Today's IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines 1. Canadian racing an important part of IndyCar Series 2. Crown within reach for Tagliani, Conquest 3. Off weekend gives IndyCar Series driver chance to recharge 4.
Today's IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines
1. Canadian racing an important part of IndyCar Series
2. Crown within reach for Tagliani, Conquest
3. Off weekend gives IndyCar Series driver chance to recharge
4. Fourth good enough for Wilson
1. Canadian racing an important part of IndyCar Series: The United States and Canada share a border, but philosophies about auto racing are worlds apart.
While the USA is dominated by oval racing, Canada -- much like the rest of the world -- has a strong preference for road racing. And certainly for the past 40 years there is a rich history of Canadian open-wheel road racing to draw on.
In that respect, 1967 was a banner -- the first Canadian Grand Prix for Formula 1 cars and the first Canadian appearance by Indy cars. Both occurred at Mosport Park (now Mosport International Raceway), a 2.4-mile road racing facility just outside Toronto that opened in 1961 as the nation's second purpose-built road course.
The F1 Canadian GP was staged from 1967-2008, with the exception of 1975 and 1987. It was held at Mosport from 1967-77 (excluding 1968 and 1970, when it was run at the Circuit Mont Tremblant in Quebec), and from 1978 onward at the Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve on the Ile Notre Dame in Montreal. Canadian GP winners is a who's-who of Formula 1 history, with names including Brabham, Stewart, Fittipaldi, Villeneuve, Piquet, Prost, Senna, Mansell, Hakkinen and Schumacher.
Mosport hosted top-level international sports car races beginning in 1961, attracting racers such as John Surtees and Indianapolis 500 winner and F1 champion Jim Clark. Indy-style competition began limited forays into road racing beginning in 1965.
Mosport's twin 100-mile USAC events in 1967 were won by Bobby Unser. Dan Gurney swept the Mosport 100-milers in 1968 in an Eagle chassis of his own construction, but it would be almost a decade before the USAC Championship Trail returned to Canada when A.J. Foyt won. The following year, Danny Ongais dominated Indy-style racing's final visit to Mosport, winning by 40-plus seconds over Rick Mears.
Although oval track racing is a rarity, the PPG/CART IndyCar World Series raced on the 0.826-mile Sanair Speedway tri-oval in Quebec from 1984-86. Johnny Rutherford claimed one of his final Indy-style triumphs at Sanair in 1985, while Bobby Rahal won the last of the Sanair races.
In 1986, the Molson Indy Toronto, which makes its debut on the IndyCar Series schedule this year renamed as the Honda Indy Toronto, was conducted for the first time. Rahal was the victor in a race that quickly developed into one of Canada's most popular and successful sporting events. Staged on a 1.8-mile street course, the race was won no fewer than seven times by Michael Andretti, whose company has taken over the promotion of the event.
The immediate success of the Toronto Indy car race encouraged Molson to create the Molson Indy Vancouver on a downtown street course in the western Canadian city. Al Unser Jr. and Michael Andretti dominated the first six years, scoring three wins each; other Vancouver winners familiar to current IndyCar Series fans include Dario Franchitti (a two-time champion) and Paul Tracy, who matched Andretti and Unser with three victories.
The Molson Indy Montreal was revived in 2002 for a five-year run, contested on the same Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve that hosted the F1 Canadian GP. Franchitti was the inaugural winner; other champions included part-time IndyCar Series competitors Bruno Junqueira and Oriol Servia.
Indy-style racing visited Alberta for the first time in 2005 when Champ Car hosted its first race at Edmonton City Centre Airport in 2005 with the race now known as the Rexall Edmonton Indy and returned to Quebec with the Champ Car World Series running a one-off event at the Circuit Mont Tremblant in 2007 that was won in the rain by Robert Doornbos.
With road racing taking an increasingly important role in the IndyCar Series championship, expect the Honda Indy Toronto and Rexall Edmonton Indy to receive a warm reception from the knowledgeable Canadian fans.
2. Crown within reach for Tagliani, Conquest: If not for bad luck, Alex Tagliani could have walked away with another win for the underdogs of the IndyCar Series paddock.
The Canadian, who started a season-best fifth, led twice for 21 laps around Toronto's Exhibition Place but instead of joining Justin Wilson of Dale Coyne Racing as a popular victor, Tagliani came away with a heartbreak in his home country.
"It's very unfortunate to dominate like this in a race and lose it by a 'pits are closed' rule, it's a little bit disappointing but what can I say," Tagliani said after his ninth-place finish. "We were kind of the victim of our own performance. The car was great on tires and fuel. I was driving a really good race, and I didn't have the need to pit. Guys were pitting behind us and when the yellow came out because of an incident, I couldn't pit to keep the advantage I had."
It was the third top-10 finish for the Conquest Racing team on a road or street course, and combined with Tagliani's success at Edmonton, could be a sign of good things to come.
"In the end, we came here and we showed that we could be faster than anybody else," Tagliani said.
3. Off weekend gives IndyCar Series driver chance to recharge: Dan Wheldon is visiting with family at their summer retreat in Portugal. Tony Kanaan and Raphael Matos - who tested at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on July 13 -- also are visiting family in their native Brazil, while Dario Franchitti is checking on his house in Scotland.
Scott Dixon? Well, he'll be changing diapers during the first off week in the IndyCar Series since early June.
Danica Patrick also is busy off the track this week. The Andretti Green Racing driver will be a presenter at the ESPY Awards on July 15, and be a guest on ESPN's "Rome is Burning" on July 16 and ABC's "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" on July 17.
Dixon and Helio Castroneves are nominated in the Best Driver category of the ESPYs, which will be broadcast at 9 p.m. (EDT) July 19 on ESPN. Castroneves also is nominated in the Best Moment category for his celebration and reactions following a third Indianapolis 500 victory in May.
4. Fourth good enough for Wilson: Stefan Wilson finally got the result his Walker Racing team deserved.
The Englishman, who has shown the speed to compete as the front of Firestone Indy Lights races, only to be set back by mechanical woes, scored a fourth place finish at Toronto, narrowly missing the podium.
"I was quick in the wet and soon as it started to dry out we pitted for slicks at just the right time and it was the right choice," said Wilson, the younger brother of IndyCar Series driver Justin Wilson. "We were really quick straight away when we exited the pits and were probably the fastest car on the track. Obviously we'd like the podium but James (Hinchcliffe) did a great job and the two Andretti Green cars did really well so it was getting pretty hard to catch them so I'm pretty pleased."
But Wilson nearly didn't make it to fourth place. Part of his seat slipped forcing him to drive for several laps around the tricky 1.755-mile circuit with one hand.
"There's three parts to the seat, and one of the parts came loose, actually," Wilson said. "Going in to Turn 9, it fell forward and jammed my right hand up in the air, so I was going through all this last sequence with one hand. So it pretty much slowed me down so I had to get rid of it and lose it on track.
"There was no way I was going to catch Hinch (Hinchcliffe) so I just preserved and kept my fourth place my best finish all year."
The 2009 IndyCar Series season continues July 26 with the Rexall Edmonton Indy at Edmonton City Centre Airport. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at 5p.m. (EDT) by VERSUS. A one-hour qualifying show will be telecast by VERSUS at 6 p.m. on July 25. The race will air live on the IMS Radio Network, XM channel 145 and Sirius channel 211. The radio broadcast also will be carried on www.indycar.com. The 2009 Firestone Indy Lights season continues with the Firestone Indy Lights Grand Prix of Edmonton on July 25 at Edmonton City Centre Airport. The race will be telecast at 4 p.m. (EDT) on July 27 by VERSUS.