With how this season has shaped up so far mixed with three practice sessions and qualifying in the books in Toronto, here are five favorites and five sleepers for Sunday’s Honda Indy Toronto (3 p.m. ET/NBCSN/INDYCAR Radio Network).
Rossi, has finished on the podium in three of the four street course races in 2018 and if not for a late race mistake in the second race on Belle Isle, he would be four-for-four with two wins. He finished runner-up last year in Toronto too. In practice on Friday, he was third and fifth respectively. He’s the favorite in my mind.
He’s struggled recently in Toronto but on street courses this year, he’s finished in the top five in three of them including a second place finish in the first race in Detroit and a win in the other. Plus, heading into this weekend’s race, Hunter-Reay has five top five finishes in his last six starts on the season. Since Barber in late April, Hunter-Reay has finished first once, runner-up three times and fifth twice.
He was eighth in both practices on Friday.
Here’s another hot driver. Also since Barber, Dixon two wins (Belle Isle 1, Texas), a runner-up, two third place finishes a fourth place run and a sixth place effort. He also has nine top 10 finishes in 11 Toronto tries. Furthermore, Dixon has finished sixth, 11th, third and first respectively on street courses this season. Dixon topped the speed charts in both practice sessions on Friday. Need I say more?
Newgarden has won two of the last three years in Toronto, but he didn’t finish in the top 10 in his other six Toronto starts. On street courses this season, the Penske driver has finished seventh, seventh, ninth and 15th respectively. I can’t overlook him.
Power has been the best among the Penske trio on street courses this year with two runner-ups, a seventh place run and 10th place finish too, but in Toronto, he finished 21st last year and has just three top five finishes in his last nine starts north of the border. He has won twice in Exhibition Place before so I can’t overlook him either.
In Toronto, Kanaan has six top six finishes over his last eight starts there. On street courses, Kanaan has finishes of 11th (St. Pete), eighth (Long Beach), 14th (Belle Isle 1) and seventh (Belle Isle 2) respectively. As I said, the speed is there in his No. 14 Chevrolet to nab a top 10 finish this weekend.
Look at his past Toronto finishes and look at his stats on street courses in 2018 and you get a sleeper pick.
He hasn’t had the most success at Toronto before, but now that he has preferred power, watch out. Rahal, has finished in the top 10 in every race with the exception of one in 2018. On street courses, he has three top five finishes including a runner-up in St. Pete. If you take out his mistake he made in Belle Isle, he’d have a top 10 in every race and a top five on every street course race too.
He was second and fourth respectively in practice this weekend.
Out of his last 11 Toronto starts, the third generation driver has finished inside the top 10 in eight of them, including a fourth place run last year.
Plus, the Exhibition Place circuit was his dads playground. No one has as many wins on the 1.786-mile road course than his father Michael Andretti who made seven trips to victory lane on the Canadian track during his storied career. From 1989 to 1995, Andretti won five of his seven races in that seven year span.
Now, it’s the younger Andretti’s turn.
Andretti, has been at his best on street courses in 2018. He finished ninth in St. Pete, sixth in Long Beach and fourth and ninth respectively in Belle Isle. He had fast race cars in all four of those races. Plus, at Belle Isle, he ended his near five year pole winning drought by starting first for race No. 1. If he can qualify good on Saturday, Andretti’s No. 98 Honda will be among the ones to beat in Sunday’s race.
In practice, he was fifth and third respectively.
He’s had a lot of speed in his car since the month of June. Now, Veach is hoping to capitalize on it. Plus, on a street course at Long Beach earlier this season, he finished a career best fourth. Honda’s are strong and Andretti appears to benefit the most from it. Why not Veach on Sunday?
Jones, heads to Sunday’s race with four top 10 finishes over his last five starts. But, take out the two races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and some bad luck, and you’d see Jones could be a championship contender instead.
In St. Pete, he finished an impressive eighth. The next race in Phoenix, the box score says he finished 20th but that’s because he crashed while running second with 20 laps-to-go. If he doesn’t crash, he finishes on the podium. The next week, he came home third in Long Beach. The week after that, a mechanical issue relegated him to another 20th place run. But, if not for that issue, he was going to finish in the top 10.
Indy was Indy, but in the races after, he’s finished sixth, third, ninth, ninth and respectively.
So, take out the bad luck (crash at Phoenix, mechanical problem Barber) and Indy and Jones is actually in a good spot. Now, I think he can continue this momentum north of the Border on Sunday.
Jones, may have finished 20th in last year’s race at Toronto, but on street courses this season, he’s finished in the top eight in all of them. That leads me to believe he may be strong this weekend too.