Two-time defending Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona winner Tom Blomqvist will make his IndyCar debut this weekend in Toronto, where he will replace the injured Simon Pagenaud in the No. 60 car for Meyer Shank Racing.
Pagenaud was hurt just over a week ago during practice at Mid-Ohio, where his brakes failed and he was forced to send his car into a spin in a desperate attempt to scrub some speed. The car hit a gravel trap on the exit of a corner and rolled seven times as pieces flew into the air before finally coming to rest on its side against a barrier.
Pagenaud was examined and released from the track care center but was not approved the following day to drive in the race, and IndyCar veteran Conor Daly was drafted as a last-minute replacement. Daly completed every lap and finished 20th.
Pagenaud hoped to return in Toronto, but IndyCar's medical staff still had not cleared him to compete on Tuesday.
"Simon says he's feeling fine and absolutely ready to get back in the car once he is cleared, but he knows there is an IndyCar protocol in place to protect the drivers, so we just have to follow those guidelines," team owner Mike Shank said. "I know he was disappointed to end his long streak of starts, but everyone wants him to be as healthy as possible.
"We are fortunate to have Tom available to jump in on such short notice. He's a champion, has a little bit of experience in the car and is coming off another big IMSA win last weekend at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, so this was not a tough call for us."
Blomqvist started his career in open-wheel racing, including four seasons in Formula 3 in Europe, where at the age of 16 he broke Lewis Hamilton's record as the youngest champion of the Formula Renault UK series.
The 29-year-old British driver has primarily run sports cars and prototypes the past seven seasons, winning last year's IMSA championship with Meyer Shank Racing. But Blomqvist did have an IndyCar test last October at Sebring.
"First and foremost, I'm thinking of Simon and hoping that he recovers as quickly as possible so that he can get back behind the wheel," said Blomqvist, who has been linked to a full-time IndyCar ride with Meyer Shank Racing as soon as next season.
"I have to thank Mike and Jim [Meyer] for considering me to fill in this weekend," Blomqvist said. "I'm definitely looking forward to seeing what IndyCar has to offer. Diving straight into the deep end is an understatement after only having one test in the MSR IndyCar last year. I'm excited but aware of the challenges of getting up to speed during a race weekend, so I'm not putting any pressure on myself. Just going to go out there soak it all in and give it all I've got."
Scott Dixon is the defending champion of the Grand Prix of Toronto, which begins Friday with the first round of practice. There is another round Saturday, along with qualifying before the race on Sunday.
Blomqvist will have some veteran help in Toronto from Meyer Shank Racing teammate and four-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves, who won a lower-level Indy Lights race at the track in 1997 but has never won there in IndyCar's top level.
"I'm very excited to get back to Toronto. It's a very fun event getting to run on the streets," Castroneves said. "The team has been working so hard in the last few races to get some momentum going and I think we have made improvements and learned a lot. We will take that to Toronto this weekend and have a good race."