It’s the second Indy 500 of the season.
There’s the famed one, of course, in the month of May. And then there’s the one on the Monday of race week prior to the Honda Indy Edmonton.
The great thing about back-to-back IZOD IndyCar races in Toronto and Edmonton is the focus it brings to auto racing in Canada over consecutive weekends. The bad thing is the carnage which often occurs on the terrible Toronto track and the long haul of transporters to get the race cars across the country.
It can create that second Indy 500 on the schedule.
Toronto, you see, is almost exactly 500 miles from Indianapolis. And that’s where most teams maintain their shops.
“Most of the teams went back to Indianapolis,” said Bill Van De Sandt, the IndyCar director of operations who flew here Monday morning to begin track inspection, pit lane layout, paddock layout and location assignment to await their arrival
“Most teams plan for the worst and hope for the best and they can get a lot more done in their shops in Indianapolis.
“Most of them would have left late Monday night or first thing in the morning. It’s about 36 hours from Indianapolis to Edmonton. All the transporters take the same route, even the ones coming direct from Toronto, down through the U.S. and then up through Portal in North Dakota and across through Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta,” said Van De Sandt.
But with the added “Indy 500” it totals 45 hours.
“Because Indianapolis is only nine hours from Toronto, we decided to return to the shop,” said team manager Chris Mower of Panther Racing.
“We felt it made the most sense to do the extra prep here at home where we could do it properly. If we were to do that work at Edmonton, it would have been more of a rush and we wouldn’t have all the resources we have here at home,” he said from Indianapolis before loading Dan Weldon’s car back on the transporters Monday evening.
Andretti Autosport, which runs four cars in the series, may have planned for the worst but ended up with the best. They had all four cars in the top eight — Ryan Hunter-Reay third, Tony Kaanan fourth, Danica Patrick sixth and Marco Andretti eighth — and decided to proceed directly to Edmonton.
Team Penske is based in Charlotte, North Carolina and doesn’t have the option of the trip back to the shop there. But Roger Penske prepares for the worst in the best way. Knowing the history of accidents happening in Toronto, the primary cars for the race in Edmonton, where Penske cars qualified 1-2-3 last year and finished 1-2-4 in the race, were safely stored in the transporters while the ones which took the beating in Toronto will be, as planned all the way, the back-up cars here.
Helio Castroneves crashed deep into a pen of tires early in the race for his fifth out-by-contact race in Toronto in the last six years. Ryan Briscoe’s car was rammed from behind late in the race and even the one defending Edmonton champion Will Power drove to victory in Toronto, needed a lot of work.
“We needed to stay in Toronto Sunday night and most of (Monday) to turn the cars around. The guys worked until about 9:30 on Sunday night and were still most of a day away from being finished and ready to go to Edmonton,” said Penske team manager Tom Wurtz.
“The work was all on the backup cars for Edmonton which suffered the damage in Toronto. The car that suffered the most damage in Toronto was Helio’s car. We needed to get a new chassis for that car and had one brought up from North Carolina.
“The team made the switch to that car at Penske Restoration in Michigan and that was done at about 2:30 Monday afternoon. That chassis was then off to Edmonton and we will spend part of set-up day on Thursday working on getting that car ready as Helio’s back-up car at Edmonton.
“We’ll first work on getting the primary cars ready to go through technical inspection Thursday and then go to work on Helio’s backup car. We also don’t go on track until 11:30 a.m. on Friday morning so that gives us a little extra time and we’ll stay on late Thursday night if we need to,” said Wurtz, who said other than Team Penske, he believed everybody who crashed a car would have gone back to Indianapolis. He also said, other than the carnage involved this year, Toronto-Edmonton is No. 2.
“This probably ranks as the second-toughest turnaround in back-to-back races we’ll see this season. The toughest will probably be between Sonoma and Chicago because that’s also a cross-country trip and you’re completely changing the setup of the car from a road course to an oval.
“The plan there is to get to Chicago as quickly as possible and work on the cars in Chicago for two days before the race.”
And the other guys don’t want to have to head to Indianapolis on that one.