Nearly 1,100 days since the last IndyCar race in Toronto, the series returns this weekend for a monumental celebration.

The last time IndyCar raced at Exhibition Place was 2019, before the pandemic took over the world. Today has been circled on the calendars of many people as the return north of the border promises to deliver another round of fantastic racing.

It has been quite the week for the open-wheel series. The messy situation at Andretti Autosport continued, after their drivers clashed at Mid-Ohio. AJ Foyt Racing had to park the No. 11 car driven by Tatiana Calderon after their sponsorship payments stopped coming through. Colton Herta had his first Formula One test with the McLaren Racing team at Portugal’s Portimão circuit, but that wasn't the biggest news to come out of McLaren this week. Not even close.

On Tuesday afternoon, Chip Ganassi Racing sent out a press release stating that they had picked up the option on Alex Palou for next season. A few hours later, McLaren put out a release of their own, saying that the reigning series champion would be joining their team in some capacity after this season. Then came the series of tweets from Palou, claiming that the quotes in the Ganassi release were not his, and that he would not be returning to the team next year due to personal reasons.

A legal battle is surely on the horizon, and the silly season has officially been flipped on its head. The chaos left many to wonder if Palou would finish out the season in the No. 10 car, but he was in the car at Toronto and the team's plan is for him to drive in the eight remaining races as he tries to win back-to-back titles. It is truly a remarkable story that will be a major focal point throughout the rest of the season.

With all of that drama producing several storylines to keep tables on, there was also action on the track today, as the 25-car field hit the pavement for a full practice session around the temporary street course.

The 2019 season was good to Alexander Rossi and Simon Pagenaud. The last time IndyCar held a race here, Rossi was fresh off his most recent victory at Road America. Pagenaud has fond memories of this place as well, winning the race from pole position. The two Honda drivers were fastest in the opening session, with Rossi posting a best lap of 60.6090 seconds.

"After two years away, it is so exciting to head back to Toronto," Rossi said. "It’s always been such an amazing event and on top of that, the energy of the city is second to none. We’ve been on the podium there in the past and will be looking to do the same again this weekend."

"We still have some work to do," Simon said. "I would like to take the car to another level. That lap took a lot of energy out of me. We have to figure out how to improve the rear end, mostly. I love this track. This section in front of the pits is just, for a driver, you need precision, and you have to be on it and so intense. It’s a lot of fun."

Another Honda driver was just a tick behind them, but it was somewhat of a surprise. Graham Rahal was at the top of the chart for most of the afternoon, and finished 3rd fastest on Friday. “We would have liked to see more pace on the reds than what we got out of it, but we also ended up in the top three,” he said. “I like to see the guys smiling again. Everybody’s worked very hard to get here, so it’s nice. She was quite good from the get-go.”

2022 Honda Indy Toronto - Practice 1 Results
Pos Driver Team Engine
1Alexander RossiAndretti AutosportHonda
2Simon PagenaudMeyer Shank RacingHonda
3Graham RahalRahal Letterman Lanigan RacingHonda
4Marcus EricssonChip Ganassi RacingHonda
5Josef NewgardenTeam PenskeChevrolet
6Felix RosenqvistArrow McLaren SPChevrolet
7Colton HertaAndretti AutosportHonda
8Scott DixonChip Ganassi RacingHonda
9Will PowerTeam PenskeChevrolet
10Alex PalouChip Ganassi RacingHonda
11Christian LundgaardRahal Letterman Lanigan RacingHonda
12Helio CastronevesMeyer Shank RacingHonda
13Takuma SatoDale Coyne w/ Rick Ware RacingHonda
14David MalukasDale Coyne w/ HMD MotosportsHonda
15Scott McLaughlinTeam PenskeChevrolet
16Romain GrosjeanAndretti AutosportHonda
17Devlin DeFrancescoAndretti AutosportHonda
18Jack HarveyRahal Letterman Lanigan RacingHonda
19Rinus VeeKayEd Carpenter RacingChevrolet
20Pato O'WardArrow McLaren SPChevrolet
21Kyle KirkwoodAJ Foyt RacingChevrolet
22Conor DalyEd Carpenter RacingChevrolet
23Callum IlottJuncos Hollinger RacingChevrolet
24Jimmie JohnsonChip Ganassi RacingHonda
25Dalton KellettAJ Foyt RacingChevrolet

Indianapolis 500 winner Marcus Ericsson was the fastest Ganassi driver today, and Josef Newgarden was the only Chevrolet-powered car inside the top five. The remainder of the top ten in practice were Felix Rosenqvist, Herta, Scott Dixon, Will Power, and Palou.

There are 12 drivers that are making their first trip to Exhibition Place, which includes rookie Callum Ilott. The talented Juncos Hollinger Racing driver was the first to find the concrete wall this weekend, when he lost the front end of his Chevrolet in Turn 1 with about 30 minutes remaining in the session. Fortunately, the damage was minimal but he lost out on some valuable track time.

There were a few more close calls during the session, as Jimmie Johnson had a harmless 360-degree spin that caused a brief red flag. With about five minutes remaining, veterans Dixon and Helio Castroneves had a hiccup in the same corner that ended with the Brazilian sliding into the tire barrier. Many more drivers had a slight kiss with the wall in different spots, but it was crisis averted for all.

There are only ten drivers competing this weekend that drove in the last race at Toronto. Half of those ten drivers are still with the same team. One of those drivers is Pagenaud, the defending race winner.

Simon was still with Team Penske that day when he drove from pole position to victory lane. The now Meyer Shank Racing driver has finished 5th, 2nd, and 1st in his last three starts here, but has not led a single lap through nine races this season. He led a grand total of 12 laps all of last season. His teammate’s last start here came in 2017.

Castroneves has never been to victory lane in his 15 starts at Toronto. Ironically enough, he has finished runner-up in three of his last six races here. Helio has led more than 100 laps and qualified on pole back in 2014 so he is certainly capable of notching that elusive victory on Sunday.

Power has always been strong on this circuit, although his last three finishes of 21st, 18th, and 18th are not quite indicative of that. Still, the qualifying king has three wins, two poles, five podium finishes, and 162 laps led at Exhibition Place. Look for him to continue his sensational season this weekend.

When it comes to the cream of the crop here, it just might be Dixon. The six-time champion has won here three times over the course of his career. He has sat on pole twice, has a pair of runner-up finishes, and has led 200 laps around this place. He is still searching for his first win this season, and that could very well come on Sunday.

Another driver that will have all eyes on him this weekend is Rossi. Not only is he a focal point because of the Andretti chaos in the last race at Mid-Ohio, but he has run exceptionally well here. Rossi has two podium finishes in his last three Toronto starts. He has not stood on the top step though, which is what he will be aiming for this weekend as he tries to snap his three-year winless drought.

The 11-turn, 1.786-mile street circuit offers scenic views of downtown Toronto and often leads to cars trying to squeeze past one other in the tight turns. The long frontstretch leading into the Prince's Gate at Turn 1 and the Lakeshore Boulevard straight leading into a hard 90-degree right-hander at Turn 3 are the best places for overtaking. Patience will be tested, and it often results in drivers ending up in tire barriers.

The action heats up tomorrow with another practice session scheduled for 10 AM ET. Qualifying will follow at 2 PM as teams and drivers jockey for starting position for Sunday's race. All on-track activity this weekend will air live on Peacock streaming.