Sunday, July 31, 2011

Power Gains Envy with Edmonton Indy Win

 Photo Credit: Chris Jones

There were a lot of variables in place as the IZOD INDYCAR Series prepped for the 2011 Edmonton Indy. Due to an off-season decision by the Edmonton City Centre Airport favouring air traffic over an auto race, the annual race almost faced complete cancellation for 2011. Thanks to an efforts of many including promoters Octane Motorsports Event to preserve the race, the Edmonton Indy was relocated to another section of the airport on to a 13-turn, 2.224-mile road course.

While the new circuit presented a large unknown, the previous IZOD INDYCAR event in Toronto sent up a lot of sparks within the open wheel series between a multitude of drivers. One of the most talked about moves was the championship-affecting incident when Dario Franchitti and Will Power made contact. While Franchitti went on to the Honda Indy victory, Will Power was later collected in a fight with Alex Tagliani leaving the Australian Penske Racing driver very frustrated. Not the only driver leaving Toronto disgruntled, it remained to be seen if the same attitudes will come into play for the second Canadian IZOD INDYCAR round. With some suggesting INDYCAR officials were somewhat too permissive of avoidable contact incidents, some were also expecting the drivers could be under more scrutiny. 

The first and only truly nice day for the Edmonton Indy weekend, Friday concluded with no track activity due to heavy precipitation. Subtracting some much needed some much needed track time for the IZOD INDYCAR drivers and team, the race pace on the new surface wasn't determined until Saturday. Originally scheduling the Edmonton Indy race for 90 laps, the INDYCAR sanctioning body would be forced to shorten the event to 80 laps as they attempt to accommodate the race within the typical 2-hour window.

Taking a stunning pole position on Saturday, KV Racing Technology #5 car driven by Takuma Sato led the field to green for the 80-lap 2011 Edmonton Indy. The 26-car IZOD INDYCAR field sailed through the Edmonton Indy's infamous first turns until mayhem ensued in turn 7. Attempting to gain ground early from a 17th place starting spot, the #77 Sam Schmidt Motorsports car of Alex Tagliani aggressively dived into left turn. A less than advisable move, Tagliani's car slammed the #38 car of Graham Rahal. In a chain reaction collision, the 2011 Edmonton Indy was ended for veteran Canadian racer Paul Tracy. Driving the #8 Dragon Racing car, Tracy was clipped by Rahal resulting in race-ending damage for both drivers before they recorded a single lap. The #34 car of Sebastian Saavedra was also involved in the lap 1 mess but was able to continue the race once a 3-lap caution period concluded.

Causing the accident which resulted with Tracy and Rahal getting relegated to last place finishes, Alex Tagliani's #77 car needed only a new front wing assembly to resume racing. However, INDYCAR officials would not allow the French-Canadian driver to go without penalty. On lap 6, Tagliani submitted to a drive-through penalty as he would continue to what would amount as a 17th place finish.Tagliani became the first of three cars to be reprimanded with the "Avoidable Contact" call through the Edmonton Indy race. Despite all the carnage in the 2011 Honda Indy Toronto, there was only a single penalty issued.

Starting first, Takuma Sato made the most of his 2nd IZOD INDYCAR Series pole leading for 18 laps over the Penske Racing car of Will Power. As the IZOD INDYCAR overall drivers standings shifted from a tie to a sizable gap in only two races, Power needed to rely on his previous fortunes of the Edmonton Indy race. The winner of the 2009 race at the airport circuit, Will Power demonstrated on lap 19 an appreciation for the new course by taking the lead from Sato.

Photo Credit: Daniel Incandela

Though Alex Tagliani's penalty for contact on track, there would still be some overly aggressive attempts of overtaking by the mid stage of Edmonton Indy. On lap 27, the #27 Andretti Autosport racer piloted by Mike Conway made a dueling move for position with Newman'Haas Racing's #2 car of Oriol Servia into turn 12. Misjudging the pass, Conway collided with Servia. Drawing the race's second and last full course yellow, Mke Conway collected a drive-through penalty.

The second Newman/Haas Racing car would also become a victim of circumstance during the Edmonton Indy's lap 26 caution. The #06 car driven by rookie Canadian driver James Hinchcliffe ended up stalled on track as result of a chain reaction low-speed pile-up. "... everyone was lining up to dive into the pits everybody starting jacking around down at the hairpin, trying to brake-check everyone to get a good run into the pits to create a gap but all it does is create an accordion effect. Unfortunately I didn't see it soon enough and got into the back of Danica." Hinchcliffe said in regards to the incident. With the help of safety crew members, James Hinchcliffe was able to rejoin the race in the #06 Newman/Haas Racing car. However, both Newman/Haas Racing runners would be out of contention for worthy top-10 finishes to accompany their qualifying performances.

On the lap 29 restart, 3rd place starter Scott Dixon met the worse end of on-track contact. While Dixon was able to nurse his #9 Target-sponsored car back around the track, the Target Chip Ganassi Racing driver and crew realized damage to the Dallara required extended repairs. Taking 5 laps to repair what was believed to be a fluid leak, Dixon would finish 23rd losing a sizable amount of IZOD INDYCAR points in the overall season standings. "Unfortunately we didn't get a chance to show that speed. It was one of those deals where I could see it happening in my mirror but couldn't get out of the way. We just can't buy a break I guess." Scott Dixon responded after the race.

Starting on the pole, the #5 KV Racing Technology car piloted by Takuma Sato maintained race pace with the best of team cars presented from the stables of Penske Racing and Target/Chip Ganassi Racing. Staying in the top-5 after Will Power passed him for the lead on lap 18, Sato's green #5 car was looking fantastic at one-third race distance. Running great past the second restart, Sato's plans to finish the Edmonton Indy strong was defeated when the #28 Andretti Autosport car of Ryan Hunter-Reay spun the Lotus-sponsored #5 KV Racing Technology vehicle on the fifth turn. Though Takuma Sato suffered minimal damage, the #5 Dallara-Honda sat stalled in turn five losing a full lap. In the mid-race clashes, both Mike Conway and Ryan Hunter-Reay would seek out the impacted driver to apologize (a stark contrast to the Honda Indy Toronto where tempers were settled at a much slower pace).

With the KV Racing Technology pole sitter as well as Scott Dixon out of contention, the #12 Verizon Penske Racing machine of Will Power demonstrated his road course prowess. By lap 57, Power took affirmative control of the Edmonton Indy lead following Dario Franchitti's pit stop relinquishing the position. In the final laps, the hungry determination of Helio Castroneves pressured teammate Will Power. Finishing with a 0.8 second margin of victory, Power pulled off his second victory in three at the Edmonton Indy race. Leading 57 laps on his way to his 4th win of the 2011 IZOD INDYCAR Series, the Edmonton road course was important in reestablishing Will Power's championship fight.

An important podium for Helio Castroneves, the Edmonton Indy race was a revisit to a track the Brazilian theatrically blocked Power and was penalized by INDYCAR. Some believed the aftermath of the Edmonton race has haunted Castroneves' career since. With Penske Racing cars finishing orderly in a 1-2 finish, the 2011 event provided a much more ideal outcome for the superteam as a whole. The Penske most importantly finished ahead of the remaining Target/Chip Ganassi Racing car of Dario Franchitti.

From 4th to 6th place were drivers who all started outside of the top-10 at the Edmonton Indy event. The deepest starting KV Racing Technology car, the #82 in the hands of Tony Kanaan rose to his 5th top-10 finish in the 2011 IZOD INDYCAR Series season. In 5th, Dreyer & Reinbold Racing driver Justin Wilson improved 10 positions for a season-best run. Rounding out the last half-dozen runners, Frenchman Sebastien Bourdais collected a second straight 6th place finish. Driving the #19 Dale Coyne Racing car, Bourdais' Canadian race stint has nested his best runs in North American open wheel racing series he was champion in the Champ Car Series.

The next race for the IZOD INDYCAR race is set for Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on August 7th.

