Dario Franchitti won his fourth race of the season, and his third Toronto Indy car race, when he won the silver anniversary Honda Indy Toronto at the CNE Sunday afternoon.
It was a wild and wooly 25th anniversary race with numerous caution flags following many rear-enders and fender-benders (although Indy cars don`t have fenders, but you get the drift).
There was so much damage to some cars that teams had to improvise. Danica Patrick for instance, finished the race with her green GoDaddy No. 7 car "wearing" the spare Dr. Pepper brown nosecone normally on teammate Marco Andretti`s car.
Patrick had a bad day. She finished in the top ten the last two times she raced in Toronto.
Scott Dixon finished second, with Ryan Hunter-Reay third, Marco Andretti fourth and Vitor Meira fifth.
James Hinchcliffe was top Canadian in 14th place. Paul Tracy was 16th and Alex Tagliani was 23rd.
Top woman was Simona De Silvestro in 10th place, followed by Ana Beatriz in 11th. Patrick finished 19th, two laps down.
There were a lot of bad feelings after the race, with most drivers insulting other drivers, if given the opportunity. Graham Rahal, for instance, made a reference to drivers strapping on their helmets and losing their brains.
Will Power, who was eliminated after colliding with Franchitti, called him a dirty driver. Franchitti said later that if he`d been in Power`s shoes, he`d have been angry too.
But he said he was not a dirty driver and said other people in the paddock would back him up on that. He said he was willing to take 50 per cent of the blame for the incident, but not much more.
Franchitti first won this IndyCar race two years ago but also won the Toronto Molson Indy in 1999 when he was driving for Team KOOL Green in CART. He first raced in Toronto in 1997 and won the pole that year.
Franchitti, one of the most talented drivers in the world, has won the IndyCar championship the last two years. The year before, he went to NASCAR (he broke his foot in a wreck and the team lost its sponsors, making the experience less than stellar) and the year prior to that - 2007 - he won the IndyCar title.
Which means, in short, he`s won the championship every time he`s contested it in the last four years.
It's obvious that the cars are too powerful for the tight confines of the CNE/Lake Shore Blvd. track. Rarely did the field get through turn 3 - at the end of Lake Shore - without incident, which interrupted the rhythm of the race time and again.
The organizers would do well to pay for the city to widen the road into the Ex grounds, at that juncture.
Dan Aykroyd, who was the grand marshal, said he was stopped for speeding as he came off the Don Valley Parkway at Richmond St. After explaining where he was going, he said the officer let him off with a warning.
This is reminiscent of a similar incident that happened after the first Molson Indy back in 1986. Emerson Fittipaldi was flying up Highway 427 en route to Pearson to catch a plane. The cop pulled him over and, after approaching, said: "Who do you think you are, Emerson Fittipaldi?" And Fittipaldi answwered: "As a matter of fact, I am."
He got a warning too.
Earlier, Stefan Wilson, younger brother of IZOD IndyCar Series star Justin Wilson, won the Firestone Indy Lights race in a car owned by Michael Andretti, who won seven Molson Indy races over the years.
It was a “first time” for both Andretti and Wilson – Andretti, of Nazareth, Pa., as a Lights car owner in Toronto and Wilson, of Sheffield, England, as a driver in the series.
Peter Dempsey of Ashbourne, Ireland, finished second and Gustvao Yakaman, of Santiago de Cali, Colombia, was third.
Esteban Guerrieri of Buenos Aires, the series leader, was enjoying a comfortable lead when he spun and stalled. By the time he got the car running again, he was last but managed to gather himself and his car together and fought back to finish fourth.
David Ostella of Maple, the only Canadian in the race (his car owner, Eric Jensen of Toronto, toyed with driving a second Jensen Motorsport entry in the race but decided he wasn’t in shape for the 50-lap grind), started last in the 13-car field and was trying a pass for eighth place when he lost control and hit the tire wall at turn eight.
“I’m really disappointed,” Ostella said at his pit moments later. “The car was awesome this weekend, I have to thank the crew for that, and I was picking off cars, heading for the front.”
So what happened?
“I went to make the pass, and I went down the inside, over the bumps there, and I shifted down to second. But as I hit the bumps, the gear slipped into neutral and I lost the front end and couldn’t turn. I went straight into the tires.”
Ostella said the car wasn’t damaged – the front nose was quickly replaced – but since he’d have to start from the back again the team felt it would be better to load up the car and head for the next race in Edmonton in two weeks.
“And then we have the race at Trois-Rivieres in August,” he said. “It’s better to save the car for those other Canadian races rather than go back out and maybe damage it more in Toronto.”
