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Stadium Super Trucks Experience Successful, Exciting Return to Toronto

TORONTO, Ontario — When the schedule of events came out for the 2019 Honda Indy Toronto, there was one series that caught a lot of attention – the SPEED Energy Stadium Super Trucks. After all, they hadn’t been north of the border since 2016.

Just seven years in existence, Robby Gordon‘s series has already grown it’s reputation for it’s high-flying, aggressive, close quarters racing no matter the track they are on. As a result, fans came out all three days to watch the action, with one fan making the trip from Nova Scotia for the sole reason of seeing the trucks.

“It’s great to be back in Toronto,” Gordon told POPULAR SPEED. “The fans here are just amazing. To be able to work with Kevin and Kim again with their promotion group and the guys that promote this race. They should be very proud of the Honda Indy Toronto this weekend. Unbelievable crowd. The racing was good, exciting, and we’re ecstatic in the tracks.”

Gordon’s thoughts were echoed through the grid of drivers, as Toronto has produced some exciting racing in the past. Both events in the last trip to Toronto in 2016 saw Matt Brabham and Sheldon Creed go back and forth both days, with a photo finish on the Sunday.

“It was awesome,” Brabham said post-race. “This weekend has been fantastic. It’s so great to be back. I think every seat in the grandstands was full and as soon as our race ended, they were all empty as they were down looking at our trucks. Toronto puts such good racing on for all of us, and creates some great battles – like 2016 with Sheldon and I finishing side-by-side at the start-finish line. So obviously, the fans are glad that we are back. I’m having a good time, and enjoying it.”

For both events, even with weather threatening on Saturday, each of the grandstands were full. Fans then also took the opportunity to line the fences by the jumps, getting as close as they could to the action through turns eight and nine. 

“As far as racing, this is a beautiful race track for us,” Gordon said. “It’s a lot of fun. It’s tight, but it’s wide, and makes really great racing. We have to put our jumps in unique areas because we want to put our jumps where the fans are. That way we can have everybody where they can see them as they like to see them fly.”

While it was a bummer to see the event cut short on Saturday by a couple of laps due to weather, the series stepped up in giving back to the fans by keeping the trucks out in the rain to allow everybody to use their tents as shelter. They also added three laps to Sunday’s event in an effort to make up for the shortage.

There were no sad faces in having extra laps on-track, as the trucks produced side-by-side racing through both days. With the field packed together, there was some rubbing at times, but for the most part, everybody kept it clean – except for the hood coming off of Jeff Hoffman’s truck.

“The competition is just getting tighter and everybody is getting faster, and it’s harder to pass,” Gordon commented. “We do that full inversion where you start at the back and you work your way through. So for us, it’s makes exciting racing, but it’s very hard to get from the back to the front clean. But that’s what the fans want. They want to see passes, not see us follow the leader.”

While there was close racing in both races, series points leader Matt Brabham came out on top with the overall victory. He kicked off the weekend by being the top qualifier, backed up with a pair of runner-ups. 

“It was awesome,” he told POPULAR SPEED. “That’s what we come here to do for the weekend. That’s the goal – to get the overall win. You get the most championship points and the prize money, and that’s the big goal. So obviously I started last in both races and the last race, I was right there and almost got the win but it wasn’t meant to be. Gavin (Harlein) just did a good job.”

Cole Potts scored the victory in the first event, followed by a third-place on Sunday to come away with second-place overall for the weekend. He believes he had something for the top-two in race two to possibly come away with the weekend double, by was focused on taking care of his equipment. 

“Once you get the tires hot, they get super sensitive,” he commented. “Matty and Gavin were willing to risk it a little more, so congrats to them. but great track, had a lot of fun out there.”

Although Gavin Harlien came away with the win on Sunday, he would ultimately place fourth overall. 

“The competition is definitely getting better as the races go on,” Harlien said. “I’m definitely not used to starting all the way up front in fifth-place, so going through the field like that and getting the lead early was definitely a change. I don’t have a problem starting all the way in the back. I kind of like seeing what everyone was doing, and letting them wreck each other and make mistakes, picking them off one-by-one.

“But I was really calm behind Bill Hynes, Casey Mears – he’s a legend but he’s still new to game, but I still kind of took a while to pass them. So the competition is really good in SST; everybody is always nose to tail. I was fortunate to get the lead early.”

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

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The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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IndyCar Open Wheel

EMBURY: Silver Lining From Recent Pole Day Washouts

Although qualifying for the 101st Indianapolis 500 was delayed due to rain and thunderstorms activity, one should not immediately view this as a doom and gloom situation.

In reality, some of the most unpredictable battles for the pole position at the Brickyard have occurred in years where rain has interrupted the proceedings.

The most recent wipeout scenario took place two years ago. After inclement weather shut down action after only two drivers had made attempts on Saturday, Scott Dixon took over late on Sunday afternoon to score his second Indianapolis 500 pole position. Despite the advantage in horsepower shown by Chevrolet in 2015, the stoppage benefited Andretti Autosport’s Justin Wilson as he surprised most by qualifying sixth, the best among the Japanese manufacturer’s entrants.

2006 qualifying action was pushed back an entire week as rain prevented on-track activity. The delay gave a chance for several one-off teams to qualify higher than they could have done otherwise. Up front, the biggest beneficiaries were Team Penske and Chip Ganassi Racing. With Honda supplying engines for all 33 cars in the field, Roger Penske was able to find other ways to gain an edge. One route was introducing a more aerodynamic side mirror mount. Once time trials began, Sam Hornish, Jr. and Helio Castroneves were unchallenged, taking the top two spots on the front row. The former IndyCar and NASCAR veteran from Defiance, Ohio, qualified nearly a full mile per hour faster than the rest of the grid, posting a 228.9 MPH average. Chip Ganassi Racing’s Dan Wheldon and Scott Dixon would take the next two positions.

2005 Pole Day was moved to Sunday of week one. Expectations soared in the morning as rookie Danica Patrick posted the fastest lap of the early preparation at 229.880 MPH. Unfortunately, Patrick could not back the effort up, as she got loose in turn one on her opening qualifying lap. The mistake relegated her to the fourth starting position on race day. With “Danica-Mania” temporarily on hiatus, another Brickyard fan favorite stepped forward. Going out early in the initial order, Tony Kanaan fired off four consistent at over 227 MPH to take his first and only Indy 500 pole award to date. Sam Hornish, Jr. rebounded from a poor first try to claim second, while Scott Sharp also took advantage of an early draw to complete the front row.

2003 was one of the messiest Pole Days ever. Adverse conditions engulfed the Indianapolis area following the morning practice, even causing the announcement of two Tornado Warnings from the National Weather Service. Although the rain exited the 2.5mile oval a day later, track conditions were still treacherous with gusty winds a common foe. Andretti Autosport teammates Tony Kanaan and Robby Gordon ran the best four-lap averages early in the qualifying period, only to be ousted late by an incredible performance from Helio Castroneves. Braving the below average weather, the Brazilian posted an amazing 231.725 MPH speed to snatch his first of four pole position earned at the Speedway. Only Rick Mears has more in the Indy 500 with six.

So, as you can see the saying, “The best things come to those who wait,” could very apply to the action in store this weekend.

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The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.