Edmonton Indy
Edmonton, Alberta
Race Results

  1. 12 Will Power/Australia/ Penske Racing
  2. 3 Helio Castroneves/Brazil/ Penske Racing
  3. 10 Dario Franchitti/Scotland/ Target/Chip Ganassi Racing
  4. 82 Tony Kanaan/Brazil/ KV Racing Technology
  5. 22 Justin Wilson/England/ Dreyer & Reinbold Racing
  6. 19 Sebastien Bourdais/France/Dale Coyne Racing
  7. 28 Ryan Hunter-Reay/United States/Andretti Autosport
  8. 27 Mike Conway/England/Andretti Autosport
  9. 7 Danica Patrick/United States/ Andretti Autosport
  10. 6 Ryan Briscoe/Australia/ Penske Racing
  11. 4 JR Hildebrand/United States/ Panther Racing
  12. 14 Vitor Meira/Brazil/ AJ Foyt Racing Enterprises
  13. 24 Ana Beatriz/Brazil/ Dreyer & Reinbold
  14. 26 Marco Andretti/United States/ Andretti Autosport
  15. 06 James Hinchcliffe/Canada/ Newman/Haas Racing
  16. 34 Sebastian Saavedra/Columbia/ Conquest Racing
  17. 77 Alex Tagliani/Canada/ Sam Schmidt Racing
  18. 18 James Jakes/England/ Dale Coyne Racing
  19. 83 Charlie Kimball/United States/ Chip Ganassi Racing
  20. 59 EJ Viso/Venezuela/ KV Racing Technology
  21. 5 Takuma Sato/Japan/ KV Racing Technology
  22. 2 Oriol Servia/Spanish/ Newman/Haas Racing
  23. 9 Scott Dixon/New Zealand/ Target/Chip Ganassi Racing
  24. 78 Simona De Silvestro/Switzerland/ HVM Racing
  25. 38 Graham Rahal/United States/Chip Ganassi Racing
  26. 8 Paul Tracy/Canada/Dragon Racing

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Revitalized Vettel Takes Hungarian Grand Prix Pole

Photo Credit: Nissan/Infiniti USA

After dominating the early part of the 2011 Formula 1 season, Sebastian Vettel had been going through what can constitute as a slump. At the past grand prix at German's Nurburgring circuit, Vettel started 4th place in the #1 Red Bull-Renault for what was his worst grid position for the 2011 season. Maintaining Red Bull Racing's undefeated streak in qualifying for the British and German Grand Prix was Vettel's teammate Mark Webber. As Sebastian Vettel leaves his home grand prix in Germany with a less than spectacular result, the reigning world champion in the Formula 1 series could have a new sense of purpose entering Budapest for the Hungarian Grand Prix.

An intense battle during Saturday qualifying saw drivers of Red Bull Racing, McLaren F1 and Scuderia Ferrari clamouring for the pole on the tight 4.381 kilometer Hungaroring track. After the Q2 session in Formula 1 qualifying for Sunday's race, the Ferrari of Fernando Alonso posted a 1 minute, 20.262 second time around the track to lead at this point in time trials. Immediately ahead of Jenson Button and Mark Webber, Alonso held the benchmark into Q3 which was quickly eclipsed.

Setting a time more than half a second faster than his Q2 session best around the Hungaroring, the McLaren-Mercedes of Jenson Button was 3rd fastest. In the second row, Button starts alongside the 4th place Felipe Massa's Ferrari and a grid row ahead of Massa's teammate Alonso. Showing strength of McLaren, Lewis Hamilton rose from 7th fastest in Q2 to 2nd quickest in the final Q3 qualifying. Hamilton's 1 minute, 19.978 second time was more than 1.2 seconds better than the previous session.

Starting from pole for the 2011 Hungarian Grand Prix is the Red Bull-Renault piloted by Sebastian Vettel. Setting top time in qualifying with a 1 minute, 19.815 second lap, Vettel like Hamilton made up considerable ground from Q2 to gain a front row spot for Sunday's grand prix. The Hungarian Grand Prix pole position for the German driver marks the 8th time in 2011 Vettel starts out front of a Formula 1 race. In the 7 previous outings where the #1 Red Bull-Renault started on the pole, Sebastian Vettel went on to win the grand prix 5 times.

2011 Formula 1
Hungarian Grand Prix
Starting Line-up
  1. 1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Racing
  2. 3 Lewis Hamilton McLaren
  3. 4 Jenson Button McLaren
  4. 6 Felipe Massa Ferrari
  5. 5 Fernando Alonso Ferrari
  6. 2 Mark Webber Red Bull Racing
  7. 8 Nico Rosberg Mercedes GP
  8. 14 Adrian Sutil Force India
  9. 7 Michael Schumacher Mercedes GP
  10. 17 Sergio Perez Sauber
  11. 13 15 Paul di Resta Force India
  12. 10 Vitaly Petrov Lotus Renault GP
  13. 16 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber
  14. 9 Nick Heidfeld Lotus Renault GP
  15. 11 Rubens Barrichello Williams F1
  16. 19 Jaime Alguersuari Scuderia Toro Rosso
  17. 8 12 Pastor Maldonado Williams F1
  18. 18 Sebastien Buemi Scuderia Toro Rosso
  19. 21 Heikki Kovalainen Team Lotus
  20. 20 Jarno Trulli Team Lotus
  21. 24 Timo Glock Marussia Virgin Racing
  22. 23 Vitantonio Liuzzi HRT F1
  23. 22 Daniel Ricciardo HRT F1
  24. 25 Jérôme D’Ambrosio Marussia Virgin Racing


Timothy Peters spins and wins at Lucas Oil Raceway

Photo Credit: Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR

By Jim Pedley
Special to Sporting News NASCAR Wire Service

(July 29, 2011)

CLERMONT, Ind.—A flat tire turned out to be one of the biggest breaks of Camping World Truck Series driver Timothy Peters’ career.

That flat tire occurred just before the halfway point in Friday night’s AAA Insurance 200 at Lucas Oil Raceway. It put him off cycle in terms of pit stops, allowed his crew to improve his truck and paved the way for Peters to take the lead with six laps to go.

Once in the lead, Peters went on to get his first victory of the season and third of his career.

"That’s what saved our night right there," Peters said.

The truck he passed with six laps to go belonged to James Buescher, who led from just past the halfway point until being overtaken by Peters.

Buescher, 21, was going for the first victory of his career in his 60th start.

"It’s definitely frustrating when you lose the lead that late," said Buescher, who led a race-high 97 laps. "Can’t get any closer to a win than that. But we had nothing for him."

David Starr was third, his first top five since October 2009 at Talladega. Rookie Miguel Paludo finished fourth, and Ron Hornaday Jr. was fifth.

Rounding out the top 10 were Matt Crafton, rookies Joey Coulter and Cole Whitt, polesitter Austin Dillon and Ross Chastain, who was making his first start.

Coulter was the last car on the lead lap as the final 107 of 200 laps were run under green. The race set a record for fewest cautions—four—for a truck race at the .686-mile track. The second caution, for 17 of the 28 laps run under yellow, was because of rain.

Peters’ fateful flat occurred just before he made contact with Steve Arpin. Peters said he didn’t even realize he had cut the tire until much later.

During the ensuing pit stop, crew chief Butch Hylton and his crew went to work with a series of adjustments to the track bar and tire pressures. Peters’ Toyota Tundra, which was slow off the truck Friday morning, came alive.

Points leader Johnny Sauter also suffered a cut tire, but he finished 23rd. He also damaged a track bar. Before those troubles, Sauter, who started the race leading the standings by 18 points over Dillon, had led 44 laps and appeared to be the driver to beat.

Dillon led 36 laps and closed to four points of Sauter. He also closed in on a postrace confrontation with Todd Bodine. The two tangled late in the race, and Dillon didn’t like it. He blocked Bodine’s way on pit road after the cool-down laps.

Bodine, who finished 12th, took the blame for the incident and apologized.

"I thought I was clear (of Dillon)," Bodine said. "Austin is the last person in the world I would do that to."

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Sato Slays Power's Qualifying Streak for Edmonton Indy Pole

Photo Credit: LAT Photo USA

For the second time in three races, Japanese driver Takuma Sato will lead a 2011 IZOD INDYCAR field to green. Adapting quickly to the new 2.556 mile, 13-turn Edmonton City Airport road course, the #5 KV Racing Technology car rounded the circuit in 1 minute, 18.5165 seconds in the Firestone Fast Six final qualifying round. Delighted with the top effort, Sato commented in the post-qualifying press conference saying "It's a very special moment for me and for the team, as well. I mean, like you said, Iowa was another great moment. My first pole. To be able to do the same thing here, it means a lot."

