Biding his time like the crafty veteran he is, Hélio Castroneves pushed at the right time and strode to victory in the Edmonton Indy event at City Centre Airport this past weekend, in an event that went caution-free from green to chequered flags.
Starting in sixth position – which became fifth after championship leader Ryan Hunter-Reay’s 10 place grid penalty for an unauthorised engine change – Castroneves pitted one lap earlier than Rahal Letterman driver Takuma Sato, which proved to be the masterstroke. Emerging in clear air, Castroneves drove the out-lap of his life to power ahead of the top three emerging from their stops at the time to take the lead, which he never again relinquished.
Hunter-Reay was never in contention all day. His car struggled to handle the circuit, which Rubens Barrichello described as the bumpiest circuit he had ever driven on (thank goodness Rubens has never raced over the tram tracks on the old San Jose Champ Car circuit). The championship leader maintained his title position though and will go to Mid-Ohio with a 31-point lead now over Castroneves, who jumped ahead of team-mate Will Power with the win.
Power raced his heart out all afternoon – despite also being hit with a penalty for an engine change and relegated to start 17th – Roger Penske provided him with a good strategy, and with a multitude of well crafted and executed overtakes, Power climbed through the field to finish in third position.
Sandwiched between the two Penske boys on the podium was Sato, who was always there or thereabouts all day, fighting with Dario Franchitti and Alex Tagliani for the lead but always found himself entering and exiting pitlane behind a car in front of him, whether that was Tagliani, who led most of the race, or Castroneves after the Brazilian took the lead.
Mechanical woes for Scott Dixon continued, with the Kiwi suffering another engine fault halfway through the race, requiring an engine reset, costing him many positions and eventually bringing his car home in tenth place. Team-mate Dario Franchitti, who inherited pole after Hunter-Reay’s penalty, defended well initially but was unable to fend off the faster Tagliani and then Sato, who both managed to pass at different stages of the race, as did Graham Rahal, who drove a stellar race from eleventh on the grid and delivering a positive result at exactly the right time.
With only four races remaining, a title fight of Hunter-Reay, Castroneves and Power is starting to form the crux of the contenders. Scott Dixon is still in contention, however he needs to fix his engine gremlins and start putting some solid results together. The circus heads to Mid-Ohio on the first weekend of August, a traditional circuit that usually suits the Ganassi machines.
2012 IndyCars Edmonton Indy – Final Classification (75 laps):
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