05/14/2012 10:48 EDT | Updated 07/14/2012 05:12 EDT

Honda Indy Toronto owner Kim Green has long history with lakefront race

TORONTO - Kim Green attended the first IndyCar race in Toronto in 1986 as a mechanic. He came back as a team manager and then team owner.

Now he co-owns the race, set for July 8 this summer.

"Being biased as the (race) promoter, but it's one of the favourite stops certainly for the IndyCar series and always was ... A great place to be," Green said Monday.

Green and other organizers were at a news conference to announce that the Honda Indy Toronto has settled its immediate future via three-year contract extensions with the City of Toronto, Honda Canada, Exhibition Place, Tourism Toronto and IndyCar.

The deals cover the race through 2014.

"Big events define big cities," said David Whitaker, president and CEO of Tourism Toronto. "And whether it's Carnival or Pride parade or street festival or major music festival, this race is right up there with big-league events that happen in big-league cities.

IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard agreed that the race through the Toronto lakefront has a special place on his organization's calendar.

"Toronto is, by far, one of our very favourites," he said."It's my favourite because of our passion our drivers show here. They're not afraid to get in a few fights and let their voices be known."

Both Green and Bernard pointed to the promise of local driver James Hinchcliffe.

"I think this year is going to be that much better because of the future Canada has with James Hinchcliffe," Bernard said. "I can't stress enough how important this young man is to the Izod IndyCar Series as well as IndyCar."

The 25-year-old Hinchcliffe is currently third in the driver standings, behind leader Will Power and Helio Castroneves.

"This guy is the real deal," said Bernard. "Not only can he drive great, he has a great personality and he has one of the leading sponsors in the country in racing with Go Daddy.

Green said, at the beginning, he wasn't sure how good Hinchcliffe was. But he said he saw the light when Hinchcliffe moved to Newman/Haas Racing last year.

"Wow, this kid's good," Green recalled thinking. "Not only is he a personality and he represents his team well and his sponsors well, he's very talented.

"I think Canada's found its next Paul Tracy in my mind."

Green's driver for the first event in Toronto was Jacques Villeneuve Sr., brother of Gilles and father of Jacques.

"We didn't have a great weekend. In fact, he crashed on the pace lap coming up to take the green flag," recalled Green, who was working for Hemelgarn Racing then.

Villeneuve finished 24th and last in the race won by Bobby Rahal.

Green's company also promotes the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, the opening race of the 16-event IndyCar season, and the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio in Lexington, Ohio.

His company owns the Lexington track, which offers a full season of racing.

The other Canadian stop on the IndyCar circuit is the Edmonton Indy, set for July 22 this year.

Edmonton is currently in the second-year of a three-year deal, with options to extend. Bernard says he loves Edmonton but has challenged fans to stand behind it "because there are other markets in Canada I'd like to look at."

They have to have a good year," he added.

Possible third Canadian venues include Vancouver, Calgary and Quebec City, he said.

Bernard says his hope is to go to 19 races next year, trimming some current stops off the calendar and adding new ones.

Green's history with the Toronto race includes wins with Andretti-Green Racing and Dario Franchitti in 1999.

His last win here as a non-team owner was in 2001 when he ran the strategy for Michael Andretti in his last street race.

The head office of Green Savoree Racing Promotions, the parent company of the Honda Indy Toronto, is based in Indianapolis.

Green, a former racer himself, drives an Acura MDX these days. His biggest regret in terms of cars was selling his Honda S2000 roadster.

"What a great car to drive," he said.