The strategy behind Will Power’s victory Sunday at the Honda Indy Toronto was beautiful in its simplicity, perfectly executed, but easier said than done.
“Avoid carnage and accidents,” said the Aussie Team Penske driver of his game plan going into the race.
He wasn’t joking. Power was one of the last drivers standing in what was a crash-filled race of attrition that featured six cars being towed off the track and six lead changes.
“As I predicted, it was a very wild race,” said Power after recording his fourth win in 10 races on the IZOD IndyCar series this season. “Started the first corner for me.”
Starting outside pole-sitter Justin Wilson, Dario Franchitti moved inside on him and Power dropped back.
Wilson, the underdog from Britain, was easily the day’s most dominant driver, holding the lead for 32 laps. But Power outduelled Franchitti for second during a pit stop and went around Wilson on Lap 72 of 85.
“The last restart, when I passed Justin, was the key to winning the race,” said Power. “I got a run on him. It was, I would say, a calculated but risky move to pass him because I wasn’t sure I’d make it out the other side.
“It was close, but sometimes you have to do that in racing if you want to win, and that’s what happened.”
Power had indeed avoided carnage, but Wilson spun out moments later and his race was over. He recovered to finish seventh.
“I feel sorry for him,” said Power.
Power, the series leading driver, won back-to-back races for the second time for Team Penske. Scotland’s Franchitti, last year’s winner, finished second for his fifth podium finish of the season for Target Chip Ganassi. American Ryan Hunter-Reay finished third for Andretti Autosports.
Alex Tagliani of Lachenaie, Que., was furious when Thomas Scheckter bumped him late in the race, forcing him to drop down to 17th after running in the top 10 all day. The two ran into each other last year in Toronto, with Tagliani bumping Scheckter.
“The most frustrating thing is a guy that does four races a year, you go see him, he tells you the F-word, ‘Just payback, see you later,’ ” said Tagliani. “He was, like, actually happy that he didn’t finish the race and he took us out.
“Pretty long time to keep a grudge.”
Given the day’s carnage, it’s remarkable that Toronto’s Paul Tracy somehow avoided it all.
The veteran part-time driver has a reputation for crashing — he crashed out last year — but managed to finish the race. Starting 24th among the 26 cars, Tracy finished 13th and even held the lead for 10 laps, giving the crowd some chills that the Thrill from West Hill was back.
Off the start, Tracy moved through the pack pretty easily and took the lead when leaders in the field pitted during the first caution. He was hoping a long stretch of full-out racing would follow, giving him a leg up on pit strategy.
“It’s better than 26th,” Tracy said of his finish. “We got up front there for a little bit with our strategy.”
The grandstand erupted when Tracy took the lead. But all the crashes hurt Tracy’s chances, with his pit-stop advantage vanishing. Franchitti passed him on Lap 32.
“I knew I had Dario behind me and all the main big shooters, and I didn’t want to make a mistake in front of them and cause a mistake for one of them,” said Tracy. “But I also wanted to lead as well.
“Dario had a good run on me and I had to be fair with him.”
Tracy pitted shortly after, then hurt his own cause by stalling two-thirds through the race when his rear wheels locked while braking.
“That probably cost us a top-10, top-7 position in the end,” he said of the stall. “At the end of the day, even though we were a lap down, I was running with the leaders, running the same pace as the leaders.
“We didn’t get a great finish. It was better than a lot of guys. A lot of guys ended up in the wall and spun out and damaged cars. We came home the first Canadian.”
Power might like to quarrel with that. Drivers have a habit of claiming roots in the community in which they race, and Power was no exception, saying his grandmother is Canadian, from the Edmonton area. It’s Power’s fourth career win in Canada.
“I guess you could put it down to my grandmother, who is Canadian, so I’m part Canadian,” said Power. “My uncle lives here as well.
“I love Canada.”
The grandstands were mostly full and the circuit was lined by spectators who were standing. Although the crowd numbers were far from the glory days of this race in the 1980s and ’90s, the crowd Sunday was healthy and definitely larger than a year ago.
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