How you can be wrong, dept. I watched a few moments of the British Grand Prix before heading downtown to the Honda Indy. When I got there, I went to a hospitality area for breakfast and asked about the Grand Prix.
"Oh, (a famous U.S. reporter) said it was over in the first 300 yards."
Now, I know Sebastien Vettel had rocketed out of his No. 2 starting spot and taken the lead from pole-sitter Mark Webber (both in Red Bull-Renaults) with Fernando Alonso slotting into third. I also knew that Lewis Hamilton was making quite a charge in his McLaren-Mercedes in the early going.
However, after I heard (a famous U.S. reporter) had said the race was over, etc., I forgot about it till later.
Imagine my surprise when I found out Fernando Alonso had won the British GP, his first of the season for himself and Ferrari. Fortunately, I recorded the race and was able to watch it when I got home.
It was the pit stop that did it, of course. Vettel and Alonso went in together and Alonso beat him out.
It's interesting how people see things differently. I thought Webber was perfectly justified in taking a crack at passing Vettel on the last lap, despite being told to hold station. But my wife was aghast that Webber would be so foolish. "He could have taken them both out," she said.
And the "tradin' paint" on the last corner between Hamilton and Felipe Massa shows that Hamilton must have been paying attention when he went to Watkins Glen a few weeks ago and spent time with Tony Stewart, who's been known to move a rival or two out of the way on occasion . . .
In the Castrol Canadian Touring Car Series, Richard Boake in his Subaru STI won the Super Touring class for the second time on the weekend and he was followed across the line by Quebec driver Mathieu Audette in his Acura RSX and Alex Healy, also in an Acura RSX. In Touring Class, Tom Kwok drove his Honda Civic to victory over Quebec Mini drivers Alain Lauzière and Michel Sallenbach.
Kyle Busch won the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at the new Kentucky Speedway. David Reutemann was second and Jimmie Johnson was third. The big story, however, was that they built this magnificent facility with one road in and one road out. People were lined up on the Interstate for miles and many didn't get into their seats until the race was nearly over.
Rogers Sportsnet will carry five of the remaining American Le Mans Series races this season, starting with the Grand Prix of Mosport in two weeks. In addition, live broadcasts of the ALMS events at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Road America, the inaugural Baltimore Grand Prix and the race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca will be televised.
ALMS races have not been available on TV in Canada this season.
Back at the Honda Indy, Team owner Chip Ganassi, a former Indy car driver who became a team owner more than 20 years ago, was asked if he ever misses driving in a race.
“Every second of every minute of every day,” he said, laughing. He added that although he still has the urge, he wouldn’t do it because he might look foolish (he's 52 now) and “I wouldn’t want to crash and wreck a car.”
Ganassi was attending a media conference and luncheon held by U.S. retailing giant Target, which has sponsored his teams in NASCAR and IndyCar for years and has plans to move into Canada in 2013.
Target Chip Ganassi drivers Franchitti and Dixon attended the luncheon and then went out and finished first and second in the Honda Indy.
Speaking of which, I live-blogged it. Here is how it played out Sunday, starting from the finish and going back to the beginning.
Checkered flag: Dario Franchitti wins the Honda Indy, with Scott Dixon second, Ryan Hunter-Reay third, Marco Andretti fourth and Vitor Meira fifth. It was Franchitti`s 30th career win, putting him ahead of Rick Mears and leaving him one behind Paul Tracy.
Franchitti last won this race two years ago. He also won the race in 1999 when it was a CART race.
Race steward Al Unser Jr. said after the race that there was never a penalty issued against Franchitti.
Franchitti said it was a wild race. "It was absolutely crazy," he said. He said he understands if Power is "pissed off." He said he was sorry. He said he would take more than 50 per cent of the blame for the incident. "It`s not the way I want to race."
Lap 79: Green flag with Franchitti, in the lead. Rahal is spun around by Hunter-Reay after Dixon passed him. Dixon is on the hunt and will take it to Franchitti.
With only eight laps to go in the Honda Indy, a full-course caution is out with Franchitti leading, Rahal second and Dixon third. The track is blocked in the turn one area, so the field is following the safety car through the Princes`Gates and out onto Strachan Ave., rejoining the circuit on Lake Shore Blvd.
Lap 76: Restart and a turn one pileup involving Wilson, Servia, Hinchcliffe, Conway and Kimball.
During the caution, Power unloaded on Franchitti. "He`s a dirty driver," he said. "I always race him clean and he always races me dirty." He said Franchitti is frequently critical of other drivers but then misbehaves himself. Asked about Tagliani, he said the move the Canadian made on him was typical (hitting him from behind) and then added: "He`s always been a bit of a wanker."
