Into the Crystal Ball… The Heartland of Canada Edition

This week, INDYCAR goes north of the border for the first of two races in Canada; Exhibition Place in Toronto, Ontario. Way back in 1967, USAC visited Mosport, with Bobby Unser taking the win. The Molson Diamond Indy was run for only three more years; 1968, 1977 and 1978. Cart would return to Canada in 1986, at the current location of the Honda Indy Toronto. The track has seen almost no changes in its more than 25 year history. Michael Andretti is the king of Exhibition Place with seven wins. Couple that with Marco’s great win last time out, and pressure must be high in the Andretti camp. Will Power took a slight hit in the points standings with his wreck at Iowa, and Dario Franchitti gains some breathing room. This is looking to be a two driver duel, but P3 in the championship is still a heated contest. A return to the twisties will set the stage for the final half of the season.

Five things to watch

Right Turns – This is the first time in almost two and a half months, INDYCAR turns right. The initial twistie phase of the season was… slightly messy. In hindsight, the oval portion wasn’t much better though and many teams are looking ahead to Toronto as a fresh start to the year. Turning right is easier for the back of the pack, and drivers looking to get laps under their belt will welcome the change of layout.

Double File Restarts How can an INDYCAR prerace not include a note about these? Exhibition Place is a wider than average concrete canyon. The drivers should have enough room through T10 and T11 to form the two rows and close the gaps. The real question will come late in the race entering T1. Will everyone be able to behave themselves with such an inviting entrance and possibly a plethora of marbles off line? Hopefully, everyone has learned from the first half of the season.

Surface Steph at MoreFrontWing wonderfully highlighted the shortcomings of the racing surface in a track walk she did a few weeks ago. The concrete and asphalt are crumbling and there were more than a few Midwest sized potholes all over the track. It’s going to be a rough one this year, and from the looks of it, they haven’t repaved the track since 1986.

Newman/Hass With seven wins at the wonderful street circuit, NHR could be primed for a big win this weekend. Add in the strong performances of Oriol Servia and James Hinchcliffe, the good qualifying and race results, we could see another new winner this year. Although it has been said already that NHR knows how to get around many of the places we visit, they just have not been able to pull a win out.

Marco Andretti Coming off of a huge win at Iowa, Marco is primed to have a strong run through the end of the championship. As a point of reference for Marco’s career, the average age of this year’s rookie class has an average age of just under 24 years old. Marco is, you guessed it, 24 years old. This is his fifth season so it just seems as if he is much older than the rookie class. Although he has shown he needs to do some maturing in and out of the cockpit, Marco is by no means doing terrible. He could be a late bloomer like grandpa.

Predictions

Pole – Will Power – I think he will be back to form, only with more fire than he was before. After a spirited television interview post crash at Iowa, WP will be supremely rejuvenated and focused this weekend. His pit problem has not reared its head during qualifying and I am sure it will stay that way. The race is another story; confidence in the 12 crew is at a season low right now.

Winner – Oriol Servia – Yes, I will keep pushing for the crazy Catalonian as long as he stays locked out of victory lane. His whole organization is a swirling cloud of goodness that has yet to fully coalesce during a race weekend. When it finally settles down, the front runners better watch out because Oriol and NHR will be a force to be reckoned with.

Biggest Loser – Iowa proved to be a sprint endurance race with a third of the field crashing out before the finish. This week the teams and drivers will take a more cautious approach. In actuality, more of the grid is comfortable on the twisties than ovals, so this should lead to a less calamity filled event. However, we have witnessed all year that anyone is susceptible to a hot helmet moment, it can come from anywhere on the grid.

Epic Performance – Simona De Silvestro – Nothing can seem to keep the iron maiden down. A fat racecar name porkchop, driven by still recovering hands and knees, powered by a recently scrambled brain. That sounds like a recipe for a great comeback show, if she can keep the car in one piece. There are not many more spare parts lying around the HVM garage.

It will take a miracle to blow this championship wide open, but the race for third is heating up. The weather looks like it should be nice for an exciting Sunday afternoon battle. Larry Foyt said the margin for error in the Penske and Ganassi camps is smaller than ever. Almost the whole field is just a single lucky moment at the right time to break through to the winners circle. As summer starts to drag on I expect to see a heated battle ensue at the top of the field. I just hope that the points margin is not too wide, and third on back can make some positive ground towards the front.

Eric Hall

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