The result of Takuma Sato's first pole IZOD INDYCAR on a road circuit comes with the end of Penske Racing driver Will Power's pole streak on road courses. Winning 8 consecutive poles on street or permanent road courses on the IZOD INDYCAR Series, Power's streak ironically started last year at the Edmonton Indy race. In qualifying, Will Power made a valiant attempt to extend the consecutive pole run but came a little more than 5/100th of a second short. The Australian driver of the #12 Verizon Penske Racing Dallara-Honda will start 2nd place for the Sunday race. Though Will Power lost the first place starting streak on road courses, this 2011 Edmonton Indy start will be his 13th straight IZOD INDYCAR qualifying session the #12 car collected a front row position.

Starting on the second front for Sunday's 90-lap main event, the Target/Chip Ganassi Racing cars both desire to finish one row ahead on race day to repeat their Honda Indy Toronto success two weeks ago. The New Zealand driver Scott Dixon topped the overall series points leader and teammate Dario Franchitti for the 3rd place standing spot.

Along with Sato's pole-winning performance in the Edmonton Indy qualifying session, a second KV Racing Technology car collected a top-5 starting position. The #59 of EJ Viso supplied a season-best effort during the Firestone Fast Six time trial to take 5th over Penske Racing's Ryan Briscoe. The routine vanguard of the KV Racing Technology team, Tony Kanaan starts in 11th place. Last year with Andretti Autosport, Kanaan finished 12th on the old Edmonton City Airport circuit.

This year in qualifying, Ryan Hunter-Reay will lead the four-car Andretti Autosport effort from the start of the Edmonton Indy. Qualifying 7th, Hunter-Reay starts well ahead of his teammates who struggled to come to terms with the new track. Oriol Servia, Helio Castroneves and Canadian's James Hinchcliffe round out the top-10 in the IZOD INDYCAR qualifying session.

Scheduled for a 2 PM Eastern start, the Edmonton Indy will air live on Versus in the United States and TSN for Canadian television viewers.

2011 IZOD INDYCAR Series
Edmonton Indy
Starting Lineup
  1. 5 Takuma Sato/Japan/ KV Racing Technology
  2. 12 Will Power/Australia/ Penske Racing
  3. 9 Scott Dixon/New Zealand/ Target/Chip Ganassi Racing
  4. 10 Dario Franchitti/Scotland/ Target/Chip Ganassi Racing
  5. 59 EJ Viso/Venezuela/ KV Racing Technology
  6. 6 Ryan Briscoe/Australia/ Penske Racing
  7. 28 Ryan Hunter-Reay/United States/Andretti Autosport
  8. 2 Oriol Servia/Spanish/ Newman/Haas Racing
  9. 3 Helio Castroneves/Brazil/ Penske Racing
  10. 06 James Hinchcliffe/Canada/ Newman/Haas Racing
  11. 82 Tony Kanaan/Brazil/ KV Racing Technology
  12. 19 Sebastien Bourdais/France/Dale Coyne Racing
  13. 38 Graham Rahal/United States/Chip Ganassi Racing
  14. 14 Vitor Meira/Brazil/ AJ Foyt Racing Enterprises
  15. 22 Justin Wilson/England/ Dreyer & Reinbold Racing
  16. 78 Simona De Silvestro/Switzerland/ HVM Racing
  17. 77 Alex Tagliani/Canada/ Sam Schmidt Racing
  18. 18 James Jakes/England/ Dale Coyne Racing
  19. 26 Marco Andretti/United States/ Andretti Autosport
  20. 27 Mike Conway/England/Andretti Autosport
  21. 83 Charlie Kimball/United States/ Chip Ganassi Racing
  22. 7 Danica Patrick/United States/ Andretti Autosport
  23. 24 Ana Beatriz/Brazil/ Dreyer & Reinbold
  24. 4 JR Hildebrand/United States/ Panther Racing
  25. 8 Paul Tracy/Canada/Dragon Racing
  26. 34 Sebastian Saavedra/Columbia/ Conquest Racing

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

2012 INDYCAR Engine Shuffle in Full Swing

Photo Credit: Christopher Nagy/XSL Speed Reporter

Big technical changes announced little over a year ago for the IZOD INDYCAR Series is quickly coming to reality. An all-new race car will be christened with the season opening race connecting the series to the advanced technologies utilized in the modern automobile industry. Among many changes upcoming to the 2012 IZOD INDYCAR season is completely revised engine specifications. Regulated to twin-turbocharged 2.2 liter V-6 powerplant, the series entrants will be presented with a choice of manufacturers for the for time since the sanctioning body's 2005 open wheel racing season. As the current 2011 season has just past its halfway point, several major INDYCAR Series teams have already decided on the powerplant choices for 2012. After powering the IZOD INDYCAR Series through the past 6 years as the sole engine supplier, Honda will remain one of three manufacturers which now sees direct competition from Chevrolet and Lotus.
The first race team to announce their 2012 powerplant choice was Penske Racing. Prior to the new year, Ilmor Engineering confirmed involvement with the Chevrolet brand's return to open wheel. A long-time partner with Ilmor, team owner Roger Penske was present at the introduction ceremony. Absent from open wheel racing since the end of 1993, Chevrolet's history with Penske Racing included three Indianapolis 500 victories and a 1988 championship on the CART World Series.

Penske Racing intention to run Chrevrolet engines in 2012 was followed almost six months later by powerplant confirmation from rival Chip Ganassi Racing. For the 2012 IZOD INDYCAR season, the Target/Chip Ganassi Racing and rookie Chip Ganassi Racing team has elected to remain faithful to Honda power. Winning the past three IZOD INDYCAR driver titles titles with Honda engines, Target/Chip Ganassi Racing became a powerhouse combination on the CART World Championship during the late 1990s.

On July 19th, long-time series team AJ Foyt Racing confirmed their #14 car will remain powered by Honda Racing Development through the 2012 IZOD INDYCAR Series season. In response to the race team making an agreement with the Japanese-born auto company, president of Honda Performance Development and vice president, corporate planning and logistics, for American Honda Erik Berkman responded, "A.J. shares many traits with Soichiro Honda, the founder of our company. Passionate, dedicated men, their names became synonymous with racing in their native lands, and each has served as a symbol of his country’s passion for motorsport around the world. Today, we consider A.J. to be a venerable member of the Honda ‘family,’ and we look forward to our continued association with both the man and his team." On the side of AJ Foyt Racing, the four-time Indy 500 driver turned team owner AJ Foyt stated "I am really looking forward to working with Honda next year,".
There has yet to be a confirmation for teams opting for the Lotus engine. Expect KV Racing Technology, a current technical partner with Lotus Motorsports, to officially declare the usage of the British sports car company's engine. Perhaps one of the last remaining superteams still in play for their 2012 engine decision is Andretti Autosport and Newman/Haas Racing.

Photo Credit: Christopher Nagy/XSL Speed Reporter

Yet to confirm their choice, Andretti Autosport is equally as likely remain with Honda as it is with taking a chance with Lotus or Chevrolet. Building a close-knit reputation with Honda, the Andretti family also has a history connected to each of the other auto manufacturers competing on the 2012 IZOD INDYCAR circuit. Michael Andretti won the 1991 INDYCAR/CART World Championship with Chevrolet power while Mario Andretti became the 1978 Formula 1 World Championship driving for Colin Chapman's Team Lotus. A wild card decision for 2012, expect Andretti Autosport to choose what is best for both sponsors and for the team's competitiveness in the future IZOD INDYCAR Series.

In the case of Newman/Haas Racing, staying with Honda could be a likely decision but other engine suppliers are not completely out of the equation. With Honda power in the IZOD INDYCAR season, Newman/Haas Racing has two team victories in 2008 but has not won a race for almost 3 years. Newman/Haas could select Chevy power for the 2012 season marking a return to a powerplant the team used from 1987 to 1991.

