Red-hot Palou, IndyCar roll into Toronto
Open-wheel racing returns to the streets of Toronto on Sunday as the Honda Indy takes over the Lake Shore.
Sunday’s race will be the 34th in Ontario’s capital, with the Toronto stop on the IndyCar calendar the third-oldest on the circuit. Many of the biggest names in the sport have been winners in Toronto over the years, with the likes of Bobby Rahal, Al Unser Jr. and record seven-time victor Michael Andretti having claimed a checkered flag.
You can catch the 2023 Toronto Honda Indy LIVE on Sunday, July 16 with coverage starting at 1:30 p.m. ET/10:30 a.m. PT on TSN3/4, streaming on the TSN App and on TSN.ca.
The Honda Indy comes as IndyCar continues the second half of its 2023 schedule with one man firmly established as the driver to beat and looking to win a second championship in three years.
Spaniard Alex Palou, the 26-year-old winner of the 2021 National Championship, currently enjoys a 377-to-267 lead atop the standings over veteran Australian driver Scott Dixon. Chip Ganassi Racing’s Palou heads to Toronto in red-hot form. He’s the winner of four of the past five races, including the past three in a row. Palou claimed victories at the IMS GRM GP at the iconic Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the Detroit Grand Prix, the Grand Prix of Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis., and the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio in Lexington, OH.
What’s remarkable about Palou’s run of dominance is how rare this kind of streak has been in IndyCar over the years.
In 2005, Briton Dan Wheldon won six races to set the single-season IndyCar record en route to a runaway National Championship. That marked the last time that a title was decided prior to the last race of the season.
But could this season be Palou’s last on the circuit? The Barcelona native is already McLaren’s Formula 1 reserve driver, but his contract stipulates that any F1 duties would be secondary to his Ganassi commitments. That deal is up after this season. While he is only free to negotiate with Ganassi until September, what comes next will be fascinating.
Should Palou’s streak end, there will be a number of former winners in the field on Sunday looking for another checkered flag in Toronto.
The defending champion is the 42-year-old Dixon whose four titles in Toronto are second most. If there is anybody still capable of catching Palou, it would be the Brisbane native, who is looking for a seventh series title. Will Power (2007, 2010 and 2016), Josef Newgarden (2015 and 2017), Ryan Hunter-Reay (2012) and Simon Pagenaud (2019) are the other returning winners.
The sentimental favourite on Sunday will be 23-year-old hometown racer Devlin DeFrancesco, racing for the first time in Toronto.
In his second season with Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport, DeFrancesco is currently 21st in the driver’s standings with his best finish this season coming in Detroit when he finished 12th. DeFrancesco will look to become only the second Canadian to win in Toronto, following in the footsteps of “The Thrill from West Hill,” Scarborough, Ont.’s Paul Tracy, who won in 1993 and 2003.