series will not attract the teams and drivers it needs to.

5. The point’s championship heats up

The point’s championship is in full swing as the IndyCar Series begins the second half of the 2009 season. Scott Dixon is back on top after a third place finish at Watkins Glen, and is poised to take home his second consecutive championship. Dario Franchitti and Ryan Briscoe are a close 19 points behind Dixon, while Helio Castroneves and Danica Patrick round out the top five. Dan Wheldon and Marco Andretti represent 6th and 7th place respectively, but would need major breaks to have a shot at the championship. The racing this season hasn’t been up to par as in years past, but the championship race has been very exciting to follow. Unlike NASCAR, the IndyCar Series has a points system that works well and offers multiple points leaders throughout the season. While NASCAR’s Chase playoff style format might sound better, in all reality it doesn’t do much for fans, as they can turn into the last 10 races of the season and know whos in the mix. One of the best things IndyCar has going for it right now , is that every race counts.

6. Good Bye ABC/ESPN until 2010

The race will be the last of five races broadcast by the ABC/ESPN coverage, as the last seven races on the schedule will be carried on Versus. It remains to be seen how pleased league officials have been with the coverage this year from ABC/ESPN. From a fans perspective and coverage standpoint, Versus has been a major upgrade from previous years. Versus has went into depth on driver stories, pre-race coverage, and overall marketing of the IndyCar Series. The problem with Versus is that it’s carried on handful of cable companies basic package, this creates a problem with casual fans wanting to watch an IndyCar race. ESPN is the WALMART of sports coverage, if ESPN covered IndyCar the way they covered NASCAR, we might be see a huge spike in interest for the IndyCar Series. Coverage starts at 1 p.m. on Sunday July 12th.

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