With a chance to completely shake up the front-runners to the 2012 IZOD INDYCAR Series, engine manufacturers choices could affect the balance of competition for the anticipated new car season.

Friday Adventure at the 2011 Honda Indy Toronto Part 3

Photo Credit: Christopher Nagy/ XSL Speed Reporter

While the warm weather and outdoor spectacles such as the Honda Indy is quite agreeable, my long-time spent under the sun again fought my skin. Yes, for the three year in a row, I'm reporting how I have burnt myself after spending a day at the Honda Indy. However, I'll note that this year I was able to greatly minimize my sunburn after learning through past visits the measure I need to take in protecting my skin. One of the obvious measures for beating the extended periods of direct sunlight was to go inside. The Direct Energy Centre, the Media Centre as well as a Honda display set up behind the circuit's Gold grandstands served as not only shelter but two existed as spotlights of entertainment.

Assembled in a temporary building, the Honda display featured a large assortment of automobiles. From a first-generation Honda Civic dating back to 1973 inside, the newest ninth-generation 2012 Civic sat. Embracing the outside with the 2012 Honda Civic, a fleet of modified late model production cars that included Acura NSX models were found around the sheltered area.

Photo Credit: Christopher Nagy/XSL Speed Reporter

With production cars in the open of daylight, ironically two race cars resided inside the Honda Indy display. Two cars relating to Canadian open wheel racing great Paul Tracy, a replica of the #8 Make-A-Wish Canada-sponsored Dragon Racing Indy car the 'Thrill from West Hill' had been wheeling around the 11-turns of the Toronto street course in 2011 sat. Beside the modern Dallara chassis, a Lola chassis wearing the Players livery and the #3 represented the latest Forsythe Racing car Paul Tracy drove in 2003 to a commanding flag-to-flag victory in the now-defunct Champ Car series. Though the show car was presented in speedway trim (note the smaller, flatter wing pieces), I was not entirely sure if this car was the exact Lola chassis Tracy won the 2003 Toronto race. Another detail I noted on the car was the absence of the Ford Blue Oval badges. Though it is sensational for Honda to bid honour to Canadian racing history, I feel it is a bit of a 'tsk-tsk moment' for Honda to display the vehicle with elements of its authentic livery deleted.

Photo Credit: Christopher Nagy/XSL Speed Reporter

Concluding their morning practice session, the IZOD INDYCAR teams and drivers lead themselves back to their paddock area. In the early track time for the 2011 Honda Indy of Toronto, the Target/Chip Ganassi Racing #10 car of Dario Franchitti posted the early benchmark time of 1 minute, 1.5676 seconds. Only 6/100th of a second ahead of Penske's Helio Castroneves, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Justin Wilson and Will Power rounded out the top-5 in the morning practice. The crews as well the drivers accompanied Indy cars being commuted back to the IZOD INDYCAR paddock area. Almost every driver rode motorized scooters seeking a quick travel back to debrief with their teams prior to lunch. Reassembling myself along Gasoline Alley, I watched as several drivers such as Graham Rahal, Marco Andretti and the fastest driver in practice Dario Franchitti rush back to their team haulers. I even caught 7-time Toronto race winner, now IZOD INDYCAR superteam owner Michael Andretti proceeding back to the pit road area.

Photo Credit: Christopher Nagy/ XSL Speed Reporter

In my closest experience following the first IZOD INDYCAR practice at the Honda Indy was with #78 HVM Racing driver Simona de Silvestro. Simona de Silvestro was racing in Toronto two weeks after missing the Iowa Speedway round due to failing a post-concussion test following a crash at the Milwaukee Mile. Catching her quickly as she proceeded to her team's hauler lot, only getting a few seconds to talk with Simona de Silvestro, I simply expressed how it was great to see her competing at Toronto understanding the way the last half of June went for the Swiss driver. She said “thank you” but seemed more preoccupied with finding speed in her HVM Racing Dallara-Honda. 23rd of the 26 cars that logged speeds on the Toronto race track after the first practice, its easy to assume de Silvestro had the pursuit of speed on her mind. A quick meeting, it was nonetheless eventful for a person who has difficulty engaging in conversation; such as myself.

Photo Credit: Christopher Nagy/ XSL Speed Reporter

Immediately following practice, a large portion of the wonderfully immense crowd positioned themselves politely alongside one of the IZOD INDYCAR team's paddock work stalls. Standing outside of temporary fences and barriers, the race fans's most ideal scenario is to capture a look at their favourite driver. As can be expected at this first of two Canadian races, Alex Tagliani garnered a gigantic crowd outside of his #77 Sam Schmidt Motorsports team paddock area. The fastest Canadian driver in the first practice at the Toronto track, Tagliani returns to Canada after gaining international attention as the Indianapolis 500 pole winner earlier this year. In a related story inside the IZOD INDYCAR Fan Zone, Hot Wheels finally released the diecast version of the blue Hot Wheels-sponsored car Tagliani drove last year. For whatever reason, I did not buy the 1:64 scale replica vehicle and I'm continuing to regret it weeks after the Honda Indy.  

Photo Credit: Christopher Nagy/XSL Speed Reporter

As the morning completed, my first camera battery chose a most convenient time to give up its juice. With hotter weather and some pivotal action upcoming, I prepared to reload for the afternoon action at the 2011 Honda Indy of Toronto.

Friday Adventure at the 2011 Honda Indy Toronto Part 2

Photo Credit: Christopher Nagy/XSL Speed Reporter

With the Castrol Canadian Touring Car series, Ferrari Challenge and Firestone Indy Lights already having a crack at the temporary street course on the 2011 Honda Indy Friday, it was time for the headlining IZOD INDYCAR Series to blitz the Toronto track.

Photo Credit: Christopher Nagy/ XSL Speed Reporter

Venturing through the team's paddock area ahead of the practice, I positioned myself on the road stretch between the paddock and pit lane called Gasoline Alley in preparations for seeing majority of the cars and drivers for the first time on the Friday. One of the first cars rolling down gasoline alley was the #9 Target/Chip Ganassi Racing car to be piloted by New Zealand's Scott Dixon. The #82 KV Racing Technology car of Tony Kanaan was wheeled out just behind the #9 car for the morning practice session. Coming off the 2nd place at Iowa Speedway two weeks before, Kanaan has come close to race victory many times in the 2011 IZOD INDYCAR season.

As the open wheel racing vehicles began collecting in greater numbers on Gasoline Alley, it has drawn an increased number of race spectators. It was this time in my Friday visit, I realized two things about the 2011 Honda Indy of Toronto; firstly, there were definitely a greater number of race fans at the event and second some of them seem to get even ruder with each passing year. I admit I do not appreciate being in large crowds but there is something that needs to be said on people who crowd me within inches. As the IZOD INDYCAR Series vehicles were preparing to enter pit road for first practice, some people insisted on being almost directly behind me. Finding it extremely uncomfortable, I lowered myself to keeling in order to get some space. As a person who does not like cramped crowds, I decided after many of the cars and drivers have flooded into the pit road stalls that I would regain my insanity by visiting the Firestone Indy Lights paddock. After quickly taking in the action on the support series paddock area, the Honda engines of the IZOD INDYCAR Series engines began to buzz around the 1.755-mile circuit.

Photo Credit: Chris Nagy/XSL Speed Reporter

The headliner, the big show for the 2011 Honda Indy, the IZOD INDYCAR Series rolled into town for their first road course race since the Sao Paulo Indy 300 at the beginning of May. In risk of having some serious cobwebs for to shake off their left and right actions with the steering wheel, the drivers and teams performed near flawlessly on the first practice session. However, there was one incident where hometown rookie driver James Hinchcliffe stalled his #06 Newman/Haas Racing Dallara-Honda. Making his first laps around the street circuit as a driver in the IZOD INDYCAR Series, Hinchcliffe's history with the race dates back through childhood where he attended the event religiously. James Hinchcliffe has referred to the INDYCAR event in Toronto as “Christmas”. Believe me, I can certainly identify with that feeling.

