Oh Canada! Oh IndyCar!
Oh Canada! Oh IndyCar! How Canadian drivers have performed on the Streets of Toronto.
At the top of the list is the ‘Thrill from West Hill’. Paul Tracy won his first Toronto Indy back in 1993, and followed it up with another win in 2003. IndyCar racing has a deep history of Canadian drivers competing, but Tracy is the only Canuck to visit victory lane in Toronto. Tracy’s 2003 win came in dominant fashion: he started from pole, set the fastest lap of the race, and led every lap.
Quebec’s Patrick Carpentier hasn’t had the best results in Toronto, but managed to close out his fulltime open wheel racing career with a 3rd place finish in his final visit to Exhibition place back in 2004.
The 90s were a great time for Jacques Villeneuve: 1994 IndyCar Rookie of the year, 1995 IndyCar and Indy 500 Champion, 11 Grand Prix wins and the 1997 Formula 1 World Championship. While he was the first Canadian to win the IndyCar Championship and the Indy 500, a lesser known fact about Villeneuve is that he was the first Canadian to take pole for the Toronto Indy- starting 1st and finishing 3rd back in 1995.
Alex Tagliani has been one of the more consistent Canadians at Exhibition Place. A 5th place finish in his rookie season in 1999, followed up by a 2nd place the following year. Tagliani has one additional podium and four top-10 finishes to his record.
The fastest man from Oakville, Ontario, hasn’t had the best luck at his home race. That’s OK, because his story is still being written. Due to a season-ending injury sustained practicing for the 2015 Indy 500, James Hinchcliffe’s last race in Toronto was back in 2014. His best finish is 8th place- something he achieved twice. Coincidently, both of these 8th place finishes occurred during the first race of the double-header weekends in 2013 and 2014.
James Hinchcliffe grew up idolizing the late Greg Moore, and he pays tribute to him by emulating Moore’s tradition of wearing red racing gloves. We lost Greg Moore far too early in a crash at Fontana back in 1999, but in the brief time he was with us, he gave us some memorable moments. Moore had mixed results in Toronto. He finished fourth as a rookie back in 1996, 11th in 1998, and retired in both 1997 and 1999. He did, however, win the Toronto Indy Lights race back in 1995- a record setting season that saw him win 10 out of 12 races on route to the Indy Lights championship.
Ironically, Andrew Ranger’s best moments in Toronto didn’t happen in an IndyCar. After two years at the top of American open-wheel racing, Ranger made a career pivot to stock cars, joining the NASCAR Pinty’s Series. Ranger won the Toronto NASCAR support races in 2010 and 2011. The series took a sabbatical from racing in Toronto after 2011, but returns to the ticket for 2016.
Other notable drivers: Jacques Villeneuve Senior- the uncle of Jacques Villeneuve, was the sole Canadian driver in the inaugural Toronto Indy back in 1986. His 24th finish didn’t set the world on fire, but a young Torontonian named Scott Goodyear would crack the top-10 the following year with an 8th place finish. John Jones of Thunder Bay would best the result in 1988, finishing 7th.
Victor Genova is the host of the Media People Podcast and a freelance racing writer. @VicGenova