Tristan Vautier at Iowa

Among the notables in the three rounds of qualifications for the season-opening race at St. Petersburg was the performance of Tristan Vautier, who was making his IZOD IndyCar Series debut.

The 2012 Firestone Indy Lights champion qualified sixth in the No. 55 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports car on the 1.8-mile temporary street course. His name was prominent on the broadcast two weeks later by qualifying third on the 2.38-mile Barber Motorsports Park road course and securing his maiden top-10 finish.

Mid-field results have followed, most recently 13th at Iowa Speedway. The 23-year-old Florida resident isn’t dismayed. Team co-owner Sam Schmidt and teammate Simon Pagenaud, the 2012 Sunoco Rookie of the Year, remind him of the learning curve within a full-season field that has considerably more Indy car experience.

“We had a very positive start to the season though we struggled to convert the performance into results,” Vautier said. “We’re happy with the pace, especially on road courses. We’ve shown potential, though mistakes – sometimes me and sometimes a mistake in the pits – have led us not been able to put all the pieces together to get the results.”

He’s qualified 10th and 13th in the past two races – both short ovals – and is looking forward to the Pocono INDYCAR 400 Fueled by Sunoco on July 7 on the 2.5-mile Pocono Raceway tri-oval. Advancing 12 positions to finish 16th in the Indianapolis 500 on May 26 boosts his confidence.

“The ovals have been the biggest learning curve because it’s much more difficult than Indy Lights,” he said. “The car is not as forgiving, there are more cars on track and there’s more experience. You have to be patient and aggressive, though it has to be controlled aggression. You have to sometimes give up a move and wait two laps for a better opportunity. You have to be wise.

“I believe I made a big step forward in Iowa during the race. Even though we finished 13th the pace was there and I made some good moves.”

Davison tests with Dale Coyne Racing

James Davison, a two-time winner of Firestone Indy Lights races at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, joined Dale Coyne Racing for testing on the road course this week.

Davison, 26, of Australia, drove the No. 18 Honda-powered car. Justin Wilson was on 2.258-mile, 13-turn course in the No. 19 entry.

“It was great to finally get a proper chance to see what I could do in these impressive cars and have a bench mark with Justin running on a track we race on,” Davison said. “It is great to be here as a rookie and especially have Justin Wilson as a teammate to help in all that happens on and off the track in preparation for this day.”

Davison, who earned victories at Mid-Ohio in 2008 and '09, received the 2008 Sunoco Most Improved Driver Award.

“James did a great job’” team owner Dale Coyne said.  “James had won two races here in Indy Lights but has not raced an open-wheel car in four years. To be within one second of Justin’s comparable times was very impressive.”

Honda Indy Toronto includes 'Fan Friday'

Spectators attending the free “Fan Friday” on July 12 at the Honda Indy Toronto will get a bonus of IZOD IndyCar Series qualifications for the first of the two 85-lap races of the weekend on the Exhibition Place circuit.

Fan Friday is made possible through the support of the Ontario Honda Dealers Association and race fans. Rather than paid admission to full day of family-oriented activities and on-track action, attendees are encouraged to make a monetary donation to Make-A-Wish Canada. Contributions will be matched by Honda Canada.

“Our ongoing partnership with Make-A-Wish for Fan Friday is a big part of the Honda Indy Toronto," said Kevin Pearson, president of the OHDA. "This is all about putting fans in the middle of the action in support of a great cause. We hope fans give generously to help make wishes come true for children with life-threatening medical conditions across the country.”

The day includes IZOD IndyCar Series practice and the three rounds of qualifications to determine the Verizon P1 Award winner, Firestone Indy Lights practice, plus Pro Mazda Championship and USF2000 Championship practice and qualifications.

Of note

Alex Tagliani, driver of the No. 98 Barracuda Racing car, will throw out the ceremonial first pitch at the Toronto Blue Jays home game July 1, which just so happens to be Canada Day. Tagliani is a Montreal native.