Broken car parts, bruised egos, and all-around calamity were the order of the day in Toronto over the weekend, so much so that Dan Wheldon and Wally Dallenbach joked in the broadcast booth that the pace car actually led the most laps on the day (it actually tied with Will Power in that category at 32 laps, in case you’re curious).
The confines of Toronto have historically been carnage-laden. Tight streets and a couple of inviting corners is a recipe for a crash-fest. Sunday’s event, though, took it a different extreme.
After the first half of the Honda Indy Toronto ran smoothly, mayhem ensued from the midway point onward. A total of eight cautions were thrown for 32 laps (hence why the pace car led 32 circuits) and more than 20 drivers crashed, spun, or cut tires during the 85-lap affair. Demolition Derby? Sounds about right.
Several have already pointed to the double-file restarts as the culprit, but it once again comes to down the drivers giving each other necessary respect. There’s a fine line between driving properly aggressive and simply trying to bulldoze your way through the field.
The first half of the race was a display in proper aggression. James Hinchcliffe climbed from 13th to tenth and Paul Tracy from 24th to 15th in the opening stint. Scott Dixon also put on a clinic of intelligent and aggressive driving as he charged back through the field.
However, beyond those examples, the event was a demonstration in crashing (last year’s Honda Indy Toronto was also a crash-fest in its own right without double-file restarts, so those can’t bare much of the blame).
Fingers can be pointed at double-file restarts and the track as causes for of Sunday’s mayhem. But, when you get down to it, it’s still about the drivers. They cannot be consumed be the so-called “Red Mist,” as I’ve described in the past. Remember: to finish first, you must first finish.
Power/Franchitti Title Fight Turns Ugly
Up until this weekend, the budding rivalry between Will Power and Dario Franchitti had been pretty cordial. Neither spoke poorly of the other, or their respective teams, and each had raced the other clean on the racetrack, not once making coming into contact.
All of that changed on lap 57 when Franchitti tried pass Power entering turn three, only for the Aussie to spin off the Scotsman’s left-front. Franchitti continued on to claim the victory while Power voiced his displeasure of the incident post-race. “Pretty dirty move, just turns me around,” he said while watching the replay. He continued, “I’ve always raced him clean and he’s always racing me dirty. He did the same thing to me St. Pete, but I didn’t saying anything, and he did it again today.” Power also voiced his displeasure at Franchitti’s lack of a penalty (though the shower of boos Franchitti received in victory lane says the Court of Public Opinion has penalized him).
Power’s frustration is understandable. Momentum was on his side following Texas, but the last three races have seen it all swing back in favor of Franchitti. Pit woes and now driving error (though not on his part) have resulted in Power losing his point, as he now sits 55 points out of the lead.
However, their contact did not warrant a penalty. Earlier in the race, at the same spot, Ryan Briscoe bumped and Tony Kanaan, but did not receive a penalty. Helio Castroneves also bumped and spun Alex Tagliani at the same corner later on, but did not receive a penalty. Brian Barnhart, Tony Cotman, and Al Unser Jr. hadn’t issued any sort of a penalty all day for incidents like that. To issue one then would highlight the lack of penalties earlier and create a storm of criticism for picking and choosing who deserved a penalty for incidents that were basically identical.
How the rumor leaked that Franchitti may receive a penalty is a different matter, and one the needs fixing at that. To have conflicting reports added exponentially to an already hot topic from Sunday. Regardless, though, based on how they had officiated the race to that point, Franchitti did not deserve a penalty.
Moving forward, Franchitti’s immense lead in the championship (55 points) almost seems insurmountable. And why not? Franchitti rarely makes mistakes and should not run worse than the top five throughout the rest of the season. But, we all remember how big a lead Power had last season, and it all unraveled in the final four races. Fortunes can change quickly and this championship is far from over, especially given the added tension in their rivalry.
Mistake-Free Leads to Good Days
For all of the chaos on Sunday, lost in it were very good runs for drivers who needed them. The aforementioned Scott Dixon ran well to overcome he and team’s strategic woes to finish second, and did so without spinning or crashing into anyone. Vitor Meira came back from an earlier clash with Paul Tracy to finish fifth, a nice comeback after a tough stretch of ovals with A.J. Foyt. Sebastien Bourdais rebounded from an abysmal first four races to have a very strong weekend for Dale Coyne and finish sixth. J.R. Hildebrand moved from 22nd all the way to eighth, his best road/street course result so far as he and Panther Racing continue to improve. Simona de Silvestro impressed as well, returning to the series after suffering a concussion to finish 10th.
What’s more, they all did it without incident (we’ll forgive Meira’s crash because it wasn’t his fault, and Dixon’s slight contact as he passed Hildebrand was a case of “No harm no foul”). They all remembered that golden rule about making sure you finish and they all earned good results because of it. On a day where everyone else succumbed to that “Red Mist,” this group deserves kudos for keeping their heads clear.