Hunter-Reay sitting pretty at Indy

DEAN McNULTY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:10 PM ET

If home is where the heart is, American Ryan Hunter-Reay can put his feet on the coffee table in Toronto anytime he wants.

And he put that familiarity to good use logging the fastest lap in two practice sessions for the IZOD IndyCar series Honda Indy Toronto on Friday.

Hunter-Reay’s time of one minute, 2.143 seconds in the No. 37 Andretti Autosport Dallara was 4/100th of a second faster than Dreyer & Reinbold Racing’s Justine Wilson.

Helio Castroneves, in the No. 3 Team Penske car, was third at 1:02.255.

Although Hunter-Reay was raised on the beaches of Southern California, his late mom was born in Hamilton and he remembers lots of family visits to the Great White North.

“Mostly I remember the cold,” he laughed, because those visits seemed always to come around Christmas time. And for a California kid that usually meant a pretty significant shock to the system.

But his connection to Toronto ran into racing as well.

Hunter-Reay got his first win as a professional driver on the Exhibition Place 2.82 km temporary street course back in 2001 in the Barber-Dodge Series.

“It was a good day and it’s good to be back in Toronto,” Hunter-Reay said. “I love this place.”

He admitted, however, that the Exhibition Place course is not exactly easy to love.

“This is such a tight track there is no room for error,” he said. “Every turn, every lap has to be perfect. It is so challenging a single mistake can cost you the race.”

Wilson agreed, saying that with temperatures into the high 30s on the track, Toronto provides one of the toughest tests for a race car driver in the IndyCar series,

“It’s obviously its not the smoothest track we drive on but I think that adds character,” he said

Wilson, though, said there is still plenty of time between Friday and Sunday to make changes in his No. 22 Dallara.

”They gave me a good car today,” he said. “It works really well and feels really good, but obviously we have plenty of room to improve.”

Defending race champion Dario Franchitti was well off the pace in the No. 10 Target Ganassi Racing car, with a lap of 1:02.511 seconds, only ninth best on the day.

The top Canadian was Alex Tagliani, who was sixth fastest in his No. 77 FAZZT Racing Hot Wheels Dallara at 1:02.391.

It was a good first-day effort for the Montreal native, who spent most of the afternoon practice on top of the speed chart before falling off as more rubber was laid down ion the track.

“We have some work to do,” Tagliani said. “But we are in a lot better shape than we were (at Watkins Glen) two weeks ago when we were off in every session.

Toronto’s Paul Tracy scrapped the wall in his practice run, dropping him to 25th of 26 on the leader board with a time of 1:04.654.

Crowd favourite Danica Patrick had one of the best street course sessions of her season, finishing 11th at 1:02.895.

“We made a few changes from the first practice session to the second and we were able to find some speed,” she said. “I think the changes that we made gave us a much better idea on where we need to go (on Saturday). Overall, I’m happy and hope we have a strong qualifying run for the GoDaddy car.“

dean.mcnulty@sunmedia.ca


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