TORONTO – Verizon IndyCar Series crews, engineers and strategists watched this morning’s final warmup practice for the Honda Indy Toronto with one eye on the track and the other toward the sky.
Josef Newgarden was fastest in the 30-minute session under cloudy but dry conditions, with a best lap of 1 minute, 0.0122 seconds (107.138 mph) around the 11-turn, 1.786-mile temporary street course. But with a strong chance of late-afternoon storms and a green flag slated for 3:40 p.m. ET, anything learned in practice could be washed away by rain.
“If (TV weatherman) Al Roker was here, maybe that would help us a lot,” joked Mike Hull, managing director for Chip Ganassi Racing and race strategist for championship leader Scott Dixon. “We just take what it gives us and make decisions based on the conditions at the time."
HONDA INDY TORONTO: Warmup results; Combined practice results; Race tire designation
Dixon, who will start fifth today in the No. 9 NTT Data Honda, finished in the same spot in the morning warmup. He takes an eight-point lead over Helio Castroneves into the 85-lap event on the streets of Exhibition Place.
Finishing directly behind Dixon this morning was Conor Daly, whose lap of 1:00.4373 (106.385 mph) in the No. 4 AJ Foyt Racing ABC Supply Chevrolet, provided a glimpse of optimism in what has been a dismal season to date. Daly starts 18th in the race.
“We made more progress and made a big change overnight just to see if we could gain some grip,” Daly said. “We’re still in a big development phase. I know we keep saying that, but it was nice to make a change and be rewarded with more team pace overall. So that’s good and we’ll see what we can do in the race.”
Daly, whose lone top-10 finish this season was seventh at Texas Motor Speedway, has extra incentive today. Both his mother, Beth Boles, and younger brother Carter celebrate birthdays this weekend and he’d like to give them the present of a strong finish.
“It would be nice. We’ll have to see what we can do,” said Daly, mindful that weather could wreak havoc. “Take it as it comes, you never know what can happen. Either way, rain or shine, I’m ready to go out there and do my job.”
Esteban Gutierrez, the Dale Coyne Racing driver who crashed in qualifying Saturday and was checked for concussion-like symptoms, was re-evaluated this morning by Dr. Michael Olinger, INDYCAR's medical director, and cleared to drive. Gutierrez completed 21 laps in the warmup with a best time of 1:01.7044 (104.200 mph)
Live coverage of the Honda Indy Toronto begins at 3 p.m. ET on CNBC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network. An encore telecast airs at 7 p.m. on NBCSN.