Controversy was the order of the day at the Edmonton Indycar race today, as Helio Castroneves crossed the finish line first, took the chequered flag, but was later disqualified for failing to serve a drive-through penalty for blocking Will Power very late in the race. This handed victory to Scott Dixon, who had managed to pass Power for 2nd place in the same corner. Our IndyCar correspondent Matt Lennon dissects a controversial race in Edmonton…
Following a late yellow-flag caution period, the race restarted with two laps remaining in the 95-lap contest. Will Power took an opportunity to attack race-leader Helio Castroneves into Turn 1, and moved out from the slipstream to the outside of the corner to attempt a pass around the outside. Castroneves held the inside line, and with Power very wide on the right, moved a little to the left to improve his speed and his chances through the corner. IndyCar officials viewed this as an attempt at blocking, and swiftly penalised Helio with a drive-through penalty.
It emerged later that Team Penske president and Helio’s race strategist, Tim Cindric, advised his driver to serve the penalty on the last lap, however Castroneves ignored this, and finished the race first on the road, intending to argue with officials after the race. As the telecast went off the air, Helio was demoted to tenth place, and Dixon and Ganassi were celebrating an unofficial victory.
Prior to the start of the race, IndyCar officials placed Dale Coyne Racing’s Milka Duno on probation for failing to meet minimum performance standards in recent events. This was no doubt due to recent instances in Iowa and Toronto where stewards had to order Duno to the pits for driving too slowly, deemed to be causing a safety-risk to other drivers. The rule states that on a road course, all cars must be within 107% of the race leaders pace, and on an oval, must be within 10mph of the leader. Probation will be in effect until the end of the year, and for any further situations where Duno needs to be removed from the race, further penalties may be imposed.
Duno’s newfound challenge did not start too well. Aside from failing to set a time in qualifying and starting last, Duno spun all by herself in Turn 2 of Lap 1 of the race. Despite managing to get going again, she lasted only three more laps before retiring quietly…again.
Will Power claimed pole position and was widely expected to dominate the race and possibly even clinch the inaugural Mario Andretti road-course championship. From the green flag, Power led the field away cleanly, with Helio Castroneves in hot pursuit.
Aside from a few minor spins and off-course excursions, the race ran under green flag conditions through the first round of pit stops, which saw the status quo maintained at the front of the field. Power leading, from Castroneves in second and Dixon in third.
The first full-course yellow came on Lap 47, as Alex Lloyd spun onto the grass, but was near to the racing line and in a precarious position. As this was just after the first round of pit stops, none of the contending leaders pitted a second time.
As in Toronto, yellow-flags had a habit of breeding yellow-flags. At the restart on Lap 50, E.J. Viso, while attempting to pass Simona Di Silvestro, tapped the young Swiss miss into the tyre barriers at Turn 11. Di Silvestro stalled, forcing another full-course caution. It was a shame as Di Silvestro had qualified a career-best seventh for the race and was running extremely well to that point.
The restart came again on Lap 54. Immediately, another yellow. On the exit of Turn 1, Tony Kanaan tried a rather ambitious overtake on Alex Tagliani, tapping the Canadian’s left-rear tyre. Tags hit the accelerator rather than the brakes, throwing up a lot of smoke, and after spinning, found grip and drove right into Mario Romancini, who had nowhere to go, sending both into retirement.
Another restart came on Lap 59, and this time, the race ran under green for a while. The leaders started making their final pit stops from Lap 75, Power opting for black side-walled tyres, with Castroneves choosing the reds. It turned out that the reds were the best option. A few laps later, Helio had a run on Power out of the super-fast Turn 13 chicane, and took the inside line, passing Will Power for the lead. Scott Dixon, also running on reds, began to close on Power.
The final full-course caution came on Lap 89 when Di Silvestro lost drive to the car and stalled just off course. And at the restart, that’s when all hell broke loose.
Upon Helio Castroneves taking the chequered flag, albeit without serving his drive- through penalty, nobody quite knew who had indeed won. As Dixon pulled into victory lane under advice to do so, Castroneves was seen, with his helmet still on, addressing IndyCar officials in a livid state. As he approached the stewards bay, he had to be restrained by crew members and security. Luckily, he calmed down soon enough but was still determined to have the matter addressed by officials as the telecast went off the air. Later, it was announced in an online news broadcast that the officials had stuck to their original ruling, penalising Castroneves with twenty seconds added to his race time, dropping him to tenth place.
For the Ganassi team, despite the controversial nature of the win, it capped off a history-making day. Earlier in the day, Jamie McMurray won the Brickyard 400 race for Chip Ganassi’s NASCAR operation. This meant that Ganassi had won the Daytona 500, Indy 500 and the Brickyard 400 all in the same year – an incredible feat.
Will Power, despite fuelling the fire by claiming team-mate Castroneves indeed blocked him, failed to clinch the road-course championship in Edmonton, however extended his lead in the overall championship and set himself up to near certainly take the road-course title at the next event in two weeks, at Mid-Ohio.
[Original image via Fox Sports News]