The Frontstretch: IndyCar Recap: 2 In Toronto by Huston Ladner -- Monday July 15, 2013

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IndyCar Recap: 2 In Toronto

Huston Ladner · Monday July 15, 2013

 

In A Nutshell: Who could have seen that coming – Scott Dixon with a sweep of the weekend? In the first race, Dixon held pace at the front but battled his way to the win by passing Sebastien Bourdais in the closing laps and holding on through a late restart. Dixon drove away from everyone in the second race and after a full-course caution with two laps to go rode across the finish line under caution to win both – and an extra $100,000 for doing so.

Scott Dixon was all smiles Sunday after completing a sweep of the doubleheader races out in Toronto.

In the first race, Dixon was followed by Bourdais, Dario Franchitti, Marco Andretti and Tony Kanaan. Will Power, who was vying for fourth, ended up pinched between Franchitti and the wall and lost his car going into turn 3, and finishing 15th. Any possible run up the standings for him was lost in that maneuver.

In the second race, Helio Castroneves made gains on his sixth-place finish the day before to earn second. Bourdais again made his way to the podium, in third, while Franchitti and E.J. Viso comprised the rest of the top five. Just to keep a theme going, Power was again in the top five when, during the restart with two laps to go, he got punted and again failed to finish the race. It’s quite likely that Power, at this point, has had enough of this season.

Key Moment: Dixon’s wise use of the push-to-pass feature is what won him the race on Saturday. While trailing Bourdais with but a scant amount of laps remaining, and with Bourdais out of the pushes, Dixon closed in on him, hit the button, and drove cleanly around to put himself in first. Whatever the Ganassi team learned on Saturday, they put to good use on Sunday as it seemed that no one was in Dixon’s league. Furthermore, Franchitti, after getting off sequence with early tire and wing troubles, was able to drive his way through the field and almost make the podium.

Highlight Reel

- Dixon has now won three straight races. With Ryan Hunter-Reay faltering in Toronto, Dixon has leapt into the second spot in the championship. The battle between the two stalwarts in IndyCar, Ganassi and Penske, has resumed for the stretch of the last six races.

- Ah yes, Mr. Hunter-Reay, the defending champion. He’d rather forget Toronto after two subpar races. With mechanical and pit issues that relegated him to an 18th place finish, Hunter-Reay followed that by running a mostly clean race until he got into the back of Power and retired in 19th. Sure, he slipped from second in the points to third, but now he’s 69 points behind Helio Castroneves.

- Dario Franchitti wasn’t able to keep pace with his teammate, but his results indicate that Ganassi is now making up for what has been a ho-hum season. His two top fives this weekend follow his third-place result at Pocono and are the reason that he’s moved into seventh in points after being out of the top ten for most of the season. With all that being noted, Franchitti is also the best example of the strange regulating issues in IndyCar.

- After the first race, IndyCar hit Franchitti with a penalty for contact with Power. And then they didn’t. Um, OK. In the second race, Franchitti drove but one lap on the soft, red-walled tires. Regulations state that a driver must do two laps. At first, there was mention of a possible penalty. And then, there wasn’t. While regulating a sport, or anything for that matter, always brings strange cases, the Franchitti rulings must leave much of the field, and fans for that matter, baffled.

- An atta boy to Marco Andretti. By finishing fourth and eighth, he’s moved into fourth in points, coming back from a mini-slump, and now sits just one point behind his teammate in the standings. While it’s likely that he won’t win the championship this year, his strong outings show his continued maturation as a driver and showcases the potential for things to come.

- The much bally-hooed standing start in the first race was aborted. The series, however, made the smart decision to turn Sunday’s race into a second attempt at making a go of it. Who knew that the series could make such an intelligent move? Furthermore, the start had to be considered a success and something that should be instituted at more road courses.

- After suffering through much of the season with disappointing results, the Honda engines have now cut into Chevrolet’s dominance. It’s not wholly surprising as the engineers have been trying to figure out a way, but it’s good for the sport to see that aspect of the racing become more competitive.

- Steve Matchet, who usually covers Formula One for NBCSN, served as part of the commentary crew for both races. His presence was a welcome addition, as the usual enthusiasm and insight he brings to the other series was on showcase here. The network would be wise to continue using him in this capacity – even if he might not want to ride shotgun with Townsend Bell as they preview the track.

Dixon’s sweep left him second in the IndyCar Series standings, shaking up the points and putting Penske and Ganassi in position to battle yet again with six races left to go.

Notable Driver: He finished second in the Indy 500 and since then, little has been made of him. But Carlos Munoz got an excellent opportunity to demonstrate his talents again after Ryan Briscoe fractured his wrist in the first race. Munoz was contending for a top ten before late-race scrums knocked him back to 17th. He’s leading the points in Indy Lights and looks like a young driver set to move up and contend.

From the Twittersphere:
Here’s the ramblings in 140 characters or less:

Dario Franchitti @dariofranchitti
Last thought before the plane takes off for London, thanks to all the fans who came out to watch the race, I love racing in Toronto!!

Graham Rahal @GrahamRahal
Congrats to @scottdixon9. I was fortunate to be a teammate of his and see just how incredibly talented he is, and an even better guy.

Ryan Hunter-Reay @RyanHunterReay
Terrible weekend on track for us, but great to be back in Toronto. Huge turnout, thanks to everyone who came out, made it a great event.

James Hinchcliffe @Hinchtown
Obviously not the day we wanted but can’t thank TO enough for the love and support! This is the greatest city with the best fans! Next year!

Sébastien Bourdais ‏@BourdaisOnTrack
P3!!! // 3ème!!! #2inTO

What’s Next: The series takes a few weeks off before returning at the Hondy Indy 200, another non-oval. The three week break seems a little long (and another reason to harp on how the schedule is developed), but perhaps the break will act as a conceptual reset button for a number of teams, looking at you Rahal Racing, and allow for teams to come back with all their latest adjustments. The race will be on August 4, at 3 EST on NBCSN

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