Following a near disastrous round in Toronto a fortnight earlier, Team Penske declared they have not given up the championship fight just yet, putting in a much improved performance in the Edmonton Indy 200 today, as our IndyCar correspondent Matt Lennon writes…
Will Power and Hélio Castroneves filled the top two podium places while a last-lap stop for a splash of fuel cost Ryan Briscoe a high finish. Power’s main championship arch-rival Dario Franchitti finished third, although ran as low as thirteenth at one point in the race.
Boasting a new look layout, the Edmonton City Centre Airport circuit greeted the field with several fast bends interrupted with two very slow hairpins. Pole-sitter Takuma Sato led away at the start, while Scott Dixon dove right up inside Will Power at the first corner to take second. It took five corners for the first caution period to present itself. Alex Tagliani locked his brakes into the left-hand hairpin at Turn 5, hitting Graham Rahal. Damaged, Rahal spun into retirement at the next corner, while further back, Paul Tracy and Sebastian Saavedra found themselves caught up in the melee, crashing into each other, all finding themselves done for the day much earlier than any would have liked.
For his role in causing the fracas, Tagliani was given a drive through penalty for his trouble, which was in addition to the extra pit-stop he had to make for repairs to his damaged front wing.
At the restart on lap 6, Sato led away again, with Power and Dixon swapping second place back again. For about the next fifteen laps, Sato was maintaining a lead of about 6/10ths of a second over Power, Dixon and Franchitti.
On Lap 19, Power caught Sato’s slipstream on the straight approaching the final corner and made the pass into the hairpin, despite both slightly overshooting the corner. With the loss of momentum, Sato was unable to get back on line quick enough to avoid the close following Ganassi cars, and ended up falling to fourth behind all three of his nearest challengers. Sato would much later in the race fall victim to a silly overtake attempt by Ryan Hunter-Reay, losing a lap and eventually finishing 21st. Whether a result of KV-Racing co-owner Jimmy Vasser’s extremely animated reaction to his lead drivers’ demise or not, Hunter-Reay was also penalised with a drive-through penalty for causing an avoidable incident.
Lap 25 saw the next caution period after Oriol Servia was bumped into the tyres at Turn 10 by Mike Conway following an unsuccessful overtake attempt. Servia was eventually sent on his way again by the safety team with nothing worse than a broken rear wing. Perhaps wishing to exercise their authority and discourage over-ambitious overtaking attempts, IndyCar officials also lumped Conway a drive through penalty of his own.
This incident brought the majority of the field in for pit service. Power retained the lead, with the only change among the leaders being Ryan Briscoe exiting the pits ahead of Takuma Sato.
At the restart on Lap 30, Scott Dixon and E.J Viso made contact in Turn 5, with Viso being spun around and Franchitti displaying an amazing effort to navigate his car around the danger. Dixon was then shown touring slowly, heading for the pits with a broken radiator. The race remained under green despite the stricken KV machine, which was eventually sent back on its way. Dixon, following a lengthy visit to the pits for repairs, returned to the race, albeit six laps down.
Up front however, Power was moving into the distance and by Lap 53, had built a 9-second lead over his nearest challenger, who at the time was the off-sequence Alex Tagliani.
For most of the final twenty laps following the final pit-stops, Power was having a great battle with team-mate Hélio Castroneves, although memories of Long Beach earlier this season were surely not far from his mind, when Castroneves inadvertently took Power out. Right behind, Dario Franchitti was keeping an eye on the battle for the lead, knowing he was directly in line to make the most of another tangle should it eventuate.
It didn’t happen however, and Power never relinquished the lead, winning from Castroneves and Franchitti, with Tony Kanaan and Justin Wilson rounding out the top-five. After a disappointing year by their standards, Dreyer & Reinbold would have been buoyed by Wilson’s strong result.
With the win, Power made a dent in Dario Franchitti’s championship lead, narrowing it to 38 points. Scott Dixon, despite being the final classified finisher in 23rd and 6 laps down, holds third in the title race, although is now 83 points back and an outside chance to become a threat to the leading two as the teams pack up, head back across the border to the United States, and to the next round at Mid-Ohio in two weeks time, where battle will resume.
2011 Honda Indy Edmonton Final Classification (80 laps):
|1.||Will Power||Team Penske||80||1:57:22.5177|
|2.||Hélio Castroneves||Team Penske||80||+ 0.8089|
|3.||Dario Franchitti||Target Chip Ganassi Racing||80||+ 1.1735|
|4.||Tony Kanaan||KV Racing Technology Lotus||80||+ 11.1507|
|5.||Justin Wilson||Dreyer & Reinbold Racing||80||+ 11.7835|
|6.||Sébastien Bourdais||Dale Coyne Racing||80||+ 12.6681|
|7.||Ryan Hunter-Reay||Andretti Autosport||80||+ 18.0259|
|8.||Mike Conway||Andretti Autosport||80||+ 18.3563|
|9.||Danica Patrick||Andretti Autosport||80||+ 21.0430|
|10.||Ryan Briscoe||Team Penske||80||+ 31.1578|
|11.||JR Hildebrand||Panther Racing||80||+ 35.5404|
|12.||Vitor Meira||AJ Foyt Enterprises||80||+ 37.5572|
|13.||Ana Beatriz||Dreyer & Reinbold Racing||80||+ 1:07.2455|
|14.||Marco Andretti||Andretti Autosport||80||+ 1:10.2013|
|15.||James Hinchcliffe||Newman/Haas Racing||80||+ 1:11.1179|
|16.||Sebastian Saavedra||Conquest Racing||80||+ 1:15.7811|
|17.||Alex Tagliani||Sam Schmidt Motorsports||80||+ 1:15.8866|
|18.||James Jakes||Dale Coyne Racing||80||+ 1:16.1893|
|19.||Charlie Kimball||Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi||79||1 lap behind|
|20.||EJ Viso||KV Racing Technology Lotus||79||1 lap behind|
|21.||Takuma Sato||KV Racing Technology Lotus||79||1 lap behind|
|22.||Oriol Servià||Newman/Haas Racing||76||4 laps behind|
|23.||Scott Dixon||Target Chip Ganassi Racing||74||6 laps behind|
|DNF.||Simona de Silvestro||HVM Racing||54||Mechanical|
|DNF.||Graham Rahal||Service Central Chip Ganassi||0||Collision|
|DNF.||Paul Tracy||Dragon Racing||0||Collision|
[Images via IZOD IndyCar Series]