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Sunday, July 18, 2010

IndyCar Race Review: Honda Indy Toronto

Will Power capitalized on a poor restart by Justin Wilson, opened up a big lead on defending race winner Dario Franchitti, and cruised to victory in today's Honda Indy Toronto. It was the fourth win of the season (all of them coming on road or street courses) for the Team Penske driver, who now holds a 42-point lead over Franchitti in the overall standings.

It was perhaps the luckiest of Power's four wins this season, however, as Wilson clearly had the car to beat all weekend. During an early practice session, Wilson had a .7-second advantage on the next best car; from there, he won the pole, and led in the early stages of the event. He only relinquished the lead during pit stops under the first caution, which came after KV Racing teammates Takuma Sato and Mario Moraes got together.

Hometown hero Paul Tracy inherited the lead on lap 18 by staying out, with Vitor Meira also choosing not to pit. Two more cautions over eight of the following 12 laps kept him there until he pit on lap 31. From there, another caution trapped Tracy in 17th, and another pit stop and a miscue while trying to pass Simona de Silvestro later in the race put him back in 13th at the finish, the first car one lap down.

Cautions were a big story of the event, especially involving KV Racing cars, which have now been involved in 20 accidents over 10 race this year. Moraes later punted Mario Romancini out of the race, leading to a drive-thru penalty from race control. And E.J. Viso ran into a spun Raphael Matos with 19 laps to go, totaling the de Ferran Dragon Racing vehicle and putting Viso three laps down in 19th at the finish.

Helio Castroneves and Scott Dixon were two of the bigger names to fall out of the event. Castroneves was a victim of early braking by Meira in the third turn after the first restart, and he went hard head-on into a tire barrier in the runoff area. Dixon touched wheels with Ryan Hunter-Reay about the same place where Castroneves and Tracy had an incident last year, and a damaged left front suspension ended his day. Both drivers were unhurt.

But as Castroneves and Dixon sat on the sidelines, they watched a good show by their teammates, Power and Franchitti. The Scotsman inherited the lead from Tracy on lap 32 and held it until a green-flag pit stop on lap 53. Power and Wilson pit the next lap, with the Dreyer & Reinbold team somehow managing to beat the renowned Penske crew out of the pits. Despite being held up by lapped traffic in that extra lap, oth managed to make up enough time on track to get ahead of Franchitti coming out of the pits, and they ran 1-2-3 as pit stops cycled through. Wilson began to open up a huge lead on Power, with the help of lapped traffic and the alternate red tires, before the fifth caution of the day.

But on the restart after the Matos-Viso incident, everything went awry for Wilson. Power pressured him on the restart, making quick work of passing his former Champ Car competitor, and Franchitti was soon in hot pursuit. Going into turn eight, Wilson came in too hot and spun the car around, allowing most of the field to get by him. Wilson would rebound for seventh at the end of the race.

In the same handful of laps, Dixon had his incident, and Tomas Scheckter and Canadian favorite Alex Tagliani drove into the tires in turn one, setting up the final restart of the day.

But Power would not yield, as he beat Franchitti to the line by 1.27 seconds. Hunter-Reay, who had been struggling with his car all day, took third, followed by Tony Kanaan and Graham Rahal, who scored his best finish of the year in his return to Newman/Haas Racing.

Andretti Autosport, at a track where team owner Michael Andretti took seven victories as a driver, had the best day of any team, with their other two cars of Danica Patrick and Marco Andretti taking sixth and eighth, respectively. Meanwhile, Simona de Silvestro and Dan Wheldon rounded out the top ten, marking de Silvestro's best finish of the year and Wheldon's fourth top-10 finish on a road or street course this season.

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