By Steve Wittich

The introduction of doubleheader Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires races in Toronto coincided with the introduction of the IL-15 three years ago, and all three years have seen twofold trips to victory lane.

The pair of races has also played an essential role in the championship over the same time period.

Last year, Kyle Kaiser won both races and grew his points lead from 13 to 51. A big enough lead that the Juncos Racing driver would be able to hold off a charging Santi Urrutia.

In 2016, it was Belardi Auto Racing’s Felix Rosenqvist that dominated the weekend. The championship story that year it wasn’t about the eventual champion scoring the most points but was about Ed Jones closest competitors not being able to take advantage of mediocre fifth and sixth place finishes. The current Chip Ganassi Racing driver entered the weekend with a 23 point lead his closest competitor, Dean Stoneman and was able to leave the “Great White North” with a 24 point lead.

In 2015, current Ed Carpenter Racing Indy Car driver Spencer Pigot trailed Jack Harvey by 24 points when the series visited Ontario. A pair of wins by the American moved him to within 11 points of the British driver, who he eventually overhauled to win the $1 million Mazda Motorsports scholarship.

The eventual champion has won on the streets surrounding Exhibition a total of 11 times.

The Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires series has a long history in Toronto. Fabrizio Barbazza won during the event’s inaugural weekend in 1986, and the top level American Open Wheel Series is scheduled to contest their 28th and 29th race in Toronto.

Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires winners in Toronto

2017 Race #2 Kyle Kaiser Juncos Racing
2017 Race #1 Kyle Kaiser Juncos Racing
2016 Race #2 Felix Rosenqvist Belardi Auto Racing
2016 Race #1 Felix Rosenqvist Belardi Auto Racing
2015 Race #2 Spencer Pigot Juncos Racing
2015 Race #1 Spencer Pigot Juncos Racing
2014 Alex Baron Belardi Auto Racing
2013 Jack Hawksworth Schmidt Peterson Motorsports
2012 Gustavo Yacaman Team Moore
2011 Stefan Wilson Andretti Autosport
2010 J.K. Vernay Schmidt Peterson Motorsports
2009 Sebastian Saavedra Andretti Autosport
2001 Townsend Bell Dorricott Racing
1999 Geoff Boss Lucas Motorsports
1998 Guy Smith Johansson Motorsports
1997 Helio Castroneves Tasman Motorsports
1996 Gaulter Salles Brian Stewart Racing
1995 Greg Moore Forsythe Racing
1994 Steve Roberston Tasman Motorsports
1993 Bryan Herta Tasman Motorsports
1992 Bryan Herta Landford Racing
1991 P. J. Jones Landford Racing
1990 Paul Tracy Landford Racing
1989 Gary Rubio Performance Motorsports
1988 Calvin Fish Douglas Sheirson Racing
1987 Tommy Byrne OPAR Racing
1986 Fabrizio Barbazza Arciero Racing Team

A dominant victory from pole in which Patricio O’Ward led every lap reduced the Andretti Autosport rookies championship gap from 17 points to 8 points over his sophomore Andretti Steinbrenner Racing teammate Colton Herta as the series heads “north of the border” for the Cooper Tires Indy Lights Grand Prix of Toronto Presented by Allied Building Products.

Herta, whose dad won two Indy Lights races in Toronto, is riding a streak of eight straight podiums, and told TSO that the championship is something he thinks about, saying:

“Obviously, you think about it. But not incredibly. It seems like every weekend either Pato or I are winning. You just have to win, and if you win, you’ll win the championship. It’s tough to have a bad weekend. You have to finish first or second and that’s what I’ve done the past four or five weekends. I just need to continue do that.”

After a little thought, the 19-year-old modified his Toronto expectation just a little bit, adding:

Pato has been super strong on street courses. That is somewhere that I can improve. I need to minimize mistakes, and I don’t need too much risk in Toronto. I need to take care of the car.”

The 19-year-old O’Ward will be making his first foray onto the unique street circuit in Indy Lights equipment, but does have three podiums in four Pro Mazda Presented By Cooper Tire starts in Toronto.

Patricio O’Ward get ready for the 100 Lap Indy Lights race at Iowa Speedway (Photo courtesy of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography)

The native of Monterey, Mexico understands that there is still a lot of laps to be run before the $1 million Mazda Motorsports Scholarship will be handed out.

