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IndyCar Open Wheel

Honda Indy Toronto Notes: Saavedra Learning; RHR and Rahal Search for More

TORONTO, Ontario — While Team Penske continues to show speed this season, sweeping all three Honda Indy Toronto practices, their competitors are battling hard and trying to figure out the rough bumps of the street course.

Following the three sessions of practice, here are some storylines to keep an eye on leading into the event.

Saavedra The Substitute

Mikhail Aleshin, who typically drives the No. 7 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports entry, is instead on the sidelines this week watching as the Honda-team made a driver switch just before the event, stating “no further comment” on the situation.

Sebastian Saavedra will be behind the wheel, reuniting with race engineer Blair Perschbacher, for his 63rd career Verizon IndyCar Series start. Notably, the Columbian’s last appearance on the streets of Toronto came in 2015 with a 16th-place finish.

Saavedra was able to complete 78 laps across the three practices, posting the 15th-quickest lap in Saturday morning’s session. He told POPULAR SPEED afterward that the practices were “very productive.”

“I wouldn’t say good or bad because I was realistic,” he added. “These guys are good at what they do, that’s why they get the paychecks, so I came here with an open mind and here we are. We’re using every lap to get to know the team, the engine, the new aero kit – it’s been three years since my last time here, so it’s going to take awhile.”

Going into the event, he admits that he hasn’t set any goals in stone, but rather focused on helping teammate and hometown driver James Hinchcliffe do as well as possible, and bringing his own entry home cleanly. Notably, Hinchcliffe was fourth quickest in the Saturday session.

Hunting for Success

Following a third-place finish at Iowa Speedway, Ryan Hunter-Reay hopes to keep the momentum going this weekend in Toronto after starting off the year on a rough note. While known for being a front runner, the Andretti Autosport driver only posted two top-10’s in the first 10 races of 2017.

Hunter-Reay commented on Friday that he felt they were “decent,” but knew they had “a lot of work to do tomorrow to be more competitive.” It seems the homework paid off, though, as he was fifth-quickest on Saturday morning.

The American has been successful in Toronto in the past, visiting victory lane in 2012.

Rahal is Confident

After sweeping both events on the street of Detroit, Graham Rahal entered Toronto with confidence as he felt his single-car team could compete for the victory again. Those expectations have been on par so far, as he was sixth quickest on Saturday morning.

“We are pretty competitive here – obviously, we’d like to be a little stronger,” he told POPULAR SPEED. “But we’re in the hunt. Just gotta keep working hard, put our heads down and focus on the end goal which is to qualify and race up front.”

When it comes to catching Team Penske, he says they could be better “a little bit everywhere.”

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

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By Ashley McCubbin

Currently the Executive Editor for Popular Speed, Ashley McCubbin also runs Short Track Musings, while handling media relations for OSCAAR. Currently living in Bradford, Ontario, she spends her weekend at the local short tracks in the area taking photos.