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Losing grip on the championship

by
Chris Estrada
| Jul 09, 2012

 

 
It isn’t hard to figure out what goes into winning a title: Hard work, talent, determination, and a little bit of luck. All of these things are necessary and needed at one point or another in the creation of champions.
 
Will Power, Scott Dixon, James Hinchcliffe and Dario Franchitti certainly have the hard work, determination and talent bits down. But if any of them are going to come out on top in the current battle for the IZOD IndyCar Series championship, they’ll need some luck to come to them in the last five races.
 
None of them had it Sunday in Toronto.
 
Power entered Canada with just a three-point lead over Ryan Hunter-Reay, and even with the extended run of road/street racing that will take the series up to the season finale in September, he couldn’t afford a mishap. Unfortunately, he suffered two of them.
 
While a good amount of the field pitted early on their first stints, Power stayed out and in the lead. But when the caution came out on Lap 24 for Graham Rahal going into the Turn 1 wall, Power was forced to give up track position for service.
 
That threw Power into mid-pack, which is not a great place to be on a street course that produces as much trouble at Toronto can. Sure enough, trouble found him when previous contact with Josef Newgarden caused a piece of his front wing to break and puncture his left front tire. After getting new tires on Lap 57, Power tried to initially drive with the damaged wing but had to make an extra stop to replace it on Lap 60.
 
Going a lap down, he was never a factor after that. He finished 15th and went down 34 markers to the surging Ryan Hunter-Reay, who won his third race in a row.
 
“We did a good job on fuel but unfortunately, we stayed out and got caught,” said Power of the decision to stay out on the first stint – a call that Penske Racing’s Tim Cindric would rue on Twitter in post-race.
 
“Feel bad 4 
@12WillPower and the #12 team.I shouldn't have waited so long 2 pit on 1st stop.Got caught by the closed pit.Put him n bad spot,” Cindric tweeted.
 
The Team Penske bunch was far from the only ones to suffer in Toronto. Their arch-rivals at Target Chip Ganassi Racing also ran into major problems.
 
Scott Dixon came to Toronto just 15 points back of Power in third place, but left one spot back and much farther off new points leader Hunter-Reay (54 points) after his Honda engine gave up the ghost just seven laps into the contest.
 
Dixon received a double-whammy out of that, as the failed motor was his fifth and final “fresh” motor allotted to him for the season. Per INDYCAR rules, he’ll now have to face a 10-spot grid penalty for the Edmonton Indy in two weeks – which could put his title hopes in serious jeopardy.
 
His teammate, Dario Franchitti, didn’t end up much better, finishing 17th after getting caught in an incident with Ryan Briscoe on what would be the final restart of the day. Unless something massive occurs, Franchitti’s bid for a fifth IZOD IndyCar Series championship has to be considered finished now.
 
But perhaps the biggest heartbreak of all lies with Toronto’s newest racing hero, James Hinchcliffe, who was knocked off the race track due to mechanical gremlins after just 28 laps.
 
With Paul Tracy missing his first “Toronto Indy” since 1992, Hinchcliffe was thrust into the spotlight in his hometown race. His sponsor, GoDaddy.com, went on an all-out ad blitz for him, plastering the Mayor of Hinchtown’s face in just about every nook and cranny of the city.
 
However, on the track, his weekend was largely disappointing with an engine change on Friday forcing him to starting 19th after the obligatory 10-spot grid penalty. On Race Day, he appeared to have a strong pace and peeled off several positions in the early going, but he was forced to bow out when his second motor of the weekend lost power.
 
Still, he managed to give a wave to his fellow Torontonians after climbing out of the car, which triggered a loud cheer from the crowd.
 
“It's a heart ache to go out early here,” said Hinchcliffe, who now sits 67 points behind Hunter-Reay in fifth place. “The whole weekend has been incredible - all the support from everybody here in Toronto. Like I've said, it's the best city in the world, I love coming here to race and thank you to everybody for the support. This has been awesome.”
 
In two weeks, Hinch will get another chance to put the Maple Leaf on top of the podium in his homeland. But for now, he and the other title contenders that were unable to get out of Toronto unscathed will have to ponder over what they’ll need to do – and what luck they’ll need to have – in order to change the championship once again at Edmonton.

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