July 19, 2014, 4:00 AM
The Indycar racing teams are back in Canada this weekend for not just one but two races at the Honda Indy Toronto – one Saturday and one Sunday. Toronto is the only Canadian stop in the 18-race series, which includes the Indianapolis 500.
So far this season, Indycar has produced some of the best racing of any series anywhere with eight different winners in 12 races and exceptionally close racing throughout the field.
Competition is so close that the top 20 cars in today's two practice sessions were separated by less than one second on a one-minute lap. Even more impressive, the top five were within a tenth of each other. They represented four different teams and five different countries.
There's only one Canadian in this year's Toronto races. James Hinchcliffe – the popular "Mayor of Hinchtown" – grew up in nearby Oakville so is quite naturally the hometown favourite. He was fifth fastest in today's practice runs.
Fastest of all was Simon Pagenaud, from France, who has already won twice this year – the inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis in May and Race 1 at Houston, which is similar in layout to Toronto.
"It's always a challenge in Toronto because of the different (asphalt and concrete) tarmacs," said Pagenaud, who claims a Canadian connection through his car's sponsor, Oculus, which is a Canadian company.
Series points leader Helio Castroneves, last year's winner Scott Dixon and points runner-up Will Power filled the places between Pagenaud and Hinchcliffe, in that order.
All 22 drivers will take to the track tomorrow morning in a series of knockout qualifying sessions to determine the starting order for Saturday's race, which is schedued to start at 3:55 PM EDT. Then they'll do it all again on Sunday.
Given the Toronto races' long history of close racing, often leading to mishap and mayhem, it promises to be another exciting weekend.
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