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Green Flag: Honda Indy Toronto – INDYCAR

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After missing two years due to issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic, race day for the Honda Indy Toronto returns to the NTT INDYCAR SERIES today. The action begins at 3 p.m. (ET) on Peacock Premium and the INDYCAR Radio Network, with the rolling start of 25 cars expected at 3:30 p.m.

This event at Exhibition Place is one of the oldest on the sport’s schedule, with the first race won by Bobby Rahal held in 1986. Only Indianapolis Motor Speedway (1911), the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course (1980), Road America (1982), WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca (1983) and the streets of Long Beach, California (1984) can trace their series roots further back, and the Toronto circuit ranks fourth among these in number of series races staged (this will be the 36th).

The fans that some consider the most passionate in the series are back in masses, too. Large crowds were seen Friday and Saturday, and the promoter is expecting another terrific turnout today.

The weather is doing its part, too, with sunshine splashing down on the 11-turn, 1.786-mile temporary street circuit a few miles west of downtown.

Drivers, start your engines!

Herta Leads a Competitive Field

Colton Herta (No. 26 Gainbridge Honda of Andretti Autosport with Curb-Agajanian) won the NTT P1 Award Saturday, ending a streak of nine consecutive different pole winners to start the season. That’s one short of the sport’s all-time record set in 1952.

What it says is, this field is as competitive as any in sports, and that should be on display today.

While Herta posted a monster lap in Saturday’s qualifying session – 59.2696 seconds – a total of nine drivers delivered laps under the one-minute mark. Scott Dixon (No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda) was less than a tenth of a second off Herta’s pace, and Josef Newgarden (No. 2 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet) was only a couple blinks behind Dixon.

Dixon and Will Power (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet) have each won three times on the track that last hosted the NTT INDYCAR SERIES in 2019. Newgarden has won twice.

Simon Pagenaud won the 2019 race for Team Penske, and he will be looking to continue his run of strong finishes at this track – fifth, second and first in his last three outings – in the No. 60 AutoNation/SiriusXM Honda of Meyer Shank Racing.

No other driver in this field has won on this track, but there certainly are many capable of doing so. Fifteen of the 25 drivers set to compete have won races in this series.

Newbies Throughout the Field

Because the Toronto event was not held in 2020 and 2021, more than half of the field has not raced an NTT INDYCAR SERIES car at this track.

Rookie David Malukas (No. 18 HMD Honda of Dale Coyne Racing with HMD), the No. 5 qualifier, leads the group of drivers who have no such experience on this track, although the Chicago native raced on the circuit in junior formulas, including Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires in 2019.

Toronto native Devlin DeFrancesco, who will start a career-best 12th in the No. 29 PowerTap Honda of Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport, is among the seven drivers who will make their first Toronto start of any kind today.

The other first-timers are rookie Christian Lundgaard (No. 30 HUB International Honda of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing), reigning series champion Alex Palou (No. 10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda), Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Carvana Chip Ganassi Racing Honda), Scott McLaughlin (No. 3 XPEL Team Penske Chevrolet), rookie Callum Ilott (No. 77 Juncos Hollinger Racing Chevrolet) and Romain Grosjean (No. 28 DHL Honda of Andretti Autosport.

Four series rookies start in the top 12. All four have their highest starting positions. Ilott rolls off seventh, Lundgaard 10th.

Small Confines, Action Aplenty

The weekend has already seen its share of cars sliding, with some either scuffing the wall or hitting it with enough force to require a significant amount of work from the respective crews.

Now, throw 25 eager drivers into a tight space, with those temporary barriers positioned on either side of the racing line. It can create trouble.

“It’s definitely a track known for a lot of mayhem,” Power said.

Said Dixon: “This (track) is pretty technical and … the best grip is against the wall, so the closer you get (to the wall) the faster you go. It’s a hard one to kind of judge. It’s going to be an attrition race with some cautions here and there.”

The 2019 race saw a big dustup on the opening lap when Power tried to overtake Graham Rahal in Turn 8.

Andretti Autosport will look to avoid the troubles it had at Mid-Ohio with its drivers tangling. But all four start in the top 12 – Grosjean and DeFrancesco occupy the sixth row — so that’s something else to watch today.

The Temps in the Tires

Racing in Toronto brings a different challenge to Firestone, which has to consider summer heat and humidity when choosing its tire compounds for NTT INDYCAR SERIES races.

The weather in Toronto typically cooler than in the U.S.

