TORONTO – official release — Al Steinberg photo — Simon Pagenaud, who has claimed two road/street course victories this season, posted the quickest lap in two Verizon IndyCar Series practice sessions for this weekend’s Honda Indy Toronto doubleheader.
Pagenaud, driving the No. 77 Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports Honda, recorded a best lap of one minute, 0.0084 seconds on the 1.7-mile, 11-turn temporary street circuit on the grounds of Exhibition Place.
The top five cars, representing four teams, were separated by .0853 of a second. Championship points front-runner Helio Castroneves was second-quick (1:00.0218) in the No. 3 PPG Team Penske Chevrolet and Scott Dixon, who swept the Toronto races last July to vault into title contention, was third (1:00.0769) in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet.
“It’s always a challenge in Toronto because of the different (asphalt and concrete) tarmacs,” said Pagenaud, who won the inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis in May and Race 1 at Houston seven weeks later. “Practice went well for us. Our sponsor, Oculus, is a Canadian company so it’s great to shine here. The car is beautiful, similar to Houston, so I feel confident.”
Josef Newgarden, who tied his career best with a runner-up finish July 12 at Iowa Speedway, was quickest in the first session (1:00.2385) in the No. 67 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing car.
Castroneves, who was atop the championship standings last year entering and following the Toronto races, takes a nine-point lead over Team Penske teammate Will Power into the weekend. Both races of the doubleheader weekend carry full points.
“Two Penske cars fighting for a championship is a good thing, and then you have Juan (Pablo Montoya) who is pretty close behind. It is new for me, but it is what it is,” said Power, who has won twice at Toronto. “Of course, you would rather be in first place and have those guys back. But that’s not the reality. I just have to keep executing, keep getting the most out of everything.”
Castroneves, who like Power has three second-place finishes in the final standings but is seeking his first title, said a team championship is foremost in his mind. Team Penske’s last title was in 2006 with Sam Hornish Jr.
“You want to have at least two chances, not only one,” said Castroneves, who has a best finish of second in 10 Indy car races at Toronto. “We both just have to understand each other that it is a great opportunity for us to give a championship to Roger (Penske), and we’ve got to make it happen. Whether it is my day, or his day, we have to understand that. And hopefully, so far, that is what we are doing.”