Photo Credit: Christopher Nagy/XSL Speed Reporter

Sitting in the frontstretch grandstands, I overlooked the pit road work of the teams tending to their Dallara-Honda racing machines. Hearing the rush of IZOD INDYCAR vehicles alongside the start/finish stretch, most of the morning practice session time was spent overlooking the pits of the #06 Newman/Haas Racing team and #5 KV Racing Technology team serving Japanese driver Takuma Sato. As 24 degree Celsius temperatures in the air cook the track surface (said to be 38 degrees in surface temperature), the 1 hour, 15 minute time on track gave a true picture to the reason I love summer.

Below is a video compilation I created on Canadian driver James Hinchcliffe and the #06 Newman/Haas Racing at the Honda Indy Friday.

James Hinchcliffe at 2011 Honda Indy Toronto

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Friday Adventure at the 2011 Honda Indy Toronto Part 1

Photo by Christopher Nagy/ XSL Speed Reporter

For the past two years, I have been able to regale readers of this website on my trip to the Honda Indy of Toronto. An action-filled Friday, I regret the fact it took me so long to complete a posting relating to my trip. On top of other responsibilities, an intention to post the entire race day in one post would result in a long-winded mess for the Internet. I know, I tend to be rather detailed in the composition of my articles so I've began to break down my morning and afternoon recap into parts. Please enjoy this first part of my attendance of 2011 Honda Indy
With the Honda Indy Toronto crossing forth into its 25th anniversary since the first event won by Bobby Rahal, my true relationship to the race started 12 years later. Able to physically attend my first “Molson Indy” event, I have always been welcomed with a spectacle of auto racing life and culture I could never resist the following year. A major tourist draw for 25 years based on celebration of the many allures for motorsport, I just happened to be one of those automotive enthusiasts attracted by the power of advance open wheel racing technology watching the pursuit of driver and team questing for the top mastery of speed.
Granted media access to this year's very special Honda Indy event, the opportunity to present the racing festival of Toronto is now a responsibility wrapping many pleasures. Taking the only sensible method of travel through downtown Toronto (at least most of the time) is the TTC. Every time I ride on a subway car or streetcar, I suddenly hear the song “Romantic Traffic” by the Canadian 1980s new wave rock band “The Spoons” in my head. A little bit before of this websites readers (in fact “Romantic Traffic” roughly before my own interest in any music); the music video was staged within the subway line of the TTC during the mid 1980s.

As I stepped off the TTC streetcar when reaching early morning rush of the Castrol Canadian Touring Cars, I was to know this year (perhaps for than any other year) the 2011 Honda Indy Toronto would provide this automotive writer and editor with inspiration so ripe with excitement.

Arriving in the early morning hours, my residual sense of grogginess was vanquished immediately with action-filled day. Taking my first step into the media center acquaint myself with the part of my work area, an announcement that past event IZOD INDYCAR winner Marco Andretti will be in the media conference room was relayed. Arriving in a surprisingly near empty pressroom just past 9 am, the Iowa Speedway winner walked in minutes later.

Photo Credit: Christopher Nagy/ XSL Speed Reporter

Having the 2011 race winner and third generation Andretti racer in the room, I regretted I was unable to think of an intelligent question ideal for the 24-year old driver. Through the day, I continued to consider what question I could have asked Marco Andretti. It was not until lunch that I had finally brainstormed a suitable query. Not a very serious question, I probably could have asked it there is any place in Toronto Marco enjoyed when the IZOD INDYCAR Series visits the city. I know, it's not incredibly hard-hitting and somewhat light-hearted but it would have been a break from the racing-related questions (not that the Honda Indy would be considered a tiring subject.

As Marco Andretti left the conference room to prepare for Friday morning practice, I proceeded outside within the 1.755-mile track for the first time. Under the beautiful, cloudless skies, the Ferrari Challenge cars warmed up on the 11-turn street course for the very first time. The sound as well as the movement of those almost completely stock Ferrari F430 and Ferrari 458 supercars demonstrated a near perfect accompaniment to high speeds of the Lakeshore Boulevard stretch. Taking in the show on the Thunder Alley grandstands, I recalled my first Honda Indy presence in 1998. There for the Saturday and Sunday, I remembered how exciting it was to watch the CART World Series in probably one of their last great seasons. With my own eyes that weekend almost 13 years ago, I watched Michael Andretti, Paul Tracy, Patrick Carpentier as well as the late, great Greg Moore roaring down the Lakeshore. I remembered how the race was won by than Target/ Chip Ganassi driver Alex Zanardi.

Photo Credit: Christopher Nagy/ XSL Speed Reporter

Recalling my first race, I began to wonder how many fans young and old would take in this 2011 Honda Indy event. Since the race lost the long-time Molson sponsorship, crowds appeared to have dipped considerably. Following 2008 when a race did not take place due to reunification of open wheel racing, the 2009 Honda Indy had trouble bringing fans back to the event and not greeted kindly by the media. For 2011, this event is burning on all cylinders. To start, the Honda Canada sponsored Free Friday reached full potential as the combination of a sunny hot day and parent seeking to entertain their recently summer break bound tykes stormed through the attendance gates. By noontime, the CNE ground was well covered by a potpourri of individuals sharing the event. Besides the racing action on track, there was no shortage fun inside the enclosed Toronto street circuit including the IZOD INDYCAR Fan Zone. One of the sights on the area was a preview of the 2012 IZOD INDYCAR Series race vehicle.

Photo Credit: Christopher Nagy/XSL Speed Reporter

As the Ferrari Challenge cars left the track with only the memory of their brute, Italian sound, the Firestone Indy Lights cars prepared for competition. With the graduation of last year's Canadian Firestone Indy Lights series star James Hinchcliffe to the Newman/Haas Racing IZOD INDYCAR team, Canada's lone representative in the ladder series was Maple, Ontario's David Ostella. Riding 7th in the Firestone Indy Lights standing leading into the Honda Indy event, Ostella's rookie appearance with Jensen Motorsport did not go without notice by Canadian auto racing fans. During the weekend, that 19 year old was probably given a full initiation into what it means to be a rising auto racing star competing in his home country. With Ostella 6th fastest on track, Andretti Autosport's Stefan Wilson took fastest time in the morning practice on the streets of Toronto. As we know in hindsight, this top time for Wilson was a precursor to what would be a first career Firestone Indy Lights victory during Sunday's 100-mile event.

Photo Credit: Christopher Nagy/ XSL Speed Reporter

In part 2 of my 2011 Honda Indy Toronto review, I will recap the arrival of the headline IZOD INDYCAR Series to the race track. Star drivers such as Dario Franchitti, James Hinchcliffe, Paul Tracy and Danica Patrick take to 1.755-mile race circuit. Below, I have compiled a few videos which are now posted on Youtube. Posting them much sooner than I was able to construct the written review of my 2011 Honda Indy experience, I am very impressed by the reception of both videos.

2012 IZOD INDYCAR Dallara Chassis

2011 Honda Indy Ferrari Challange Morning Practice

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Ryan Newman Starts on Pole for New Hampshire Cup Race

Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

A reintroduction to flat, short track racing, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series is set to compete on the smallest track since Dover in May. The 1.058-mile oval of New Hampshire Motor Speedway hosts its first of two races in 2011 for North America's premier stock car racing organization.

In qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Lenox Industrial Tools 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Ryan Newman piloted the #39 Stewart/Haas Racing Chevrolet to his 5th pole at the race track. Team owner Tony Stewart will start alongside Newman in the #14 Chevy. The NASCAR Sprint Cup race team is still seeking their first win for the 2011 season. In the second row, David Reutimann's #00 Toyota and the #22 Dodge of Kurt Busch line up for Sunday's race in Loudon.

2010 winners at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway start reasonably down on the grid for the Lenox Industrial Tools 301 race. Recording the 12th fastest time in qualifying Friday the #33 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet, Clint Bowyer is still hunting his first win of the 2011 season. Past winner of the early summer event Jimmie Johnston is starting well down in 28th spot.

The New Hampshire Motor Speedway was the scene of Ryan Newman's first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory in 2002. That year driving for Penske Racing through his first season, Newman's momentum from the New Hampshire race win allowed the Indiana native to beat Jimmie Johnson for Rookie of the Year.

While qualifying position is important at New Hampshire, 8 of the 32 previous NASCAR Sprint Cup races held at the oval were won by a driver who started outside of the top-20. Closing from the deepest position of 38th place to win in July of 1999 was Jeff Burton.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup's Lenox Industrial Tools 301 race is scheduled for 1 pm eastern time on Sunday.

