IndyCar's Toronto race canceled over area's COVID struggles; replacement to be announced

·4 min read

IndyCar has undergone its fourth schedule change of the 2021 season. On Friday, Penske Entertainment Corp. president and CEO Mark Miles confirmed to IndyStar that for the second consecutive year, the paddock will not travel to Toronto for the July 9-11 race weekend as originally scheduled, due to the city, province and country's ongoing struggles to mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We will decide in due course how we will react for our schedule," Miles told IndyStar.

Additionally, he said in a series release: "To have that void for a second straight year is heartbreaking. We deeply miss our fans there and urge them to remain safe during these unprecedented times. IndyCar looks forward to a high-powered return in 2022 and for years to come.”

Friday morning, the City of Toronto announced that major events through the end of the summer had been canceled.

Simon Pagenaud drives into turn one past the Princes Gates during the 2019 Honda Indy Toronto.
Simon Pagenaud drives into turn one past the Princes Gates during the 2019 Honda Indy Toronto.

"To continue to slow the spread of COVID-19 and help provide predictability to major event organizers, the City of Toronto is extending the cancellation of in-person City-led and City-permitted outdoor events to September 6," officials said in a news release issued Friday to Toronto media.

"The City understands the importance of these events to Toronto's vitality, livability and prosperity. City staff are working in close collaboration with event organizers, who in every instance possible have been consulted on this approach and given advance notice of this decision. The City is committed to working closely with event organizers to help them manage through 2021 and come back stronger in 2022."

With the move, IndyCar will now have four consecutive off weekends and 35 days between its 10th (July 4, Mid-Ohio Race) and 11th race (Aug. 14, IMS road course doubleheader with NASCAR) of the year. An extensive break already existed during the window that NBC will dedicate nearly all of its sports coverage to the Summer Olympics in Japan that run from July 23-Aug. 8.

Series officials have stated previously that, should Toronto be taken off the schedule, IndyCar would work to add another race elsewhere in order to keep the 2021 slate at 17 races. Options nclude creating doubleheaders at Mid-Ohio and Portland -- both, along with Toronto, Green Savoree Racing Promotions-led events.

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Series officials have told IndyStar in recent weeks that, should Toronto be taken off the schedule in 2021, there wouldn't be any worry as to whether the event would fall off the calendar entirely moving forward. Events at Circuit of the Americas and Richmond were first canceled in 2020, and those races were not brought back in 2021, but Toronto is the only IndyCar event to date to have been on both calendars and removed due to complications around the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Honda Indy Toronto is one of the oldest races on the IndyCar schedule, dating back to it's debut with CART in 1986. From there, it ran uninterrupted until Champ Car and the IRL merged in 2008, when it did not run. It resumed again in 2009 and ran until 2019 before a forced cancellation due to the pandemic last summer.

Canada is experiencing another massive wave of COVID-19 cases similar in severity to what happened over the holidays and hit a peak in early January, as did much of the U.S. But while the U.S. has begun to see a decline in positive tests in recent weeks while making significant progress in vaccine availability, Canada's cases have overrun many hospitals as the country lags behind in vaccine availability.

Last month, President Joe Biden requested all states to expand vaccine availability to everyone 16-and-older, and days ago that expanded to children ages 12-15. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, on the other hand, has said that every Canadian who wishes to take the vaccine will likely have to wait until the end of September.

The province of Ontario, which includes Toronto, has also had to resort to another wave of lockdown procedures to help slow the spread until at least My 20.

There continues to be a land border closure between the U.S. and Canada barring all non-essential travel, and passengers arriving in Canada via air travel have to be tested and then quarantine in hotels for three days, paid for by travelers themselves. All those entering the country must quarantine for 14 days after entrance, even if they're not showing any symptoms, unless they provide essential services, are receiving medical care or regularly cross for work, among other circumstances. That has now been extended until at least May 21.

Email IndyStar motor sports reporter Nathan Brown at nlbrown@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter: @By_NathanBrown.

This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: IndyCar's Honda Indy Toronto race in July canceled due to COVID-19