Monday, July 9, 2012

Red Hot Hunter-Reay Wins INDYCAR Toronto Street Race


A race weekend where hot temperatures tested everyone from the drivers, crews, fans right to the vendors at the temporary street course set up within the Canadian city of Toronto, the 2012 Honda Indy staged its own heat wave with the sensational IZOD INDYCAR Series. The hottest driver in the paddock area prior to the open wheel racing tour's arrival in Toronto has been Ryan Hunter-Reay, the pilot of the #28 Andretti Autosport machine. Winning at the Milwaukee Mile and on the Iowa Speedway, the return to road course racing could be seen as a potential obstacle to winning three races in a row.

Another Andretti Autosport also had much of the attention of the 2012 Honda Indy. Hometown native James Hinchcliffe arrived wearing the high-profile sponsorship for what is his second IZOD INDYCAR appearance on the street course. After a painful Friday where Hinchcliffe was bit by a sour Chevrolet engine inside his #27 car, James Hinchcliffe would start 19th on Sunday as a result of a series mandated penalty for an unapproved engine change. Along with Hinchcliffe representing Canada at the Honda Indy, Alex Tagliani was also present driving for Bryan Herta Autosport. Tagliani would start 16th in the #98 car after he was penalized for an engine change from the previous race.

Fastest around the 1.755-mile road temporary street course around the CNE grounds of Toronto, Dario Franchitti bettered his own lead through Friday practice with a qualifying effort of 59.351 seconds. Will Power, Justin Wilson, Sebastien Bourdais and Scott Dixon rounded out the top-5 in qualifying setting the field for the 85 laps for Sunday.

On a Sunday where the humidity has brought some much-desired relief to everyone in the area, the Honda Indy Toronto race for the IZOD INDYCAR Series started under a bright summer sky with the #10 car of Dario Franchitti shooting to an advantage early.

Photo Credit: Phillip Abbott. LAT Photo USA/Honda

On lap 6, the front row-sitting #12 Penske Racing car of Will Power swept past Franchitti. While losing the lead of the Honda Indy race early was a minor setback for Target Chip Ganassi Racing, a more terminal problem affected Dario Franchitti's teammate Scott Dixon. On lap 7, the #9 car lost power into turn 1 as the Honda engine expired. The winner of the last street race, Dixon settled with a last place finish in the 25-car field in Toronto.

While last year's Honda Indy event left many remembering a rough and tumble affair, the first caution in the 2012 race would not occur until lap 24 when the #38 Chip Ganassi Racing car of Graham Rahal met the turn 1 wall. A full course yellow winding up in the middle of a pit stop cycle for the racing grid, the top-7 cars at that time in the event had not pitted ahead of the caution. A group that included Will Power and Dario Franchitti, those vehicles pitted once the pits opened on lap 25. While the Penske Racing team were able to send Power back out quickly, the same was not said for the pit crew #10 Target Chip Ganassi. With Dario Franchitti pitting too far from the wall, the crew were forced jack up the Dallara-Honda simply to move the car within range of the fueling hose. Franchitti left the pits far back in the field and would never fully recover through the event.

When the Honda Indy restarted on lap 27, the IZOD INDYCAR field launched back into competition with one major exception. In front of a crowd eager to see James Hinchcliffe charge from 19th place through the course of the afternoon, engine troubles once again plagued the #27 Andretti Autosport team. While the team tried determinedly to return Hinchcliffe to his long-prized race, the Honda Indy ended for Toronto driver who left his race car somberly.

Leading continuously for 23 laps, Simon Pagenaud was at the front with the #77 Honda-powered machine in his rookie appearance in Toronto. With exception to the winner of the inaugural 1986 race winner Bobby Rahal, a first-time driver had never won the Toronto street event. Pagenaud or any other rookie year would not change that statistic in 2012.


On lap 49, the Andretti Autosport #28 car piloted by Ryan Hunter-Reay took the lead for 6 laps before pitting on lap 55. After the #4 Panther Racing car of JR Hildebrand was able to hold the race's lead for a lap before his pit stop, Hunter-Reay retook the top spot in the Honda Indy.

The #28 Chevrolet-engined vehicle stormed around the street course in a comfortable lead while other front-running competitors suffered faults late in the event. On lap 66, the #18 car of Justin Wilson (who was running steadily in the top-5 at the time) wacked the frontstratch wall of the Honda Indy circuit hard. Losing power, Wilson coasted his race car to the pits retiring from competition. While that incident did not require a full course caution, Josef Newgarden's #67 car getting pinned into a spin-out in turn 3 would result in the double yellow flag conditions on lap 80. Newgarden had been running a strong 4th place for the Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing team.

