TORONTO – The path to the pole position in Honda Indy Toronto qualifying this afternoon appears to go directly through Team Penske.
In this morning’s final practice prior to Verizon P1 Award knockout qualifying at 2:15 p.m. ET today, Team Penske’s four drivers finished atop the session time sheet. Simon Pagenaud, the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series champion driving the No. 1 DXC Technology Team Penske Chevrolet this weekend, was fastest with a lap of 59.7864 seconds (107.543 mph). It is within a hundredth of a second of the record lap for the current temporary street course layout, set last year by teammate Will Power.
HONDA INDY TORONTO: Practice 3 results; Combined practice results; Qualifying groups
“It was an interesting session, trying to change (the car) quite a bit,” Pagenaud said. “It’s about guessing what the (Firestone alternate) red tires are going to do (in qualifying). We’re trying to find some truth to that. There’s some potential understeer that can come from the red tires. It’s so much fun.”
Despite the difficulty ascertaining how the alternate tires will affect his car in qualifying, Pagenaud enjoys the 1.786-mile, 11-turn temporary street course and its challenging corners.
“They all have a different aspect to it,” Pagenaud said. “Turn 8 is very difficult in braking, Turn 11 is very difficult because of the wall at the apex. You never know if you are going to clip it. There’s a lot of difficulties around the track but it’s really a lot of fun because you have to adjust to every corner differently. I think that’s what makes it such a fun racetrack.”
Helio Castroneves was second in the 45-minute practice, at 59.8255 seconds (107.,473 mph) in the No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet. The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner was followed by Josef Newgarden in the No. 2 DeVilbiss Team Penske Chevy (59.8828) and Power in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevy (59.9529). Power is the defending Honda Indy Toronto winner.
The fastest non-Penske car was driven by Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay, whose lap of 59.9765 in the No. 28 DHL entry was the best by a Honda driver.
Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon, who takes an eight-point championship lead over Castroneves into qualifying, was 17th of the 21 drivers in today’s practice. The four-time Verizon IndyCar Series champion and two-time Toronto winner managed only a best lap of 1 minute, 0.6752 of a second.
Ed Carpenter Racing’s JR Hildebrand had his session cut short when he made wall contact in Turn 10 in the No. 21 Preferred Freezer Service Chevrolet. The car sustained front wing and left-front suspension damage. Hildebrand finished 20th on the time sheet with a lap of 1:01.0371.
Qualifying will stream live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com at 2:15 p.m. ET, with three knockout rounds concluding with the Firestone Fast Six. A same-delay telecast of qualifying airs at 6:30 p.m. on NBCSN.
Sunday’s 85-lap race airs live at 3 p.m. ET on CNBC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network, with an encore telecast at 7 p.m. on NBCSN.