Exclusive INDYCAR Nation News

Chaos reigns in Toronto

Kyle Lavigne
| Jul 11, 2011
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.


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  15. 15 Lindsay Fraser 15 Jul

    I agree with mike n (July 12) and take a bit of exception to the implication that Franchitti demonstrated sub par driving while Power did not.  It is abundantly clear that Power knew very well that Franchitti was inside him. Just look at the video taken over his shoulder.  His head inclination indicates that he was looking in his right hand mirror which must have been full of red car meaning in turn that he had the option to stay out of contact.  Like Franchitti, however, he was racing and just as Franchitti saw an opening, Power had no intention of allowing him to exploit it.  To me that reads two guys racing hard, pushing their luck, and coming in contact.  The outcome is then a crap shoot as neither wanted to be there and neither had an assurance of coming out of it in one piece.  I would say that the "blame" should be equally shared.  Will's outburst was an indication of frustration rather than a reflection on his true character and hopefully he will get over it.  As for whining, I think he landed himself the points leader position with his little tantrum!  Time to move on and get back to racing instead of mouthing off!

  16. 16 Julie 13 Jul

    mike n - You can not penalize a guy just because he is leading the points standing and not penalize all the other guys who did the same boneheaded move. As for the points championship...there is just as much at stake for the guys lower down in the standings. They are trying just as hard to move up the ladder to make owners and sponsors happy. So getting knocked out the race or losing spots due to damage hurts them just as much.

    I personally think both guys were at fault and were driving like chumps at that point. Dario tried to make a risky pass and Will tried to close the gap he created when he went wide into the turn because he was breaking late. The move could have easily went bad for Dario and he could have ended up in the inside wall. In this case it was Will that was on the losing end of the move.

    IF Dario had ended up in the wall...would you expect a penalty on Will Power and would you be as critical of Penske?

  17. 17 adam wagner 13 Jul

    Although I may have disliked the crashes throughout the race I believe only 1 deserves a penalty. The only crash that was deserving was Sato running into Patrick on that straight away. We all have to remember it is a VERY tight track that probably should not be on the schedule at all or it should be opened up wider. With some of those corners, it is a recipe for disaster and the drivers cannot be falted. 

  18. 18 mike n 12 Jul
    Julie, actually I'm a Dan Wheldon fan. The reason I do not mention other drivers is the fact that they are not in this, or what was a close points race. Drivers who want to be the series champ should drive like a champ and not a chump. 
  19. 19 Julie 11 Jul

    No Mike n....Graham was punted in turn 3 by Ryan Hunter-Reay....even called him on it. Maybe the pass by Scott Dixon put Graham in the position to get hit....but it RHR that actually hit him.

    I noticed you did not mention anything about the Tony Kanaan/Ryan Briscoe incident. Penske fan maybe????

  20. 20 mike n 11 Jul
    Julie, I think Grahm was put into that position by his other Ganassi teammate Scott " ALWAYS BEHIND DARIO" Dixon.
  21. 21 Julie 11 Jul

    Wow....people seem to forget that there were incidents in the race other than the Will/Dario spin in turn 3 They also seem to be ignoring the fact that it was Tagliani NOT Darion that ultimately took Power out. From what I saw, both Will and Dario are to blame for the incident. Dario for trying to force a pass and Will for cutting in low to try to stop him from passing.

    No one seems to be upset that Ryan Briscoe did not get penalized for taking out Tony Kanaan in turn 3 or Graham Rahal getting punted into a spin by Ryan Hunter-Reay (who also did not get a penalty) in the same corner. None of them were penalized along with several others that cause incidents in that corner.

    The penalties that were called were against drivers that crashed into the back end of someone not racing each other hard in the corners...these three drivers were penalized for avoidable contact: Tagliani (for the incident that knocked Power out), Marco Andretti and Danica Patrick.

    Ultimately it does not matter what anyone says regarding who is right and who is wrong. The people who like Will or hate Ganassi are always going to find Dario at fault and the people who like Dario and hate Penske will always blame Will for the incident.

