The 10th round of the 2023 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season is north of the border in Canada for today’s Honda Indy Toronto.
Christian Lundgaard stormed to the NTT P1 Award in a qualifying session that was impacted by rain, earning his second pole of the season – and career – with a time of 1 minute, 4.1567 seconds on the 11-turn, 1.786-mile temporary street circuit.
SEE: Starting Lineup/Tire Designation
The 21-year-old Dane will lead the field to green in the No. 45 Vivid Clear Rx Honda for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, with Team Penske’s Scott McLaughlin starting alongside on the front row in second.
Live coverage of the 85-lap race starts at 1:30 p.m. ET on Peacock and the INDYCAR Radio Network in the United States and TSN in Canada. The 30-minute morning warmup starts at 10:15 a.m., with live coverage on Peacock and the INDYCAR Radio Network in the U.S. and TSN+ in Canada.
The Weather and Strategy Game
Showers are expected in the morning, with scattered thunderstorms arriving in the afternoon. The chance of rain is 60 percent. Temperatures are also set to rise to 78F, with winds coming out of the south at 5 to 10 mph.
If the clouds open and dump moisture at Exhibition Place at any point during the race, even intermittently, it will certainly have drivers and teams scrambling to figure out the best combination on when – or if – track conditions warrant diving to pit road for Firestone’s wet-weather tires.
In past races that didn’t feature rain playing a role, the favored strategy is usually two stops. In 2022, the majority of first stops took place between Laps 11-17. The earliest green flag stop was courtesy of Alex Palou, who came in on Lap 8 to use the clear track to gain time and progress from a 22nd starting position to finish sixth. The second stop for the field was under caution on Lap 46. The estimated timeframe for a second stop under green flag conditions is usually around Lap 48-50.
Firestone’s guayule race tire (green sidewall) makes its first appearance at the Honda Indy Toronto as the alternate tire. That variable could play a pivotal role because if the rain holds off, the decision to start on the alternate compound or the primary (black sidewall) could impact strategy sequences and the pivotal in and out laps to pit lane.
Rise and Shine for Title Hopefuls
After winning four of the last five races, Palou comes in with a sizeable 110-point lead in the championship standings, but for the first time this season he will start outside the top 10 after a subpar qualifying performance. The Spaniard rolls off 15th in Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 10 Journie Rewards Honda.
Considering there hasn’t been a dent in Palou’s armor until now, this becomes a clear chance for any rivals with remaining title aspirations to make significant gains. Every driver sitting second to seventh in the championship standings starts ahead of Palou, with five of them starting seventh or better. Six-time INDYCAR SERIES champion Scott Dixon, Palou’s Chip Ganassi Racing teammate, is the man sitting second in the standings, and he has been a terror at Toronto. The New Zealander starts seventh and comes in as the defending race winner, with three additional wins in “The 6ix” on his resume. He has finished on the podium in six of his last 14 races in Toronto.
McLaughlin is sixth in the overall standings, 148 points behind Palou (377-229), with his front row start in the No. 3 Gallagher Insurance Team Penske Chevrolet sitting in the best spot among the group of title hopefuls. Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden, third in the championship, starts 11th. Another Ganassi driver, Marcus Ericsson, matched his starting position to where he sits in the title picture, fourth. Arrow McLaren’s Pato O’Ward is fifth in the championship and will roll off the grid third, which leaves two-time and reigning NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion Will Power, seventh in the standings, starting sixth.
While Palou is the obvious driver to watch from midfield, one other to keep an eye on is Alexander Rossi. An electrical gremlin on the No. 7 NTT DATA Arrow McLaren Chevrolet plagued Rossi’s qualifying, so he will start 26th in the 27-car field. Rossi is also eighth in the overall standings, riding a wave of eight consecutive top-10 finishes.
Among the drivers making up the field of 27, only four have found victory in Toronto. Among them, Dixon holds the honor as the winningest at Toronto with four victories (Race 1 and 2, 2013; 2018; 2022). Other previous winners in the field are Power (2007, 2010, 2016), Newgarden (2015, 2017) and Ryan Hunter-Reay (2012). Michael Andretti has the most wins at the track with seven.
Dixon Paces Warmup
Dixon is the master of Toronto among the 27 drivers in the field, with his four wins, and he showed the speed during morning warmup that could lead to victory No. 5.
SEE: Warmup Results
Six-time series champion Dixon led the 30-minute session with a lap of 1:01.3208 in the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. Dixon will start seventh.
Kyle Kirkwood was second at 1:01.3810 in the No. 27 AutoNation Honda. He will start eighth.