With the full course caution setting up a 3-lap finale for the Honda Indy Toronto, Ryan Hunter-Reay had to fend off the charge of others wishing to pounce for the lead in this pivotal time in the event. As Hunter-Reau launched perfectly when the green flag flew for the restart, it was a battle for the runner-up spot as #7 Dragon Racing car of Sebastien Bourdais flew past Charlie Kimball's #83 Chip Ganassi Racing entry as they head tightly into turn 1 with the added challenge coming from Mike Conway. Close quarter racing that would result the #14 of Conway making contact with the #83 which, in turn, made contact with the #7 car. Bourdais received the worst of the incident with his Dragon Racing Dallara-Chevy knocked into the tire barrier.

While the #7 car was stopped in turn 1, the calamity of late laps led into a wild hustle for competitors heading into turn 3. Ryan Briscoe and Dario Franchitti made contact that also led to a secondary incident on the corner involving Marco Andretti, Simon Pagenaud along with several other competitors. 
Under yellow and checkered flags, Ryan Hunter-Reay won his third straight IZOD INDYCAR Series race for Andretti Autosport. " I think we'd rather just keep doing this." Hunter-Reay joyous after winning the 2012 Honda Indy Toronto. The #28 Andretti Autosport driver added, "This is awesome. There's a championship run going on right now. I'm a part of it as much as everybody on this team is and they did excellent pit stops. They gave me the car to win today. We had it when it mattered again - at the end."


Joining Ryan Hunter-Reay on the podium were two first-timers for 2012. Grabbing his career-highest IZOD INDYCAR Series finish, Charlie Kimball was the shining light for the Chip Ganassi Racing team who largely endured a dismal outing on Sunday. Kimball managed to continue a podium streak for the Chip Ganassi Racing squad at the Honda Indy Toronto event stretching back to when the race fell under INDYCAR sanctioning in 2009. In third place was Mike Conway who delivered the AJ Foyt Racing team its first podium since the 2010 Sao Paulo INDYCAR race.

Photo Credit: Perry Nelson LAT Photo USA/Honda

Troubles for Will Power and Scott Dixon during the course of the event combined with Ryan Hunter-Reay's finish at the Honda Indy Toronto vaunted the American into the series points lead resting 34 markers ahead of Power. Helio Castroneves also met fortune in the points standings after the 85-lap street race. Traditionally an event that his been harsh on Castroneves, the Brazilian result of 6th allowed him to overcome Scott Dixon for 3rd place in the overall points tally.
With James Hinchcliffe out of the event ahead of one-third distance, Alex Tagliani carried the Canadian flag to a 10th place finish on his #98 Bryan Herta Autosport racing machine. "I think we had a fast car but we never had the chance to prove it." said Tagliani and the team were fighting numerous issues to finish the 2012 Honda Indy Toronto in the top-10. "We had a wing problem early on, then some tire pressure and then finally when the car was good we didn't have sixth gear. I'm very proud." Tagliani said in post-race. Despite the fact Canadian fans were not able to see the maple leaf flag flying for a podium driver at this Toronto race, the winner is well-connected to the area of the Honda Indy. His mother was a native of nearby Hamilton, Ontario and Ryan Hunter-Reay has several relatives still residing within the Toronto area.   
Remaining in Canada, the IZOD INDYCAR Series next visit is to the Edmonton City Centre Airport for July 22nd's Edmonton Indy.

Honda Indy Toronto
Race Results

Car # Driver Driver Nationality Race Team Engine
1 28 Ryan Hunter-Reay United States Andretti Autosport Chevrolet
2 83 Charlie Kimball United States Chip Ganassi Racing Honda
3 14 Mike Conway England AJ Foyt Enterprises Honda
4 11 Tony Kanaan Brazil KV Racing Technology Chevrolet
5 22 Oriol Servia Spain Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Chevrolet
6 3 Helio Castroneves Brazil Team Penske Chevrolet
7 4 JR Hildebrand United States Panther Racing Chevrolet
8 19 James Jakes England Dale Coyne Racing Honda
9 15 Takuma Sato Japan Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda
10 98 Alex Tagliani Canada Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb Agajanian Honda
11 8 Rubens Barrichello Brazil KV Racing Technology Chevrolet
12 77 Simon Pagenaud France Schmidt-Hamilton Motorsports Honda
13 67 Josef Newgarden United States Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Honda
14 6 Sebastien Bourdais France Dragon Racing Chevrolet
15 12 Will Power Australia Team Penske Chevrolet
16 26 Marco Andretti United States Andretti Autosport Chevrolet
17 10 Dario Franchitti Scotland Target/Chip Ganassi Racing Honda
18 20 Ed Carpenter United States Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet
19 2 Ryan Briscoe Australia Team Penske Chevrolet
20 5 EJ Viso Venezuela KV Racing Technology Chevrolet
21 18 Justin Wilson England Dale Coyne Racing Honda
22 27 James Hinchcliffe Canada Andretti Autosport Chevrolet
23 38 Graham Rahal United States Chip Ganassi Racing Honda
24 78 Simona de Silvestro Switzerland Lotus-HVM Racing Lotus
25 9 Scott Dixon New Zealand Target/Chip Ganassi Racing Honda

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