  22. 22 mike n 11 Jul
    I hope Indycar feels like it has more than made up to Dario Judd for upsetting him in Texas. I really didn't see the gentleman driver side of him that Mrs. Judd likes to brag about. I think maybe Dario Judd should take Al Unser Jr. out for a drink or two, maybe three or four....................................Hell was little Al   even sober ?   How about that great team effort to stall the restart at the end of the race by the Ganassi boys to assure enough fuel to the end. THIS SERIES IS STARTING TO SUCK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 
  23. 23 Julie 11 Jul

    Wow Dick...tell us how you really feel.

    First - There were lots of incidents in turn 3 that went unpunished...in fact most of them went unpunished. Helio (Penske) did not get a penalty for running into the back of Tags and several of the Andretti team incidents went unpunished. Why would Dario attempt to do something so stupid as intentionally spin Will when it could have taken him out too???? That make no sense. If you really watched the incident between Will and Dario you would see that Will went into Turn 3 very wide and Dario saw an opening and went for it. Will noticed the move by Dario (you can see Will look to his right just before he dropped down) and went to close the gap and got spun for trying to block him out. In an interview earlier in the week, Will Power stated that he would do just that if anyone tried to overtake him on the turns.

    Second - If Danica Patrick is such a great driver, why did she got from P2 to P10 in a couple laps at Iowa???? She had a spot on the first row and did not manage to lead a single lap!

    Third - I do not question that Will Power has a lot of talent driving on the road/street course....especially when running up front. But put him in traffic and he struggles. If he was truely a great driver, then the spin and drop down to P16 would not have been a big deal. In order to win a championship he also needs to figure out how to win an oval race...and not just one where all the main competition is in the back and he is up front. In Texas I would have been shocked if he did not win.

  24. 24 Dick Kuiper 11 Jul
    Yesterday's Indy race at Montreal spoke volumes about all the dishonesty that has become a hallmark of Indy car racing. What Indy officials and a few very dirty and despicable drivers have made a mockery of the sport – Indy officials are proving themselves idiots and cowards – they have turned a once wholesome sport into one of blatant favoritism for a few of their favorite drivers and disdain for others – like Will Power who has embarrassed Indy Car with his unexpected talent since he joined the circuit, and Danika Patrick who has proven to these macho pricks (again Indy officials) that she is probably as good a driver than any of their macho buddies on the track.
    Ryan Briscoe one of the dirtiest drivers on the circuit – and by the way – a favorite of Indy officials – purposely knocked Tony Kanaan into the wall early in the race - penalty firmly deserved but noe enforced. Tthen there was Takuma Sato purposely ramming into back of Danica Patrick and basically putting her out of contension – again no penalty or sanction. Later, Alex Tagliani also guilty of extremely dirty racing, but was given a free pass by Indy officials. Worst of all was Dario Franchitti purposely spinning out Will Power late in the race - He did the same thing to Power at St. Pete. The loud barrage of boos Franchitti received in victory lane certainly evidenced the fans displeasure of Francitti and Indy car officials as well. After the accident purposedly caused by Dario Franchitti, announcers said that he was being penalized for it and then Indy officials irresponsibly rescinded the penalty due to pressure and/or a bribe from Chip Ganassi – Al Unser demonstrated his abject stupidity by denying the Franchitti had ever been penalized in the first place (Al, who is paying you off to lie like that on a public broadcast?). All of this sums up how utterly disgusted Indy (previous) fans are becoming of the curcuit. It's no wonder that the Indy car series is a mere shadow of it's previous self and has been dramatically overrun by NASCAR (where fair racing and ifficiating are the standard with penalties and fines being handed out as they are deserved. More and more of us previous Indy fans are bailing out of Indy race broadcasts in favor of NASCAR and Formula One. On behalf of all of us, I say KISS MY ASS you dishonest pricks!

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