Although it’s not impossible, it is hard to find an NTT IndyCar Series team featuring zero changes to its personnel at the Honda Indy Toronto event.
Strict immigration requirements for entry into Canada have altered the look of the paddock as notable absences throughout the field have come as a result of the country’s COVID-19 vaccination mandate for its visitors. It means that, in many cases, fresh faces will be pressed into service on timing stands and during pit stops on Sunday which could add a few unexpected wrinkles to the show as 25 drivers go racing for 85 laps around the tricky street circuit.
“Yeah, I would say we’ve maybe got eight or nine guys out in total, but the meat of the team is intact” Graham Rahal told RACER of the three-car Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing team. “I just walked by someone wiping down the cabinets in the trailer who I’ve never seen before, but overall, we’re prepared.
“There’s a lot of different guys filling in to help, which is good, but it is a variable this weekend and we aren’t blaming anybody who can’t be here… I know they feel super bad about it, but everybody’s coming together and getting on with the job.”
Ed Carpenter Racing team president Tim Broyles says the recent addition of a part-time entry run for Paretta Autosport worked out in ECR’s favor for Toronto. With Paretta’s Simona De Silvestro scheduled to return in August, the crew that recently ran the No. 16 Chevy was ready to step across to the Nos. 20 and 21 Chevys and keep Conor Daly and Rinus VeeKay motoring without interruption.
“We knew what we had to deal with — who couldn’t go — and had a lot of time to plan for this, so nobody was caught off guard,” he added. “What’s helped is having some of these guys that have been actively doing pitstops on a on a third entry for us who are drilled and can jump right in to support our drivers this weekend.
“Going from three to two cars for this event made it easier for us versus Andretti, probably, who always run four cars, and if they’re down a bunch of guys, it’s probably harder for them to pull people in. We always have our spare guys practice pit stops all the time and can step into various positions, kind of like a utility infielder. We have guys that we feel…can step in and we won’t skip a beat.”
With a dedicated IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship program it fields alongside its IndyCar effort, Meyer Shank Racing has the same ability as Chip Ganassi Racing, Team Penske, and RLL, to draw from a wider personnel base for any short-term needs like the one found in Toronto.
“I just didn’t know what to expect with this new world we live in and the curveball at the border, so we just decided to get a little more proactive with it and having the IMSA program really gave us some flexibility,” Shank said. “If we ended up needing a bunch of people in our case, we had the options available to us, but we were really fortunate.
“We were just here for the IMSA race at Mosport, and from the two teams and two races, we’ve only had one person miss out. I can tell you this — two of my IMSA guys practiced IndyCar pit stops all week leading up to this just in case we had any problems when we got to the border and needed to call back to get them up here.”
Rahal will have a new fueler on his No. 15 Honda for the event, and there are plenty of other drivers who will have a new person or two going over the wall to service their cars in Canada. Thankfully the RLL team leader says the high state of training and preparation throughout the series is where he and his rivals should find comfort on Sunday.
“Our team does pitstop practice with everybody, so not only the Nos. 15, 30, and 45 crews, but we always have the shop-based guys practicing with my trainer and our pitstop coach with the idea being that if somebody does go down, we’ve got backups,” Rahal said.
“I think you’ll find most of the teams here are the same way, so it might not be all the same people who do the stops together each weekend, but they’ve trained together doing them at the shop. I know nerves and all of those things can play a role at any time, but I feel like we’re pretty prepared.”