Justin Wilson has won before on the streets of Toronto, and he's ready for an encore performance in the wake of his first IndyCar Series triumph.
"Everyone's on a high after Watkins Glen," Wilson said Friday after turning the second-fastest lap in afternoon practice for the Honda Indy Toronto. "We've done well on the other street courses this year and we're looking forward to carry all that momentum forward this weekend. We know what it takes to win at this track."
A strong neck for one. The 11-turn, 1.75-mile layout on the temporary street course at Exhibition Center promises to be a challenge in Sunday's 85-lap race for every driver in the 23-car field.
"It's really bumpy," said Wilson, who won his first open-wheel race here, in Champ Car, in 2005. "You get thrown about, hit your head on the headrest. It takes a second or two to refocus."
Wilson led 49 of 60 laps last Sunday in a dominant victory over the undulating, high-speed road course at Watkins Glen. It was the first victory for Dale Coyne Racing since Coyne started his team in 1984 and the first triumph this season by a driver not from Team Penske or Target Chip Ganassi Racing.
"We want to keep going," Wilson said. "We'd love to get a second win in as many weeks, try to keep on that high."
Sunday's race will be the first in Toronto for the IndyCar Series, and it's a homecoming of sorts for two Canadian drivers seeking full-time rides, homegrown hero Paul Tracy of KV Racing and Conquest Racing's Alex Tagliani of Montreal. Combined, they have just seven starts this season, but both have the most experience on Toronto's street course. Tracy has competed on it 16 times _ he won in 1993 and 2003 _ and Tagliani seven.
"It's great to be back in front of the hometown crowd," Tracy said. "For us, last weekend at Watkins Glen was a getting-ready race for this weekend. Being out of the car on a road course for a year, when I got into the practice here I was ready to go. We had a good session. It came back right away _ like riding a bicycle. Hopefully, we put on a good race, but the focus is to be back in the car full time."
"Paul's looking really good," said former open-wheel star Al Unser Jr., now a full-time driver coach for the series. "Here in Toronto he knows the circuit. He's going to be strong, somebody to contend with on race day."
Count Raphael Matos of upstart Luczo Dragon Racing as another. The 27-year-old Brazilian, vying for rookie of the year, was the class of the field in afternoon practice.
"We were able to make good progress, especially this last session," said Matos, who earned six championships in a variety of go-kart series in his native Brazil before landing a full-time ride in IndyCar. "We've had some great performances. It's just a matter of putting all the pieces together and making sure I'm at the top of my game and qualify well (on Saturday). We're capable of doing it (winning)."
Through nine of 17 races, Matos is 13th in points. He has three top-10s, with a best finish of sixth at Milwaukee, and trails Robert Doornbos by one point for rookie of the year.
Points leader Scott Dixon and his closest pursuers _ Ganassi teammate Dario Franchitti, and the Penske duo of Ryan Briscoe and Helio Castroneves _ were bunched on the speed charts, with Dixon eighth, Castroneves seventh, Franchitti sixth and Briscoe fifth.
Castroneves, Dixon and Franchitti have a combined 12 starts in Toronto to zero for Briscoe, so the flat street course is an uphill battle of sorts for the Australian star.
"I've really been learning the track today," Briscoe said. "It's a challenging, very technical street circuit. I think it's going to be a difficult race for everyone to be consistent."
Will Power, third-fastest in practice in his part-time ride with Penske, and Franchitti are the only other drivers in the field to win here.