Saturday qualifying puts MSR Hondas 13th and 20th
Toronto, Ontario (15 June 2023) – After recruiting Tom Blomqvist on short notice to substitute for the recovering Simon Pagenaud in Toronto following a brutal accident at Mid-Ohio, the 2022 IMSA Champion has impressed the team with his rapid gains that he has made in his INDYCAR SERIES debut.
With just one single day of INDYCAR testing under his belt (October 2021) ahead of the weekend, Blomqvist made the most of the Toronto track time as he clocked in 63 laps before his first INDYCAR qualifying run on Saturday. And to add to his already growing lists of firsts, Blomqvist had the added challenge of a sudden downpour just minutes before he was set to take the track for his 10-minute qualifying session.
“The rain definitely spiced things up for my baptism of fire, let’s say,” said Blomqvist. “I survived, which is the most important thing. I am learning every step of the way. I think now I have about two hours and 10-minutes of driving in the car, so it’s always a steep learning curve for me.”
Bringing the No. 60 AutoNation / SiriusXM Honda home in one piece after a tricky session, Blomqvist qualified 20th out of IndyCar’s 27 car field. Of the 27 drivers racing in Toronto, 15 of them qualified 18th or lower in their debut INDYCAR race, with eight of them starting 20th or lower.
The NBC broadcast team (the race will be aired on Peacock on Sunday, 1:30pm ET) pointed out that multi-discipline standouts including Kevin Magnussen, Scott McLoughlin and Jimmie Johnson all started 21st in their respective debut IndyCar races.
Tasked with learning a new car and new race series on one of the most difficult circuits on the calendar, Blomqvist’s efforts have not gone unnoticed by MSR owner Mike Shank.
“I put him in the car as a test, I wanted to see how he adapted to something that was totally different,” said Shank. “I know he can be hard on himself – all drivers want to be up front – but we are happy with where he is at. He is progressing just like we wanted him to and making all the right strides to keep improving. We’ve definitely thrown a lot at him and it’s been like drinking from a fire hose for him, but he’s doing great, and just where we thought he would be.”
Blomqvist’s MSR teammate Helio Castroneves will start on the seventh row in 13th after just missing out on the transfer by seven one-hundredths of a second in his No. 06 AutoNation / SiriusXM Honda. The qualifying run marks his his best qualifying result of the season.
Not only is Castroneves focusing on his own season, but he has been a valued resource for Blomqvist as he continues to learn the nuances of IndyCar.
“I have to say, INDYCAR is the most competitive series in the world that I have competed in, in a long time,” said Castroneves. “He’s [Tom] done an incredible job jumping in, not hitting the walls, giving feedback and most importantly getting the experience. Now, throwing in the rain during qualifying he has really shown his potential. I know the team doesn’t have expectations for him this weekend, they just want to see him improve and take in as much as he can, and I think he is doing just that. I’m really happy to see him get this experience and do what he’s doing and I think he’s only going to improve during the race tomorrow.”
Meyer Shank Racing will look to regroup overnight and get prepared for Sunday’s 85-lap Honda Indy Toronto with live coverage beginning at 1:30pm ET on Peacock. SiriusXM will also host live IndyCar Radio coverage on XM Ch. 160.