“The Toronto climate brings much more mild temperatures than our typical summer race in the U.S., demonstrating our street tire’s versatility as we (brought) the same Firestone Firehawk primary and alternate compounds and constructions as the 2022 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Pete race tires,” said Cara Krstolic, director of Race Tire Engineering and Production, Bridgestone Americas Motorsports.

McLaughlin’s crew remains the leader in the Firestone Pit Stop Performance Award standings. Points are awarded after each race based on the shortest amount of accumulated time in pit lane during a race, and the point allocation mirrors race points. McLaughlin’s group leads Dixon’s No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda by 48 points.

The Ed Carpenter Racing crew of Rinus VeeKay (No. 21 Bitcoin Racing Team with BitNile Chevrolet) was the top point scorer in the July 3 race at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

VeeKay Leads Warmup

Rinus VeeKay led the 30-minute warmup this morning in the No. 21 Bitcoin Racing Team with BitNile Chevrolet, a bit of an eye-opener since he will start 20th this afternoon after a disappointing qualifying session Saturday. VeeKay’s best lap was 59.8987 seconds.

SEE: Warmup Results

Alexander Rossi was the only other driver to crack the one-minute barrier in the session, second at 59.9439 in the No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS/AutoNation Honda. Reigning series champion Alex Palou was third at 1:00.1391 in the No. 10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.

NTT P1 Award winner Colton Herta ended up 11th at 1:00.6008 in an eventful session in the No. 26 Gainbridge Honda. Herta stalled while trying to exit his pit box on the tight Toronto pit lane, and he also triggered the only red flag of the session by locking his brakes entering Turn 3 and stalling in the run-off area. Herta made no contact during the incident and returned to the circuit after the AMR INDYCAR Safety Team restarted his car.

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Rafael Nadal announces he will not be playing at the Canadian Open

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Montreal, Canada- 22 Grand Slam champion, Rafael Nadal, has announced that he will not be playing at the Canadian Open which kicks off this weekend.

Nadal cited that the reason to abandon the Canadian Open was a result of an abundance of caution regarding injury concerns.

“From the vacation days and my subsequent return to training, everything has gone well these weeks. Four days ago, I also started training my serve and yesterday, after training, I had a little discomfort that was still there today.

We have decided not to travel to Montreal and continue with the training sessions without forcing ourselves. I sincerely thank the tournament director, Eugene, and his entire team for the understanding and support they have always shown me, and today was no exception.

I hope to play again in Montreal, a tournament that I love and that I have won five times in front of an audience that has always welcomed me with great affection. I have no choice but to be prudent at this point and think about health,” said the Spaniard.

Last month, Nadal was forced to withdraw from his Wimbledon semifinal against Nick Kyrgios due to an abdominal injury.

Meanwhile, Novak Djokovic has also withdrawn from the Canadian Open as his status as unvaccinated against COVID-19 means he cannot enter the country.

Djokovic is also unlikely to play at the US Open after organizers said they would respect the American government rules over travel for unvaccinated players as the United States (US) requires non-citizens to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to enter.

“Per the Grand Slam Rule Book, all eligible players are automatically entered into the men’s and women’s singles main draw fields based on ranking 42 days prior to the first Monday of the event.

The US Open does not have a vaccination mandate in place for players, but it will respect the US government’s position regarding travel into the country for unvaccinated non-US citizens,” read a statement from the US Open which is set to take place in New York from the 29th of August to the 11th of September, 2022.

Nevertheless, Novak Djokovic will be joining Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray to play for Team Europe in the Laver Cup.

The event, which pits six European players against six from Team World over three days, will take place in London between 23 and 25 September 2022.

“It’s the only (event) where you play in a team with guys you are normally competing against. To be joining Rafa, Roger and Andy, three of my biggest all-time rivals, it’s going to be a truly unique moment in the history of our sport,” said Djokovic.

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Canada beats Sweden to claim gold in Hlinka Gretzky Cup – Sportsnet.ca

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RED DEER, Alta. — Canada scored early and often and also stayed out of the penalty box en route to a 4-1 victory over Sweden in the gold-medal final of the Hlinka Gretzky Cup.

Tanner Howe, Ethan Gauthier, Calum Ritchie and Brayden Yager scored for the Canadians, who held period leads of 2-1 and 3-1 at the Peavey Mart Centrium on Saturday. Riley Heidt also chipped in with two assists for the champions.

Hugo Pettersson scored for Sweden, who were outshot 36-26. Each team received eight minutes in penalties.

Canada had beaten Sweden 3-0 on Aug. 3.

