Momentum is a funny thing, and when you’re on it, you’re ON IT! Ryan Hunter-Reay is most definitely on it, as he delivered a truly commanding victory on the streets of Toronto yesterday to take the points lead in the 2012 IndyCar Drivers championship.
With the entire field surprisingly making it through the normally catastrophic Turn 3 unscathed, the field settled into a rhythm fairly early. In the formative stages of the race, former championship leader Will Power found himself running away to his third Toronto win after passing pole-sitter Dario Franchitti shortly after the green flag fell. Justin Wilson was running strongly in third place.
Hunter-Reay’s benefited from the misfortunes of his main championship rivals, who all fell around him. The first to fall was Scott Dixon, whose Honda engine decided enough was enough and spluttered to a halt on lap eight. Dario Franchitti suffered from pit lane problems when he failed to pull close enough to his crew on a mid-race stop, preventing the proper delivery of his ethanol fuel.
Josef Newgarden was running another good race, making plenty of good passing moves and executing a well-calculated strategy, to find himself running in fourth place late in the race, despite an earlier skirmish with Will Power which resulted in a light brush of Power’s front wing. While Power’s front wing eventually broke, forcing a hasty repair, Newgarden’s continued on, untroubled.
Unfortunately, his rookie status again reared its head, with the young Tennessean diving down the inside of Simon Pagenaud at Turn 3, sending him lightly into the barriers. He was eventually restarted and finished 13th, but the frustration on team owner Sarah Fisher’s face in pit lane was palpable.
Of Pagenaud, he delivered another very solid effort for the majority of the day, timing the first caution to perfection, caused when Graham Rahal overshot his braking into Turn 1 and struck the wall. Pagenaud had pitted just before, and when the remainder of the field came in for their own stops, the ‘Friendly Frog’, as he is affectionately known, casually strolled into the lead. A late stop for Pagenaud, however, cost him dearly, pushing him back down the order to eventually finish twelfth and the last of those on the lead lap.
Hunter-Reay, however, appeared to be running on rails all day, setting quick laps and pulling into the lead to the tune of 7.1 seconds before Newgarden’s late accident. At the restart with four laps remaining, all the tension and promised calamity of Lap 1 bubbled over, with Sébastian Bourdais pushed into the Turn 1 wall by Charlie Kimball, who was running brilliantly in second position. At the end of Lakeshore Boulevard at Turn 3, all hell broke loose, with Marco Andretti involved in a mix-up with multiple cars, while elsewhere in the same corner, Dario Franchitti made rear contact with Ryan Briscoe.
With the championship lead now following wins in Milwaukee, Iowa and now Toronto, Hunter-Reay proved he is a capable driver on ovals and street circuits and is now firmly in control of the championship as the series heads to the airport layout of Edmonton in two weeks time.
2012 IndyCars Honda Indy Toronto – Final Classification (85 laps):