2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup
New Hampshire Motor Speedway
Starting Line-up
  1. 39 Ryan Newman U.S. Army Chevrolet
  2. 14 Tony Stewart Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet
  3. 00 David Reutimann Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota
  4. 22 Kurt Busch Shell/Pennzoil Dodge
  5. 2 Brad Keselowski Miller Lite Dodge
  6. 31 Jeff Burton Catepillar Chevrolet
  7. 24 Jeff Gordon Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet
  8. 42 Juan Pablo Montoya Target Chevrolet
  9. 27 Paul Menard Richmond/Menards Chevrolet Chevrolet
  10. 4 Kasey Kahne Red Bull Toyota
  11. 78 Regan Smith Furniture Row Chevrolet
  12. 33 Clint Bowyer Good Sam/Cheerios Chevrolet
  13. 56 Martin Truex Jr. NAPA Toyota
  14. 11 Denny Hamlin FedEx Freight Toyota
  15. 99 Carl Edwards Ortho Home Defense Ford
  16. 20 Joey Logano Home Depot Toyota
  17. 43 A J Allmendinger Best Buy Ford
  18. 29 Kevin Harvick Budweiser Chevrolet
  19. 18 Kyle Busch Interstate Batteries Toyota
  20. 16 Greg Biffle 3M Ford
  21. 83 Brian Vickers Red Bull Toyota
  22. 9 Marcos Ambrose DeWALT Ford
  23. 47 Bobby Labonte Capital Window/ Toyota
  24. 5 Mark Martin Chevrolet 
  25. 1 Jamie McMurray Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats Chevrolet
  26. 6 David Ragan UPS Ford
  27. 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. National Guard/AMP Energy Chevrolet
  28. 48 Jimmie Johnson Lowe's Chevrolet
  29. 30 David Stremme Inception Racing Chevrolet
  30. 17 Matt Kenseth Affliction Clothing Ford
  31. 13 Casey Mears GEICO Toyota
  32. 51 Landon Cassill Security Benefit/Thank A Teacher Today Chev
  33. 66 Michael McDowell HP Racing LLC Toyota
  34. 34 David Gilliland Front Row Motorsports Ford
  35. 87 Joe Nemechek Toyota
  36. 55 Jeff Green Front Row Motorsports Ford
  37. 36 Dave Blaney Golden Corral Chevrolet
  38. 38 J J Yeley Long John Silver's Ford
  39. 60 Mike Skinner Big Red Toyota
  40. 46 Erik Darnell Red Line Chevrolet
  41. 32 Mike Bliss Starrett Ford
  42. 7 Scott Wimmer SPEED Energy Dodge
  43. 71 Andy Lally Interstate Moving Services Ford

NASCAR Schedule & Weather Forecast: July 15th to 17th 2011

Photo Credit: Jennifer Coleman/ Iowa Speedway

Loudon, New Hampshire
New Hampshire Motor Speedway
NASCAR Sprint Cup/ NASCAR Nationwide Series


10:30 am- NASCAR Nationwide Series Practice
Temperature: 27 degrees Celsius (81 degrees Fahrenheit)
Sky Conditions: Sun with clouds
Chance of Precipitation: 0%

11:30 am- NASCAR Sprint Cup Practice
Temperature: 26 degrees Celsius (79 degrees Fahrenheit)
Sky Conditions: Sun with clouds
Chance of Precipitation: 0%

1:40 pm- NASCAR Nationwide Series Practice
Temperature: 28 degrees Celsius (82 degrees Fahrenheit)
Sky Conditions: Sun with clouds
Chance of Precipitation: 0%

3:10 pm- NASCAR Sprint Cup Qualifying
Temperature: 26 degrees Celsius (79 degrees Fahrenheit)
Sky Conditions: Sun with clouds
Chance of Precipitation: 0%


9:30 am- NASCAR Sprint Cup Practice
Temperature: 20 degrees Celsius (68 degrees Fahrenheit)
Sky Conditions: Sunny
Chance of Precipitation: 0%

10:35 am- NASCAR Nationwide Series Qualifying
Temperature: 23 degrees Celsius (73 degrees Fahrenheit)
Sky Conditions: Sunny
Chance of Precipitation: 0%

11:45 am- NASCAR Sprint Cup Practice
Temperature: 23 degrees Celsius (90 degrees Fahrenheit)
Sky Conditions: Sunny
Chance of Precipitation: 0%

3:30 pm- NASCAR Nationwide Series Race (New England 200)
Temperature: 29 degrees Celsius (84 degrees Fahrenheit)
Sky Conditions: Sunny
Chance of Precipitation: 0%


9:00 am- NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Race (LENOX Industrial Tools 301)
Temperature: 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit)
Sky Conditions: Rain Showers
Chance of Precipitation: 0%

Newton, Iowa
Iowa Speedway
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series/ ARCA Racing Series


3:00 pm- ARCA Racing Series Practice
Temperature: 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit)
Sky Conditions: Sun with clouds
Chance of Precipitation: 10%

4:30 pm- NASCAR Camping World Truck Practice
Temperature: 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit)
Sky Conditions: Sun with clouds
Chance of Precipitation: 10%

5:30 pm- ARCA Racing Series Practice
Temperature: 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit)
Sky Conditions: Sun with clouds
Chance of Precipitation: 10%

6:30 pm- NASCAR Camping World Truck Practice
Temperature: 29 degrees Celsius (84 degrees Fahrenheit)
Sky Conditions: Sun with clouds
Chance of Precipitation: 10%


12:10 pm- ARCA Racing Series Qualifying
Temperature: 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit)
Sky Conditions: Cloudy with chance of thunderstorm
Chance of Precipitation: 30%

1:35 pm- NASCAR Camping World Truck Qualifying
Temperature: 31 degrees Celsius (88 degrees Fahrenheit)
Sky Conditions: Cloudy with chance of thunderstorm
Chance of Precipitation: 30%

4:15 pm- ARCA Racing Series Race
Temperature: 32 degrees Celsius (89 degrees Fahrenheit)
Sky Conditions: Cloudy with chance of thunderstorm
Chance of Precipitation: 30%

7:00 pm- NASCAR Camping World Truck Race (Coca-Cola 200 presented by
Temperature: 31 degrees Celsius (88 degrees Fahrenheit)
Sky Conditions: Partly Cloudy
Chance of Precipitation: 30%

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Kyle Busch Wins Inaugural Cup Race At Kentucky

 Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images for NASCAR

By Reid Spencer

Sporting News NASCAR Wire Service

(July 9, 2011)

SPARTA, Ky. — What was Kyle Busch’s dominant impression of his victory in the inaugural NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Kentucky Speedway?

It wasn’t that he’ll be written into the record book as the first Cup winner at the 1.5-mile track, the first speedway introduced into the series in 10 years.

No, Busch will remember Saturday’s Quaker State 400 at Kentucky as the last thing he won on the way to his next race—in this case Sunday’s marquee Super Late Model event at Slinger Speedway in Wisconsin.

That’s the way Busch thinks—win and move on.

In holding off fast-closing David Reutimann and Jimmie Johnson in a two-lap stretch run, Busch won for the third time this season, the 22nd time in his Cup career and the 99th time across NASCAR’s top three national series, third most all-time.

Even though he won two of the three events at Kentucky Speedway over the weekend—he won the Camping World Truck Series race Thursday—Busch wasn’t thinking about the numbers, not even that he had leap-frogged past Kevin Harvick (16th Saturday) and Carl Edwards (fifth) into the top spot in the series standings.

Asked what the most impressive part of the Kentucky win was to him, Busch replied, “That I won on the way to Slinger. I’ve got to go to Slinger (Sunday). I’m going to stay here tonight, chill out and get a good night’s sleep, get out of here in the morning and head up there and, hopefully, win a Late Model race.”

Saturday’s race wasn’t settled until Busch kept Johnson at bay on the last restart, clearing Johnson’s No. 48 Chevrolet off Turn 2. Reutimann restated in the fourth spot but charged forward, passing Johnson just short of the finish line on the final lap. Reutimann finished .179 seconds behind Busch.

