Castroneves Starts Strong in Opening Toronto Practice

Helio Castroneves corners using curb during Toronto IndyCar Practice 1
Helio Castroneves battles bumps during practice for the 2017 Honda Indy Toronto. | Photo: Joe Skibinski / INDYCAR

Helio Castroneves carried some of the momentum gained at Iowa Speedway to the streets of Toronto, turning the fastest lap in Practice 1 for the 2017 Honda Indy Toronto in the No. 3 Team Penske Chevrolet.

Castroneves occupied the top of the timesheet on more than one occasion during the 45-minute session. It was a 1:01.1211 on his 14th lap that secured his spot atop the running order by the time the checkered flag flew at 11:27 a.m. EDT.

The lap — well shy of last year’s 59.9073-second pole-winning lap by Scott Dixon — was four-tenths of a second quicker than Josef Newgarden’s fastest lap during this session, which landed the young American driver second on the timesheet in his first outing at Toronto with Team Penske.

Newgarden laid down a 1:01.5089 on the 20th of 21 laps turned in his No. 2 DeVilbiss-liveried Chevrolet.

Josef Newgarden passes Princes' Gates during 2017 Toronto IndyCar practice times
Josef Newgarden speeds by Princes’ Gates during IndyCar practice in July 2017. | Photo: Chris Jones / INDYCAR

Simon Pagenaud made it three Team Penske cars in the top three with a 1:01.5445 in the No. 1 Chevrolet. Before being surpassed by Castroneves, Pagenaud’s best lap briefly occupied the top of the timehseet.

Road America victor and championship points leader Dixon ended Practice 1 with the fourth-fastest lap in the No. 9 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. The lap, a 1:01.7040, was less than two-tenths of a second shy of breaking up Penske’s lockout of the top three.

Graham Rahal put a second Honda in the top five with a 1:01.7236 in the No. 15 machine of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.

Spencer Pigot, James Hinchcliffe, Tony Kanaan, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Takuma Sato completed the top 10, making it six Honda-powered machines in the group.

Sebastian Saavedra, driving the No. 7 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda in place of Mikhail Aleshin, completed more laps of the 1.786-mile, 11-turn temporary street circuit than any other driver during Practice 1. Though he turned 27 laps, Saavedra’s best time was a 1:02.9240, miring him last among the 21-car field.

Officially a red flag for debris, practice stopped only once to deal with banners that had fallen onto the track in Turns 1 and 2. The stoppage lasted for six minutes.

Next up for the series on the streets of Toronto is Practice 2 at 2:15 p.m. on Friday. Practice 3 and three rounds of knockout qualifying will follow on Saturday ahead of the 85-lap race on Sunday.

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