Lap 71: Green flag - which lasted till turn 3 and Jakes spun after Patrick hit him. Danica pushed wide and Tagliani went up and over her wheel and into the wall, nearly going upside down. Another full-course caution.
Lap 67: The order - Rahal, Franchitti, Hunter-Reay, Dixon, Wilson. Power out of the car. Power was rear-ended by Tagliani. Hinchclifffe now top Canadian in eighth.
Lap 66: Power has crashed into a tire wall. Full course caution.
IndyCar officials have changed their mind and will not penalize Franchitti after all.
Lap 62: The race is under green again with Rahal still leading, Hunter-Reay second, Franchitti third, Dixon fourth and Wilson fifth. Franchitti has not served his penalty as his boss, Chip Ganassi, is arguing the penalty.
Dario Franchitti has been assessed a drive-through penalty for avoidable contact for hitting and spinning around Will Power. He will have to drive through the pits under green-flag conditions.
Lap 55: Mike Conway rear-ended Ryan Briscoe but the ensuing crash did not result in a full-course caution. Moments later, the full-course caution did come out when Dario Franchitti hit Will Power in - where else? - turn 3.
Lap 52: Restart. Order remains the same.
Lap 51: The order - Graham Rahal, E.J. Viso, Will Power, Simona De Silvestro, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Dario Franchitti, Scott Dixon, Justin Wilson, Oriol Servia and Marco Andretti.
Lap 45: A four-car crash in turn five has brought out another caution. Tracy went to pass Vitor Mira and was blocked going into turn 3. The ensuing pileup collected Sebastien Bourdais and Charlie Kimball,
Lap 44: The halfway point of the race has been passed and there's been a bit of a shakeup at the front. Franchitti still leads with Wilson, Hunter-Reay, Servia and Marco Andretti following. Hinchcliffe is top Canadian in 13th
Lap 39: Another yellow, as James Jakes spun and stalled. On this lap, however, Tracy and Hinchcliffe, racing side-by-side, rubbed tires and both cars were damaged. Tracy went to the pits but rejoined after getting a new nose cone.
Lap 36: Green flag restart with Franchitti in front, Servia second, Justin Wilson third, Ryan Hunter-Reay fourth and Ryan Briscoe fifth. Tracy is top Canadian in eighth.
You either have rules or you don't. Notes from the IndyCar drivers' meeting distributed to the media said drivers could not even touch the white blend line coming out of the pits. Everybody leaving the pits was over that line.
And blocking is not allowed in IndyCar and yet Power clearly blocked Dixon going into turn 3 in clear violation of that rule and was not penalized. This series has got some problems in this area.
Lap 32: Helio Castroneves, who crashed Paul Tracy two years ago, did it again today when he ran into the side of Tagliani at the end of Lake Shore. Castroneves is not having a good year. Full course yellow.
Lap 25: No change in the top 5. Hinchcliffe is now top Canadian in seventh place as Tagliani pitted. Tracy was called the King of Sideways by Wheldon.
Lap 20: The race order remained the same except Servia pitted, moving Graham Rahal into fifth and Tagliani up to sixth. Hinchcliffe and Tracy, the other Canadians, are both within striking distance of the front.
Patrick gave the finger to Sato as she passed him leaving the pits. On the radio, she made mention to "I don't think he did a Tracy," which would be an oblique reference to Paul Tracy's reputation of using the "chrome horn" to get past people.
Lap 12: Power is the leader, with Dixon, Franchitti, Mike Conway and Oriol Servia following. Tagliani is in seventh.
Lap 7: Danica Patrick and Takuma Sato collided at the usual place, the end of Lake Shore. Sato's car suffered front-end damage; Patrick went to the pits. She will likely return but is now out of contention.
Lap 6: Green flag. Power still leads. Many cars, particularly those near the back of the pack, went to the pits for fuel. This strategy could pay off later.
A furious Kanaan made coo-coo signs at Briscoe as he drove past.
Lap 3: First full-course yellow. Ryan Briscoe and Tony Kanaan collided in turn 3 (the end of Lake Shore Blvd.) Kanaan went backwards into the retaining wall. No injuries.
The Start: The Honda Indy Toronto is under way and pole-sitter Will Power led the way through turn one. He jumped the start, in fact.
Dan Wheldon, Indy 500 winner, is working for the U.S. TV network Versus. He should be in a car, of course.
Comedian Dan Aykroyd, a Kingston resident who spoke warmly earlier about his late pal, Downtown Kingston fixture Wally High, gave the command to Start Engines.
Elvis Stojko, Canadian figure skating icon, was on the grid. Stojko made a point of wishing Paul Tracy good luck.
The drivers were making their usual last-minute bee-lines to the port-a-potties. Something about going 200 miles an hour seems to make racing drivers want to go, period.