Johnson said his inability to stay beside Busch on the next-to-last lap cost him a chance to win the race.

“I was able to hang with the 18 (Busch) inside of Turns 1 and 2, and he just cleared me going down the back,” Johnson said. “The outside lane had a little bit more momentum coming off of (Turn) 2 down the back. If I could have stayed inside of him, it would have been one heck of a finish at the end.

“But it didn’t happen that way, and then he cleared me and went on, and then I had my hands full with the 00 (Reutimann). David was probably the best car at the end, and if he had cleared me sooner, I think he would have been up there with the 18 racing for the win.”

Ryan Newman played pit strategy perfectly and came home fourth, followed by Edwards. Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski, David Ragan, Kurt Busch and Jeff Gordon completed the top 10.

Busch had regained the lead during a cycle of green-flag stops late in the race, but a caution for Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s blown left front tire slowed the race for the fifth time and set up a restart on Lap 260 of 267.

Busch pulled away, with Johnson chasing, but Clint Bowyer’s wreck in Turn 2 bought out the sixth caution on Lap 262 to bunch the field for a restart with two laps left.

During a 105-lap green-flag run that began on Lap 36 after a competition caution and included two rounds of pit stops, Busch opened a lead of more than eight seconds, but his advantage disappeared when NASCAR called a caution on Lap 140 for debris on the backstretch.

Keselowski and Tony Stewart opted not to pit under the caution and restarted on the front row on Lap 147. Earnhardt, who had fallen off the lead lap during the long green-flag run, got his lap back on a wave-around, and a quick caution on Lap 151 gave him a chance to pit for fuel and tires.

Keselowski and Stewart ran 1-2 after a restart on Lap 158, but both drivers had to pit for fuel early in the next cycle, and Busch reclaimed the top spot when Keselowski brought the No. 2 Dodge to pit road on Lap 186.

When Jamie McMurray’s engine erupted like Vesuvius on Lap 200, bringing out the fourth caution of the race, the lead-lap cars were back on similar pit cycles.

Busch, who led a race-high 125 laps, opened a four-point margin in the series standings over second-place Edwards and a 10-point cushion over third-place Harvick.

Note: When the green flag waved to start the race, cars carrying fans to the track were backed up on I-71, trying to get to the parking lots. Midway through the event, Kentucky Speedway G.M. Mark Simendinger issued the following statement: “We’ve had an overwhelming response to our inaugural NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quaker State 400. We know we had challenges related to traffic. We’re already planning improvements and looking forward to a much better situation for next year’s event.”

Monday, July 11, 2011

Franchitti Wins Calamity-Filled Honda Indy Toronto

Photo Credit: Chris Jones

An event celebrating 25 years of running around the Canadian National Exhibition grounds, the Honda Indy of Toronto presents a generation full of great moments. In the inaugural 1986 open wheel round held on the Canadian temporary street course, Bobby Rahal claimed victory shortly after taking the year's Indy 500. For 7 of the 24 previous race runnings, Michael Andretti hoisted the Toronto race trophy. For occasions, the open wheel race in Toronto saw a Canadian challenger take the coveted race as local hero Paul Tracy won in 1993 and 2003.

Sporting a rich history of exciting open wheel racing, the 2011 edition of the Honda Indy started event as 26 IZOD INDYCAR Series competitors fire up Honda V-8 racing engines. For the 25th Sunday event on the 1.755-mile street course Canadian actor Dan Ackroyd gave a bellowing command to start those engines.

Taking the pole with an under-1 minute qualifying time, defending 2010 Honda Indy champion Will Power started the 2011 event on the front row with Scott Dixon alongside. With only 6 Honda Indy events won by the pole sitter, Power and the #12 Penske Racing team had their work cut out for them in efforts to repeat a victory lane appearance. Will Power's 8th consecutive road course pole in the IZOD INDYCAR Series parlayed a 33-lap initial lead at the Honda Indy Toronto as the Target Chip Ganassi Racing cars of Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti hung close behind.

As the green flag initiated the 85-lap race, the term "avoidable contact" was uttered quite often during and after the course of the 2011 Honda Indy of Toronto. At the typical problem area of the turn 3, Tony Kanaan in the #82 KV Racing Technology car became the first victim of what would be a series of on-track contact. Rushing into the turn in the third lap of the event, the #82 was being challenged on the inside of the Lakeshore Boulevard stretch by the #6 Penske Racing car of Ryan Briscoe. Bring early in the Honda Indy race, Kanaan gave Briscoe room to safely turn through the slow, tight turn 3. Despite the space presented, the #6 Dallara-Honda swung wide catching the right rear wheel of the #82 KV Racing Technology car. Spinning the #82 car into the outer wall, Tony Kanaan's day ended with severe suspension damage to his Dallara. Stepping out of his car, Kanaan immediately expressed heated displeasure to Ryan Briscoe as the #6 Penske Racing car rounded the track under caution. Used to being in contention for wins in the past month, Tony Kanaan's IZOD INDYCAR race in Toronto ended before the #82 car had a chance to mount a change.

Photo Credit: Jim Haines
As the Honda Indy ran under a full-course yellow to retrieve Kanaan's wrecked race car, a restart on lap 6 was followed quickly by more action within the turn 3 area of the Toronto street course. Under braking entering the corner, Danica Patrick's #7 Andretti Autosport car received hard rear end contact from Takuma Sato as she braked for the turn. Calling Sato "an idiot" over her in-car radio, Patrick was able to continue back to the pit road but Takuma Sato's #5 KV Racing Technology. Both drivers would finish the 2011 Honda Indy but would reside 6 laps down at the end of the event. In the case of Patrick, she would also get caught in a later caution. As the #7 car would end up needing two nose cone assembly changes, Danica Patrick finished the race wearing a share front end piece from her Andretti Autosport's teammate Marco Andretti's #26 car.

The first Canadian IZOD INDYCAR Series event of the 2011 season, the Honda Indy Toronto propels three drivers deeper into the race weekend spotlight. Paul Tracy, Alex Tagliani and James Hinchcliffe are provided with the additional pleasure (or perhaps burden) of competing on front of a hometown crowd. While fanfare was at an all-time high for each Canadian driver, the track results through the weekend was an effort accompanied with less than impressive qualifying runs for Sunday's event. As the race started, all three drivers began to assert themselves at the Toronto event. Starting 24th driving the #8 Dragon Racing Make a Wish Canada car, Paul Tracy charged 5 spots in the first handful of race laps. Driving his regular #77 ride for Sam Schmidt Racing, Alex Tagliani was eager to show pace early in the event. Looking good up to the first round of pit stops, Tagliani's Toronto race would quickly turn sour on lap 31 when Helio Castroneves made contact with the #77 car in turn 3. While the damage was minimal, many at the race track took note of the 2009 tangle Castroneves had for other Canadian driver Paul Tracy at the event. The contact between Helio Castroneves and Alex Tagliani brought out the race's second full course caution.

In the first 1/3 stage of the Honda Indy Toronto for the IZOD INDYCAR Series, several teams deeper in the field began to short pit hoping to take advantage of a caution. Thanks to the Tagliani/Castroneves caution on lap 31, there was a chance for some to capitalize on the fact the top-three drivers Will Power, Scott Dixon and Mike Conway had no pitted. As those vehicles came to attention of pit road during the caution period, Dario Franchitti took over the race lead. On a lap 36 restart James Hinchcliffe, the rookie Canadian driver wheeling the #06 car for Newman/Haas Racing for the 2011 Honda Indy, was elevated to 5th place in the field. Attempting to retain the high track position, Hinchcliffe immediately fell under the challenge of fellow Canadian Paul Tracy. Watching the open wheel race as a spectator for almost his entire life, James Hinchcliffe would end up dicing with the heroic two-time race winner. Through turn 3 at lap 37, Tracy drew along the inside Hinchcliffe's #06 car for position. Unwilling to give up his spot, Hinchcliffe matched wits with Tracy's trademark aggression. Racing side-by-side skillfully through the tight turn 3 and 4 stretch, turn 5 would see the thrilling duke-out between the two Canadians. Out of the fifth turn of the Toronto track, Hinchcliffe's and Tracy's cars slid together. Making contact on track, Paul Tracy received the worst of the incident requiring the West Hill, Ontario native to participate in an extended time on pit road. Finishing 16th on the day, Tracy responded about his 2011 Honda Indy in post-race saying, "Today wasn't the best day for us Canadians and our team. We had a great car and made our way through the field, making it all the way to the top-five. Unfortunately, cars got in our way and ended our day early, causing us to go two laps down for the rest of the day."

