Five things to watch: Honda Indy Toronto

1. Fatigue

Counting qualifying and practice sessions during May at Indianapolis, the race in Toronto marks the 10th consecutive weekend in which the IndyCar Series has been on track somewhere.

While a stretch like this is typical in NASCAR, many IndyCar teams do not have the resources or personnel to handle such a schedule without some exhaustion setting in.

“It's brutal," said Helio Castroneves about the schedule to USA Today. “You can see everybody is wearing out."

Unfortunately, IndyCar's condensed schedule to wrap up the season by Labor Day to avoid the NFL (as if that is a direct competitor for viewers) forces the series to squeeze some tracks in on inopportune dates.

The one saving grace this weekend is that Toronto is not a doubleheader, as it has been the last few years. The city's hosting of the Pan Am Games in July forced the IndyCar event to move from mid-July to mid-June and cut to just one race.

With crew members, mechanics and drivers jumping around the country and from ovals to street and road circuits over the last 2 1/2 months, it wouldn't be surprising to see some uncharacteristic errors on the track and in the pits this weekend.

2. Return of Hinchtown – sort of

James Hinchcliffe took to Twitter on Thursday to announce that he had gotten clearance from his doctor to travel and will return to his home country this weekend for the race festivities.

His plan to take it easy and stay out of the limelight were dashed when later on Thursday it was released that “Hinchtown" would be the grand marshal for the race.

Whether he is highly visible around the track this weekend or not, the fact that Hinchcliffe is well enough to travel is astounding after his life-threatening wreck May 18 at Indianapolis.

The 28-year-old Canadian said in an interview with SportsNet that he was given 14 pints of blood from the time he was extracted from his car to when he arrived at Methodist Hospital after his crash.

He referred to himself as the “luckiest unlucky guy" to reporters this week when discussing his injury, which will likely keep him out of the car the remainder of this season.

3. Here comes Dixon

In 2013, Scott Dixon continued his improbable comeback from outside contention for the series championship to contender with a pair of victories at Toronto.

After a win last week at Texas, Dixon looks to build some championship momentum with another good showing at Exhibition Place.

He enters the weekend third in points, 43 behind leader Juan Pablo Montoya and eight behind Will Power.

Over the last five Toronto races, Dixon has finished in the top five in four of them.

If he can continue his charge, the Penske duo of Montoya and Power will really begin to feel the heat.

4. Americans lurking

From fifth through eighth in the season standings are three Americans who have been strong over the last several races.

Graham Rahal is fifth and has been the best-performing Honda for most of the year. He is still looking for his first victory since 2008 but has four top fives to his credit this year, the most for the Ohio native since the 2009 season.

Marco Andretti (sixth) enters the weekend with four consecutive top-six finishes, including second- and fifth-place finishes two weeks ago on the road course in Detroit. The month-long stretch is the best in his IndyCar career.

Josef Newgarden (eighth in points) has finished ninth or better in four of the seven road and street course races this season, including a dominating week at Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama.

All three could compete for a podium at Toronto, but a strong qualifying effort is key.

5. Turn 1 excitement

Drivers were anything but patient at the start of both races at Detroit in the wet, with several incidents going down in the slow corners on track.

At Exhibition Place, with Turn 1 looks to be an area that could see some carnage develop.

The beauty of the course is that there are quite a few passing zones compared with most street courses, which means drivers could be a bit more patient at the start of the race, even on a dry track with nice weather expected Sunday.

Don't hold your breath, however. Justin Kenny/News-Sentinel

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