“There are seven races to go,” said the four-time winner so far this year. If you have one bad weekend, it’ll shoot you down (the standings). We just have to make sure if he have a bad one, it’s not that bad and is on the podium. If we have a good weekend, we have to capitalize and get some poles, lead laps and get race wins and we’ll be good for Portland.”

Speaking of poles and leading laps, O’Ward currently leads Herta by a count of 11-3 in bonus points scored. One point is on offer for winning the pole and another for leading the most laps, meaning there are still 14 more bonus points to be handed out.

One thing that teammates O’Ward and Herta will need to overcome is Andretti Autosport’s lack of recent Indy Lights results in Toronto. The team has two wins, two poles, and five podiums, but it’s been eight races since their last rostrum and Stefan Wilson in 2011 was the team’s last win.

Stefan Wilson gets congratulated in victory lane in Toronto by his brother Justin Wilson. The younger Wilson was the last Andretti Autosport Indy Lights winner in Toronto (Photo courtesy of INDYCAR)

After Sunday’s race at Iowa Speedway Belardi Auto Racing’s Santi Urrutia, who is 49 points adrift of Herta, admitted that he needs to start racking up wins. The Uruguayan’s team has three Indy Lights wins in Toronto, but despite an impressive four top fives in six starts is still looking for his first win in Canada.

The combination of Juncos Racing and Victor Franzoni’s past successes on the 1.786-mile, 11-turn Exhibition Place street circuit should give the Brazilian, who trails Herta by 67 points, an excellent chance to visit the top step of the podium.

Since the introduction of the IL-15 Juncos Racing has won four of six race, collected seven podiums and led 106 laps.

In six previous Mazda Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires starts in Toronto, the 22-year-old has a win, two podiums, and five top ten finishes.

Andretti Autosport veteran Dalton Kellett will be the only Indy Lights driver racing in front of a home crowd and past years are any indication, there will be plenty of people sporting the distinctive teal and black K-Line gear. The Queen University graduate is also set to announce an exciting partnership with STEM Foundation Ten80 Education this weekend.

“I’m very excited for the Indy Toronto this weekend,” explained the Toronto born Kellett. “This is my hometown race and that makes it my favorite event on the calendar outside of Indy. The track itself is a lot of fun. It’s a true street course – with many pavement transitions and lots of bumps which is always a challenge. It looks like some sections have been repaved, so I’m excited to see how those play out. We had good pace here last year so we’re looking forward to continuing with that and I’m excited to see all of the enthusiastic Toronto fans. I think this is one of the best events as far as fan engagement goes – everybody involved does a great job at putting on a great show. We have a lot going on this weekend with a new partnerships coming onboard so I’m excited to see those progress as time goes on and look for more updates on that in the upcoming days.”

Rounding out the entry list is a pair of series sophomores.

Belardi Auto Racing’s Aaron Telitz has a pair of wins, four podiums, and six top-five finishes on the 1.786-mile, 11-turn Exhibition Place street circuit.

Ryan Norman finished sixth and tenth in two races with Andretti Autosport last year.

Some more nuggets of information

  • Patricio O’Ward has led a lap in nine of ten races so far in 2018. The only race he has failed to lead was the first race at Road America. He leads Colton Herta in laps led during the 2018 season by a 243-52 margin.
  • It’s been four years, and seven races since a driver from a stable other than Belardi Auto Racing or Juncos Racing won on the 1.786-mile, 11-turn Exhibition Place street circuit.
  • A total of 15 different teams have won on shores of Lake Ontario. Landford/Brian Stewart Racing and Juncos Racing each have four victories.
  • Dalton Kellett would only be the third Canadian to win an Indy Lights race in Toronto. Paul Tracy won in 1990, and Greg Moore won in 1995. Highlights from Tracy win is below.

  • A total of 31 teams have had drivers stand on the Indy Lights podium in Toronto. Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with nine is followed by active teams Belardi Auto Racing and Juncos Racing with seven each.

Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires weekend schedule


  • 11:45 AM – 12:15 PM – Indy Lights Autograph Session
  • 1:30 PM – 2:15 PM – Indy Lights Practice #1


  • 8:35 AM – 9:05 AM – Indy Lights Qualifying #1
  • 12:40PM – 1:40 PM – Indy Lights Race #1


  • 9:05 AM – 9:35 AM – Indy Lights Qualifying #2
  • 12:25 PM – 1:25 PM – Indy Lights Race #2


Don’t miss any of the action:

The Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires race will air following the Honda Indy Toronto on NBCSN at 6 PM (ET) on Sunday, June 15th.