TORONTO -- James Hinchcliffe acknowledged he was “maybe a little pompous” in the waning minutes while watching the Olympic women’s hockey gold medal game with friends in Indianapolis.
“National pride,” said the Andretti Autosport driver, a native of Oakville, Ontario. “The whole country was watching and cheering them on as they were kicking butt over in Russia.”
Gold medalists Natalie Spooner, Meaghan Mikkelson and Jennifer Wakefield – members of the team that defeated the United States in the title game in Sochi – met with Hinchcliffe before Race 1 of Honda Indy Toronto.
The quartet autographed and exchanged Canada jerseys (gold medal not included)/United Fiber & Data crew shirts.
“I got a chance to meet Natalie at the Conn Smythe dinner in town and thought it would be a great opportunity to invite them here and show them what we do in IndyCar racing,” Hinchcliffe said.
Racing is a theme currently with Spooner and Mikkelson, who are contestants on “The Amazing Race Canada.” They won the first two stages of the reality TV show.
“Going to the Olympics was an amazing experience, but (the show) is something totally out of our comfort zone,” Spooner said. “We got out to a fast start but it’s a long race.”
The trio toured the paddock and pit lane, getting an up-close view of preparations for the doubleheader on the 1.755-mile, 11-turn street circuit at Exhibition Place.
“We’re excited to be here and appreciative to James for the invitation,” Wakefield said. “I’ve never been to anything like this before and it’s crazy how fast the cars are on the track and all the work that goes into preparing for the race.”
Hinchcliffe, who qualified ninth, is seeking the first victory in his home race.
“They had the weight of a whole country while they were in Russia, and I get that kind of feeling when we race in Toronto so maybe I’ll get a few mental preparation tips,” he said.
Belardi Auto Racing sweeps front row
Alex Baron, 19, of Narbonne, France, earned the Sunoco Pole Award for the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires race July 20.
Driving the No. 4 Belardi Auto Racing car, Baron recorded a best lap of 1 minute, 6.0182 seconds in the 35-minute all-car session as the circuit became slippery under a light rain. Championship points leader Gabby Chaves will join his teammate on the front row for the 45-lap race (8:25 a.m. ET, with live broadcast and Timing & Scoring on IndyCar.com). The race telecast is at 6 p.m. (ET) on NBCSN.
Another Frenchman, Sebastien Bourdais, earned the Verizon P1 Award for Race 1 of the Honda Indy Toronto.
Pro Mazda competitors in Toronto
The Pro Mazda Championship is not racing at Toronto, but the two drivers who top the standings are competing at Exhibition Place. Points leader Spencer Pigot of Orlando, Fla., and Scott Hargrove of Vancouver, British Columbia, are racing in the Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Michelin.
Hargrove, the reigning USF2000 champion, won the first race of the weekend and leads the sports car championship in the No. 69 OpenRoad Racing Porsche GT3 Cup car. Pigot, who is third, has finished third — behind Hargrove and Chris Green — in the previous three of the four rounds in the No. 21 Alegra Motorsports Porsche.
In an effort to change its luck, a used horseshoe from A.J. Foyt's Texas ranch was placed in driver Takuma Sato's locker and then moved to its pit box for qualifications and Race 1. The No. 14 ABC Supply car had retired early because of contact or mechanical issues the past five races. ... "Degrassi" actor Sarah Fisher (@SarahFisher28) met Verizon IndyCar Series team co-owner Sarah Fisher in the paddock before Race 1. The long-running Canadian teen drama is telecast on MTV. ... NBCSN analyst Paul Tracy competed in the Stadium Super Trucks race on the circuit.