“Three weeks ago, we put this roster together and I felt right away this was a tight group,” said head coach Stephane Julien. “It’s not easy when you have this much talent, but everyone accepted their role and I’m so happy for them.”

The win is Canada’s first gold medal since 2018, the last time this tournament was held in Canada.

“I’m so happy for this group,” added Julien. “They haven’t had it easy in their careers the last two years with the pandemic, but now they have this, a gold medal and something they are going to remember for the rest of their career.”

Canada advanced to the final with a 4-1 win over Finland, while Sweden defeated Czechia 6-2. Finland beat Czechia 3-1 in Saturday’s bronze-medal final.

The Hlinka Gretzky Cup will shift to Europe in 2023, returning to Breclav and Piestany, Czechia for the first time since 2021. 

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Hockey Canada’s board chair Michael Brind’Amour steps down

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CALGARY — The chair of Hockey Canada’s board of directors has resigned.

Michael Brind’Amour has stepped down effective immediately, Hockey Canada said Saturday in a statement.

The organization is under intense scrutiny for its handling of sexual assault allegations against members of previous men’s junior teams.

“I have listened carefully and intently to the comments of Canadians about the culture of our sport and our organization, and about our actions and leadership,” Brind’Amour said in the statement. “I understand that the actions we have taken in recent weeks are part of the solution.

“My final term ends in November 2022, and I know that there is no need to wait for a new era. Immediate action is essential to address the important challenges facing our organization and our sport, which our Action Plan works to accomplish.

“I would not be able to see this renewal through.”

Brind’Amour was elected board chair in 2018.

The federal government froze Hockey Canada’s funding after it was revealed the organization had quietly settled a lawsuit with a woman who alleged she was sexually assaulted by members of the 2018 men’s junior team at Hockey Canada gala in London, Ont., that year.

Since then, Hockey Canada has said members of the 2003 junior team are under investigation for alleged sexual assault in Nova Scotia.

Canada’s sports minister Pascale St-Onge is withholding funds until she’s satisfied Hockey Canada meets her conditions, which were a financial audit of the organization, producing the recommendations of a third-party law firm review and an action plan for change, as well as signing onto the office of the new sports integrity commissioner.

Sheldon Kennedy, a former NHL player and victim rights advocate, was among those calling for Hockey Canada leadership to step down.

Brind’Amour is the first to do so.

“We’re starting to see cracks in the fortress, and that’s how the light gets in,” St-Onge said Saturday in Niagara Falls, Ont., where she met with provincial and territorial sports leaders on the eve of the Canada Games.

“Canadians have sent a clear message to Hockey Canada that real leadership change is needed and this is at all levels within the organization.

“I agree also with Michael Brind’Amour’s statement today . . . that there is no need to wait for a new era and immediate action is essential.

“I still believe, as many do, that more diversity is needed to address the culture of silence and toxic masculinity within the organization and the sport.”

Brind’Amour’s resignation also follows Hockey Canada’s appointment Thursday of former Canadian Supreme Court judge Thomas Cromwell to review the governance of the country’s governing body of hockey.

The review is expected to provide interim recommendations before Hockey Canada’s annual general meeting in November.

Brind’Amour said he leaves confident that Cromwell taking on that work “will help us make the changes that are needed. I am confident the recommendations will guide the organization into a future of desired change.”

Also, Canada’s 13 provincial hockey federations requested earlier this week an “extraordinary meeting” with the embattled national body.

Led by Hockey Quebec, the 10 provincial and three territorial associations want more information on the handling of the sexual assault allegations.

Hockey Canada had maintained a fund drawing on minor hockey membership fees to pay for uninsured liabilities, including sexual abuse claims.

The organization has stated it will no longer use its “national equity fund” to settle sexual assault claims.

The provincial and territorial hockey associations have threatened to withhold payment without answers.

“It’s not my job to speak on behalf of the Ontario Hockey Federation,” Ontario minister of tourism, culture and sport Neil Lumsden said at Saturday’s news conference.

“But it is as (St-Onge) said, it is our jobs to eliminate unacceptable behaviour of any kind in sport. Our job, and as we’ve spent a lot of time talking about, is to find ways to do that and to do it in the right way.”

Hockey Canada’s board of directors will meet in the coming days to determine next steps following Brind’Amour’s resignation, and appoint an interim chair, the organization said in its statement.

The next board election is scheduled for November’s annual general meeting.

“The board needs to reassess whether the people that are on the directors board are the right people to implement that change,” St-Onge said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 6, 2022.

 

The Canadian Press

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