Chasing History At The Toronto Honda Indy
This Sunday July 15th will be the 32nd year of open wheel Indy car-style racing, as the Honda Indy at Exhibition Place in Toronto, Ontario takes place. This weekend there will be two drivers trying to speed their way into the history books: Sebastien Bourdais and Josef Newgarden. As both are already in an exclusive club as two of the eight drivers to win the Honda Indy twice. With another checkered flag on Canadian soil, they could move into elite company with only three drivers in the history of the race winning 3 or more. Both American Will Power (2007, 2010 and 2016) and Scotland's Dario Franchitti (1999, 2009 and 2011) have seen the checkered flag on three occasions, but even they pale in comparison to Michael Andretti. The son of racing legend Mario Andretti turned racing legend himself, has won an outstanding seven times in Ontario's capital (1989, 1991, 1992, 1994, 1995, 2000 and 2001). Although Michael Andretti's win record seems like an impossible one to catch, for Bourdais and Newgarden, a win in 2018 takes them to at least the next level.
Sebastien Bourdais from Les Mans, France won his first Honda Indy in 2004. That year he needed just 1:45:36 with Newman-Haas Racing in his Ford-Cosworth car to race 84 laps to victory. Newman-Haas Racing has the most victories at the Honda Indy, having won 7 times on the streets in Canada as a team. It would take another 10 years before he drove up victory lane again in Toronto, winning in 2014 when the race was broken into two heats. Bourdais took the first heat on July 20th that year, this time in a Chevrolet racing for KV Racing Technology. The shortened 65 lap race took Sebastien 1:15:44 with an average race speed of 90.37 MPH. Starting racing at the age of 10 in karts, he has been all over the globe racing, but has seen the majority of his accomplishments in North America. Finding success in Champ Car World Series in the mid 2000s, having won four consecutive championships from 2004-2007. As of March of 2017, the Frenchman has won 75 races in his career. It was announced earlier in January that he would join Dale Coyne Racing to compete for the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series, hoping take the Honda Indy for a third time with a different team.
The year after Bourdais last win in Toronto in 2014, the race went from two heats back to a single battle in 2015. Also arriving on the scene was a young Josef Newgarden, who made his first splash in Canada with CFH Racing, as he would win the 85 lap race in 1:39:00 while driving a Chevrolet. He would end up that season finishing 7th with 431 points, which was his then personal best in IndyCar, but more of a sign of things to come. As last year was a pinnacle season for the Hendersonville, Tennessee native as he joined Team Penske, driving a Chevrolet. New team, new car and same results, as Newgarden would grab his second checkered flag in Toronto in three years with the fastest race in Honda Indy history. On July 16th, 2017 he flew 85 laps on Toronto's streets, with an average speed of 95.79 MPH to set the course record of a time of 1:35:05.3522. That race was just another feather in his cap, as he would go on to win the 2017 IndyCar Series Championship. Despite Tennessee being a fair distance away, Newgarden has quickly brought that southern comfort north of the boarder making Toronto his home away from home.
There is some history from a Canadian angle to watch out for as well, with Oakville, Ontario native James Hinchcliffe. The fan favorite finished 3rd last year for the second straight time in Toronto, but will his 7th Honda Indy end with a checkered flag? If so he would join Paul Tracy who for now, is the only Canadian driver to win the Indy, doing it twice in 1993 and 2003. For racing purest though all eyes are on Bourdais and Newgarden, as they go for win #3 at the Honda Indy. Will a race driver from France win for a third time in Canada on the same day as his nation could capture a World Cup or can a young gun from the southern states get his hat-trick of victories in just four years. Find out Sunday at 3pm when the green flag waves!