Pagenaud Is Tops In Toronto Practice

Simon Pagenaud paced Verizon IndyCar Series practice on Friday in Toronto. (Al Steinberg photo)
Simon Pagenaud paced Verizon IndyCar Series practice on Friday in Toronto. (Al Steinberg photo)
Simon Pagenaud paced Verizon IndyCar Series practice on Friday in Toronto. (Al Steinberg photo)

TORONTO – Just one year ago Scott Dixon arrived in Toronto after a victory the previous week at Pocono and swept the two races of the IndyCar doubleheader to win three-straight races in an eight-day period.

That would become the foundation to his 2013 Verizon IndyCar Series championship.

Dixon needs a bit of history to repeat itself in this weekend’s Honda Indy Toronto 2 In T.O. if he is going to be a factor in this year’s battle for the title. He is eighth in the standings, 140 points behind the leader, Helio Castroneves.

Another double-header sweep could make Dixon a factor again but at this point in the season he is thinking race victories more than points championships.

“It’s always possible but we are in a bit of a deep hole right now,” Dixon said. “For us it simplifies things. You don’t have to race for points; you have to race for wins. We started the season off with some mistakes and we are working hard with the Chevy engine to make it more drivable. Everything we do now is to try to win more races and also toward next year.

“I know our deficit is 140 points and we have to try to narrow that gap. The first three could have had more points at this stage. Ryan Hunter-Reay has had a lot of mechanical failures and Will Power had had quite a few penalties. It’s a funny kind of championship this year and it will come down to the wire. For us, though, we just need to win races.”

Dixon was the third fastest driver in Friday’s combined practice sessions with a fast time of 1:00.0218 around the 11-turn, 1.75-mile temporary street course at Toronto’s Exhibition Place. The fastest driver of the two practices was Honda driver Simon Pagenaud with a fast lap of 1:00.0084.

Pagenaud started and finished fourth in the 2007 Champ Car race and has never finished worse than 12th at Toronto.

“The track is always a challenge in Toronto with the difference in surfaces,” Pagenaud said. “The practice went well for us and I’m very happy and confident so far. All is good. We just need to be ready for qualifying on Saturday morning and we will be in very good shape.”

Pagenaud believes every corner is a challenge to drive and the bumps have the driver dancing with the car.

“It’s very narrow and the difference in grip makes it fun,” Pagenaud said. “You have no margin for error. With double points it’s important to the championship. We made a few changes to our Houston setup to adjust for this track. Last year was a nightmare and I think now we have a very different approach. We go into each race with the will to win.

“It’s a street circuit so you have to adjust to the changes in the city. Every driver is struggling to be cautious with each other.”

Pit Out at this track is very tight because of construction of a new hotel that is underway. Because of that construction, Pit In is about 40 feet off the track and pit out is a very narrow area compared to past years. That could become a trouble area in this weekend’s two races.

“Hopefully tonight IndyCar is going to move the wall a little bit more to make the merge a little easier and be able to fit two cars a little bit better,” Dixon said. “Up until this year you had a big gain coming out of the pits and that is a big change. Hopefully there is no situation because if there is a crash on pit lane you are going to be blocked in.”