Through the mid-point of the Honda Indy Toronto, the on-track impacts between vehicles has grown to the point that unscheduled pit stops were common place. On lap 42, Graham Rahal limped to attention of his Service Central Chip Ganassi Racing team with a flat rear tire caused by contact with another car. Six laps later, the #28 Andretti Autosport piloted by Ryan Hunter-Reay needed to have a loose front wing replaced. Ironically, these unscheduled pit stops would provide them with a chance at the race's victory. Hunter-Reay's pit stop came shortly ahead of a turn 3 jam-up involving Paul Tracy, Victor Meira, Sebastien Bourdais and Charlie Kimball. The fourth full course caution of the race, the race would be slowed four more times in the final 28 laps.

As the IZOD INDYCAR racers ran through the final stage of the event in Toronto, the race quickly evolved into a heavy contact street fight. One of the most controversial coming-togethers at the 2011 Honda Indy occurred between the top two points contenders in the series overall points. Into turn 3, Dario Franchitti dived under the #12 Penske Racing car of Will Power. Within the turn, Franchitti bumped Power's car dropping him from contention in the race. With major championship implications at stake, INDYCAR race control reviewed the incident. Upon the review, there was no penalty issued to the #10 car of Franchitti for the contact (the Versus television broadcast mistakenly announced there was a penalty issued but the decision was reversed).

Insult to injury was added to Will Power later on lap 65 when he was shoved by Alex Tagliani's #77 car. Out of the race, the Australian Power had harsh and angry words with both drivers who eventually led him to a second DNF in a row. "I understood he was going to get penalized but then there was no call - I just don't understand that." Will Power said after the race expressing at one point that Dario Franchitti is getting away with several incidents without penalty throughout the season. Commenting about Tagliani, Power called the French-Canadian driver "a wanker".

From lap 49, the Honda Indy Toronto was led by the #38 of Graham Rahal who was remaining on track with more worn tires and less ethanol fuel than other contenders. Needing cautions laps to make a legitimate effort to finish the 85-lap distance without an added pit stop, Rahal was aided by the considerable yellow flag periods. Holding off Ryan Hunter-Reay on a lap 61 restart, Rahal was holding on to the lead of a race his father once 25 years before.

Ending a race gone bad on lap 72, Alex Tagliani was caught in a turn 3 wreck which involved the #7 car of Danica Patrick and the #18 of James Jakes. Clipping one of the cars, Tagliani's #77 was launched onto two wheels crashing onto the outer race track fence. Despite the scary angle of Tagliani hitting the wall with the top side of his vehicle, the driver was not in danger and got out of the car without injury. Tagliani finished in 23rd place after retiring from the IZOD INDYCAR event. A short-lived restart, their was a lead change as Dario Franchitti's #10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car passes Graham Rahal to assume the top position.

Photo Credit: LAT USA /INDYCAR
One final full course caution came out on lap 77 following a four-race pile-up through turn 1. Resulting as a chain reaction when the #26 of Marco Andretti touched the #2 car of Oriol Servia, Servia's car whacked Justin Wilson's #22 car. Creating a congested track, James Hinchcliffe and Charlie Kimball made minimum contact with the stopped Servia car. Under the yellow flag, the field diverted around turn 1 while Hinchcliffe and Servia awaited a chance to rejoin the race. The Newman/Haas Racing cars completed the Honda Indy event with notable hometown rookie James Hinchcliffe finishing 14th place. Hinchcliffe would be the highest finishing Canadian driver.

On the final restart, Target Chip Ganassi Racing cars of Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon swept into the top-two spots by the end of the Lakeshore Boulevard stretch. In control of the race, the efforts of the red cars were helped on lap 79 restart lap when Ryan Hunter-Reay collided with Graham Rahal's #38 car. Despite being in the thick of things for the winning the event in the late laps, the #38 Service Central car ended the Honda Indy in 13th place. "It was really frustrating to get hit there at the end, I really thought we were going to have a good finish for the Service Central team" Rahal said following the event.

Cruising to victory with only his teammate Scott Dixon venturing an occasional move for the lead, Dario Franchitti take the checkered flag for the 2011 Honda Indy Toronto. Having won his third Honda Indy event, Franchitti also won has 4th event of the 2011 IZOD INDYCAR series season and a 30th American open wheel racing event. "I was pretty happy just be in the company of Rick and J.R., and to get my 30th win today means a lot, especially here in Toronto, I got my first pole here in 1997. I love racing in Canada." Franchitti said in post race. In relationship to the collision with Will Power, Franchitti said after the race he was willing to take more than 50 percent of the blame for the incident but also argued the #12 Penske Racing driver had responsibility for the spin. "We had that incident with Will. He outbraked himself to outbrake me and opened up the door, I went down the inside, I held the wall and Will came down. I put my nose in there, I was trying to get my nose out, but ultimately he closed the door and paid the price."

With Scott Dixon taking a runner-up position, Andretti Autosport drivers Ryan Hunter-Reay and Marco Andretti put in a great showing at a track their team owner Michael Andretti won 7-times at through his driving career. Rebounding from his own troubles in the race, Vitor Meira brought his AJ Foyt-owned car to a top-five finish in Toronto. For the 2011 IZOD INDYCAR season, the result for Meira and the #14 team is a best result. A trio of other strong finishes in the Honda Indy Toronto includes Sebastien Bourdais completing the race in 6th place, Simona de Silvestro in 10th in her return to the series and Ana Beatriz who charged from 26th to finish 11th.

Beyond the results, the 2011 Honda Indy ended as a hot race accompanied with hot tempers. Whether this sizzling will cool ahead of the next race at Edmonton in two weeks will depend on the drivers. However, for the fans who have witnessed this wild 25th anniversary Honda Indy, it becomes so hard to believe a 1.755-mile circuit could provide such an action-packed weekend.

2011 IZOD INDYCAR Series
Honda Indy Toronto
Streets of Toronto
Race Results

  1. 10 Dario Franchitti/Scotland/ Target/Chip Ganassi Racing
  2. 9 Scott Dixon/New Zealand/ Target/Chip Ganassi Racing
  3. 28 Ryan Hunter-Reay/United States/Andretti Autosport
  4. 26 Marco Andretti/United States/ Andretti Autosport
  5. 14 Vitor Meira/Brazil/ AJ Foyt Racing Enterprises
  6. 19 Sebastien Bourdais/France/Dale Coyne Racing
  7. 6 Ryan Briscoe/Australia/ Penske Racing
  8. 4 JR Hildebrand/United States/ Panther Racing
  9. 58 EJ Viso/Venezuela/ KV Racing Technology
  10. 78 Simona De Silvestro/Switzerland/ HVM Racing
  11. 24 Ana Beatriz/Brazil/ Dreyer & Reinbold
  12. 2 Oriol Servia/Spanish/ Newman/Haas Racing
  13. 38 Graham Rahal/United States/Chip Ganassi Racing
  14. 06 James Hinchcliffe/Canada/ Newman/Haas Racing
  15. 22 Justin Wilson/England/ Dreyer & Reinbold Racing
  16. 8 Paul Tracy/Canada/Dragon Racing
  17. 3 Helio Castroneves/Brazil/ Penske Racing
  18. 18 James Jakes/England/ Dale Coyne Racing
  19. 7 Danica Patrick/United States/ Andretti Autosport
  20. 5 Takuma Sato/Japan/ KV Racing Technology
  21. 83 Charlie Kimball/United States/ Chip Ganassi Racing
  22. 27 Mike Conway/England/Andretti Autosport
  23. 77 Alex Tagliani/Canada/ Sam Schmidt Racing
  24. 12 Will Power/Australia/ Penske Racing
  25. 34 Sebastian Saavedra/Columbia/ Conquest Racing
  26. 82 Tony Kanaan/Brazil/ KV Racing Technology