This just feels like home to Scott Dixon.
The New Zealand native often jokes that as the only IndyCar race in a Commonwealth country, the Honda Indy Toronto is essentially his backyard.
He has also won four times on the street course around Exhibition Place, including a dominant performance in 2022, and has the second-most victories in race history. He won both races here in 2013 and again in 2018.
“I think you can never really rest on last year’s performances,” Dixon said. “The track changes over time, right? It’s city streets. What was there one year is definitely going to be different.”
The track has changed since Dixon’s victory a year ago, with the surface between turns 8 and 11 redone for a less bumpy ride. That includes the pit lane — nestled between BMO Field and the Horse Palace — which has been expanded by two bays this year to accommodate 27 cars.
Dixon said those small changes make street courses so much fun.
“It looks a lot smoother and a lot more consistent, at least one kind of material,” said Dixon of the resurfacing. “Going into turn 1 looks like they’ve changed a bit too with a pretty big patch going in there.
“They’ve got a large painted crosswalk there too that would be very slippery, especially if it rains.”
There’s an 80% chance of rain for qualifying on Saturday and 40% for race day on Sunday with thunderstorms expected on both days.
Dixon is second in IndyCar points behind Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Alex Palou of Spain. Palou has 377 points after four victories, two poles, eight top-fives and nine top-10s this season in a Honda.
Dixon has 267 with five top-fives and eight top-10s. Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden (Chevy) is third with 261.
Devlin DeFrancesco, the only Canadian currently in IndyCar, is tied for 20th with 104 points. He’s eager to race again in his hometown after making his Toronto debut last year.
“Even coming last year I didn’t feel pressure, I felt more support than anything,” said DeFrancesco, who drives for Andretti-Steinbrenner Autosport. “I’m excited to be back here.”
Two-time defending Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona winner Tom Blomqvist will make his IndyCar debut, replacing injured Simon Pagenaud in the No. 60 Honda for Meyer Shank Racing.
The 2019 Indy Toronto champion was hurt just over a week ago during practice at Mid-Ohio when his brakes failed, forcing him to spin his car in a desperate attempt to slow down. The car hit a gravel trap on the exit of a corner and rolled seven times as pieces flew into the air before finally coming to rest on its side against a barrier.
Blomqvist learned only Tuesday he would drive in Toronto.
“The only resource I’ve had really is YouTube videos, so yeah, I’m coming on here pretty blind,” said Blomqvist, who talked with Pagenaud about the course. “Simon did say you’ll be fine, track’s not too difficult but then listening to these guys it sounds like he was lying.
“I haven’t really got high expectations of myself.”
DeFrancesco chimed in with some support for the Brit. “You’ll be fine. Just send it.”
Green Savoree Race Promotions, which operates four of the 17 annual IndyCar races, is in the final year of its contract with Penske Entertainment to run the only Canadian event on the schedule. Honda Indy Toronto president Jeff Atkinson said negotiations are going “very well” and that his organization will have an update on the race’s future soon.
The Associated Press