After a spell of five races in five weeks that began with an enthralling 96th running of the Greatest Spectacle in Motorsports, the entire INDYCAR Series had a moment to breathe with the off weekend. But it was only a brief moment, as the action heats up again this Sunday with the first of two trips across the border into Canada in the month of July. Just six races remain before the 2012 champion is crowned and there’s sure to be plenty of action, and much to discuss, prior to the checkered flag waving at Fontana.
The other big news this week is the return of the push to pass feature for the remaining five street and road courses. It’s an issue our own Toni Montgomery covered in detail earlier this week in our weekly INDYCAR commentary piece: “The Return of IndyCar’s Magic Button.”:http://www.frontstretch.com/tmontgomery/40274/ It’s well worth a read and just another part of Frontstretch’s commitment to cover the INDYCAR Series from all angles in 2012 and beyond.
*Track Preview: Streets of Toronto*
The Streets of Toronto course is an 11-turn, 1.75-mile long circuit. As is the case with other street courses, the circuit is tight, bumpy and narrow with passing opportunities at a premium. One such spot is turn one, a hard right-hander, which comes at the end of a long front stretch. Cars top out about 180MPH on the longest straightaway, coming out of turn two and head into the best passing zone of the course of turn three. Successful laps around Toronto require a potent mix of speed, handling and driver ability and with chances to pass few and far between it will take a skilled wheelman to grab a victory this Sunday afternoon.
*What’s the Points (Driver Standings)*
A second straight win for Ryan Hunter-Reay took a huge chunk out of Will Power’s 31-point advantage. Power leads the points by just three, with RHR tucked behind ready for a push to pass in second place. Veterans Scott Dixon (-15 points) and Helio Castroneves fill positions three and four. A 17th place finish relegated James Hinchcliffe to fifth place in the seasons standings, losing three spots, but still sitting a very manageable 30 markers back in the big scheme of things. Rookie sensation Simon Pagenaud is sixth, 40 points behind Power.
*What’s the Points (Engine Manufacturers)*
Ryan Hunter-Reay’s win was enough to staunch the rising tide of the Honda powered engines. Chevrolet sit atop the standings with 63 points but Honda are closing in just six points back. Lotus, unsurprisingly, are in third and last position with a paltry 32 points.
*Featured Driver: James Hinchcliffe*
Hinch has had a great sophomore season so far with two third place (podium) efforts at Long Beach and Milwaukee and five other top six finishes. A 17th place run at Iowa somewhat blotted the copybook but at just 30 points off the pace, Hinch is in a position to win a first title. What better place for him to win an inaugural IndyCar race than in his home country? Regardless, Hinch has stepped into a difficult ride (the GoDaddy driver after Danica) and made it his own which speaks to his strength of personality and driver ability. If not this weekend, then maybe in two weeks time at Edmonton – the maiden victory is coming. Soon.
As per usual, your intrepid INDYCAR writing crew has made their picks for this Sunday’s eleven turn Toronto track. Matt’s tipping Scott Dixon to pick up career win 29, while Toni’s backing Will Power, who is aiming for a series best fourth win in 2012. I’m agreeing with Toni and also picking Power, who is due a win after a difficult spell on the ovals.
*Any Other News*
Despite the tough, tough year endured by Lotus, good news may finally be on the way. “Lotus has been working with outside engineering firms, in conjunction with Mr. John Judd and his enterprise (UK-based Engine Developments Ltd.),” Lotus IndyCar manager Olivier Picquenot said. “The purpose is to get some outside help to assist in the new development plan for the Lotus engine. Everyone has been working well together and looking to make some quick progress in a concrete way…Now that the IndyCar Series has given us permission to improve the engine performance, things will be moving soon.” There’s no question this will still take some time but for a series with two dominant manufacturers it’s good to see some positive noise about the third: a rare commodity for Lotus this season.
One final quick point: The final race of the season at Auto Club Speedway will now be 500 miles. Given the proximity of the top six drivers it should sure make for some finale, decided in the best of styles – 500 long miles.
The next race will be held in Edmonton on July 22nd before a trip to the Mid Ohio Road Course on August 5th. The race in China, set for August 19th, has, as you know, been cancelled. The beautiful Sonoma Raceway will play host to a race on August 26th before a trip to Baltimore on September 2nd and the season finale at Auto Club Speedway, Ca. on September 15th.