Photo: Shawn Gritzmacher/INDYCAR

Event Preview: The Honda Indy Toronto

By Frank Santoroski, Staff Writer

This coming weekend the Verizon IndyCar Series will return to Exhibition Place in Toronto, Ontario for the Honda Indy Toronto continuing the 2016 season. The event is slated for July 15-17, 2016.

About the Race

The Honda Indy Toronto is round eleven of sixteen for the Verizon IndyCar Series in 2016. The event is held on a temporary street circuit, one of five such races on the schedule. It is the only IndyCar race held outside of the United States on the 2016 schedule.

The defending champion is Josef Newgarden, who drives the #21 Chevrolet for Ed Carpenter Racing. This will be the 32nd race for Indycars through the streets of Toronto. The race is Toronto is one of the longest running street races in North America, with only Long Beach having a longer history.

The race will consist of 85 laps for a total race distance of 149.18 miles. Standard road course qualifying procedures will apply.

Support races include Indy Lights, Pro Mazda, US F2000, the NASCAR Pinty Series, the Porsche GT3 Challenge Cup and Stadium Super Trucks.

About the Track

The race course features eleven turns over 1.755 miles on a surface that switches from asphalt to concrete.  The temporary street course utilizes public roads that wind around Exhibition Place. The long back stretch zooms down Lake Shore Boulevard and contours the shoreline of Lake Ontario.

Turns one and three offer the best opportunity to pass, as the rest of the track is rather narrow, surrounded by concrete barriers. The course has seen minor revisions over the years due to various construction projects in the area, but the overall layout has remained very similar. One of the more prominent changes this year will see the pit lane move from the south side of the start/finish straight to the north side of turns 9, 10 and 11.

The 197-acre Exhibition Place features a number of exhibit, trade, and banquet centers, theaters, monuments, parkland, sports facilities, and a number of civic, provincial, and national historic sites that are utilized year-round for various functions. The largest of these is the Canadian National Exhibition that dates back to 1856.

The city of Toronto serves as the provincial capital of Ontario and, with a population of over 2.6 million, is the largest city in Canada. The city, and its surrounding urban sprawl, is heralded as one of the most multicultural cities in the world and is ranked as the safest large metropolitan area in North America.

Event History

Auto racing at Exhibition Place dates back to the early 1900s, as cars would hurl around a small dirt oval that was also used for harness racing. Automobile Polo was showcased at the Canadian National Exhibition in 1913. This odd pastime, that was little more than a demolition derby, did not catch on. Dirt racing was discontinued in 1928, and nearly 60 years would pass before motorsports returned to Exhibition Place.

The idea for a street race around Exhibition Place was first pitched to the city council in 1985 by Molstar Entertainment, a division of Molson Breweries. The inaugural run for the CART Series was in 1986, and the event was a smashing success. With a street-festival atmosphere patterned after the successful Long Beach event, fans came out in droves to see Bobby Rahal take the win.

The event soon became one of the top events of the CART series, and Michael Andretti proved to be the King of Toronto taking victory at the track an astonishing seven times over the course of his career. During that era, the Indy Toronto was the second largest sporting event in all of Canada, rivaled only by the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal.

Tragedy struck the event in 1996 when young driver Jeff Krosnoff was killed in a horrifying crash during the closing laps of the event. Gary Arvin, a volunteer corner-worker, was also killed.

The early 2000s began to see a decline in the event when ownership of the CART Series was transferred to OWRS/ChampCar. In 2007, Molson dropped its agreement as title sponsor and promoter. When ChampCar was absorbed by the IndyCar series the following season, the future of the event was thrown into doubt and was left off of the 2008 schedule.

Michael Andretti and Kim Green assumed ownership of the event in 2009, and breathed new life into the long-standing race. With backing from Honda of Canada, the race returned as Dario Franchitti won the 2009 race in the Chip Ganassi car.

In 2013, the race was announced as a double-header under the moniker ‘Two in T.O.” Ganassi driver, Scott Dixon, swept both races en route to the Series Championship. The race returned as a double-header again in 2014, but heavy rains forced the cancellation of Saturday’s race. The series shortened each race by 20 laps, and ran two races back-to-back on Sunday. It was a bit of a throwback to the USAC era when twin-125s on oval tracks were a common occurrence.

The event was bumped from its traditional July date in 2015, to avoid conflict with the Pan-American being held on the same grounds. The double-header format was also dropped, and the event reverted to a single race. After running in June last year, the Honda Indy Toronto was restored to its traditional date for this years running.

About the Field

The 2016 Verizon IndyCar Field represents one of the strongest, talent-packed top-to-bottom lineups we have seen in years.

22 drivers will take the green flag in Toronto. Of those, five are former winners at Exhibition Place. Will Power, Sebastien Bourdais, and Scott Dixon have all won twice in Toronto, while Ryan Hunter-Reay and Josef Newgarden have one win apiece.

The current season points leader is Simon Pagenaud, who drives the #22 Chevrolet for Team Penske. Pagenaud holds a 72 point lead over Josef Newgarden, who is coming off of at win in Iowa.

Sixteen of the entered drivers are IndyCar race winners, six have won championships in IndyCar or CART/Champcar, and six are Indy 500 winners. Four of the drivers will be contending for rookie of the year honors: Alexander Rossi, Conor Daly, Max Chilton, and Spencer Pigot. Rossi currently leads that group by a decisive margin after taking a win in the Indianapolis 500, an event that paid double-points.

Drivers in the series represent eleven different countries around the globe, making it a truly international field.

About the Series

The current Verizon IndyCar Series was born out of the Indy Racing League, which absorbed the rival ChampCar World Series in 2008. In the years since the reunification, the series has seen slow, but steady growth.

Over the past several seasons the racing produced by the series has been second to none, and the Championship battle has gone down to the final race.

Without the benefit of a gimmick like the Chase, the Verizon IndyCar Series has produced enough close racing and drama to satisfy the racing fan.

The positive growth in recent years bodes well for the Series that is owned by Hulman and Company. The centerpiece of the series is the Indianapolis 500, which celebrated its historic 100th running this season.

Teams in the series use a common chassis, the Dallara DW-12, named in honor of the late Dan Wheldon, who did much of the development testing of the car. The chassis has aerodynamic components that differ according to the engine manufacturer.

Chevrolet and Honda are the engine partners for the Series with each supplying a 2.2 Liter V-6 turbocharged engine to the teams that are capable of producing over 700 hp at 12200 rpm. All cars in the series run Firestone Firehawk tires.

Where and When to Watch

Tickets for the Honda Indy Toronto can be purchased here. Reserved seating pricing ranges from $70.00 up to $175.00.

Television coverage will be provided by CNBC.  Race coverage will begin at 2:30 pm EST on Sunday July 17.

Other coverage options include Sirius XM radio (Sirius:209, XM:212). Timing and scoring can be found at www.indycar.com and fans can keep up with all of the action on the IndyCar Mobile app provided by Verizon Communications.

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A life-long racing enthusiast, Santoroski attended his first live race in 1978, the Formula One Grand Prix of the United States at Watkins Glen. Following graduation from Averett College, Santoroski covered the CART series through the 1990s and 2000s for CART Pages and Race Family Motorsports in addition to freelance writing for various print and web sources. He produces a variety of current and historical content for Motorsports Tribune and serves as the host for the weekly radio broadcast,Drafting the Circuits,

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