From Amy Konrath
1. Power increases championship points lead over Franchitti
2. Clarke, Yacaman register best finishes of season in Toronto 100
3. Public to vote for Firestone “Tire”-ific move of the race
1. Power increases championship points lead over Franchitti: Will Power has been taking that one-race-at-a-time approach to the second half of the IZOD IndyCar Series season. Concurrently, he’s sizing up the scenarios that point toward his first series championship.
His victory July 18 in the Honda Indy Toronto could prove to be the tipping point.
“The key for me when I came to this race was avoiding carnage and accidents, which happens every year here,” said Power, who led Target Chip Ganassi Racing’s Dario Franchitti across the finish line by 1.2 seconds. “The first corner of the first lap could have been the end for me, but I just backed off and gave up a couple of positions instead. Sometimes you just need to keep in mind the big picture.”
That’s coming into focus with seven races remaining. Power, driving the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske car, recorded his fourth victory of the season – the only competitor with more than one – and increased his lead in the title chase to 42 over Franchitti.
Next up is the Honda Indy Edmonton, where Power last year netted his first series victory. For the second time this season he’ll seek to become the fourth driver in series history to win three races in a row (Scott Dixon in 2007, Dan Wheldon in 2005 and Kenny Brack in 1998). Power won at Brazil and St. Petersburg to kick off the season and has added the Watkins Glen-Toronto combo.
“I believe if you’re put in that position, you should be winning,” said Power, who grabbed the lead for good on the 1.75-mile, 11-turn street course at Exhibition Place in Toronto on Lap 72 of 85. “You’re given the equipment to win. I’ve been given a full-time ride in one of the best teams in the series. To repay them, you’ve got to win.
“I look at some of the races where we missed out, where I feel we were strong enough. We could have won more and so could other people. We’ll always be challenging for wins every weekend and we should be. It’s as simple as that.”
Winning the championship is another thing altogether. The airport circuit in Edmonton and the Mid-Ohio natural-terrain course are physically demanding and starting on the first three rows is advantageous. Then there are the four oval events to close out the schedule.
Over the past season and a half, Franchitti has an average finish of 5.3 on the 14 ovals (three victories; only two finishes out of the top 10). And, as the competition in Toronto displayed (seven different teams represented in the top 10), there are a number of variables.
“Man, I know it’s going to be a tough championship to win,” Power said. “I was aware coming into the season that I had lack of experience on mile-and-a-half ovals. I think the only place it really showed was Kansas, where I was very cautious and just finished the race (12th). Everywhere else, I felt like I could have challenged for the win.
“I want to win an oval race before the year’s out. I’ve been knocking on the door, so I think that may come.”
The three drivers other than Franchitti, the 2009 Toronto race winner and reigning series champion, closest to Power in the standings lost ground at Toronto. Scott Dixon (40 points behind entering the race), Ryan Briscoe (-47) and Helio Castroneves (-54) exited prematurely because of separate incidences of contact.
“It’s very sad,” said Castroneves, who started third but finished a season-low 24th. “We had an awesome car and I think we could’ve fought for the win. (Vitor Meira) just broke very early going into (Turn 3 on Lap 22) and I just didn’t anticipate that. It’s really too bad. The Team Penske crew had a great pit stop and we were looking strong. We’ll regroup and come back with a better result next week at Edmonton.”
Franchitti also is looking to improve one position on the City Centre Airport course. Shutting Power out of Victory Circle, and climbing that top step himself, is the most effective way to make the push for his third series title.
“We’re trying to beat him,” he said of Power. “Last year (at Toronto) it worked out for us. The strategy we chose (this year), it didn’t, and that’s the way it is sometimes. But he’s done a helluva job. We’ve got to keep making progress, because if you stand still you’re going to get passed by four or five different cars just the next week because the speed of development in the series is pretty intense right now, even though we’ve had theses cars for such a long time.”
2. Clarke, Yacaman register best finishes of season in Toronto 100: Dan Clarke and Gustavo Yacaman celebrated their podium finishes in the Toronto 100 with as much exuberance as race winner J.K. Vernay. After all, it was their first in Firestone Indy Lights.
Clarke, driving the No. 40 Wasteco Deans Knight Special for Walker Racing, finished 1.7469 seconds behind Vernay on the 1.75-mile, 11-turn Exhibition Place street course. Yacaman was close behind in the No. 10 Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing car.
Both overtook James Hinchcliffe’s No. 2 TMR Racing-Xtreme Coil Drilling car in Turn 3 on the white flag lap.
“Sitting in third place, watching Gustavo behind me, keeping an eye on him every lap in my mirrors, watching James and J.K. battle it out, I was feeling pretty good as the race was going on,” said Clarke, who recorded his second top five of the season. “I was thinking, ‘This is awesome; we’re going to get a podium.’ It’s what we need because we’ve had some bad luck this year with little things failing on the car and missing out.”
The former A1GP and Champ Car World Series driver, who competed on the Toronto course in 2006 and ’07, also received some luck with 12 laps left.
“I hit the wall at the hairpin,” Clarke said. “The inside wall sticks out just after the apex. I hit it with my front right. The steering wheel position had moved. I was driving around praying that my corner didn’t collapse on me. That braking is hard into three. When I had second, I just hung on and crossed the line.”
Yacaman, 19, who posted seven top-10 finishes in 14 Firestone Indy Lights races last year, started a season-high fourth. He credited the efforts of the crew for the result on the track and thanked team principals for believing in him.
“I’ve had a relationship with Wayne before. He said, ‘Maybe we can build something up for you,’ ” Yacaman said of the first-year entrant in Firestone Indy Lights. “That’s what we did. We got two great guys, Dominic and Nicholas Cape. They were joined by Wayne Taylor Motorsports, which is headed by Simon Hodgson, who has incredible experience. We’ve got a great group of people that we put together. Now the results are starting to show.
“It’s really hard as a new team, as a one-car team, to be where we are right now. I’m really happy for them. This was not only good for me; it’s really good for them because it makes us work harder and makes us exceed our expectations.
“This is definitely a great boost for me, for my dad, for my family, for everyone, to keep believing in us. Now what we have to do is keep working on it, keep scoring podiums, and hopefully a race win will come soon.”
3. Public to vote for Firestone “Tire”-ific move of the race: Fans will have the ultimate say in who receives a $10,000 race bonus from Firestone. After each IZOD IndyCar Series race, Firestone executives pick three “Tire”-ific Moves of the Race in which drivers utilized their Firehawks to make a bold, dramatic move. Fans can vote at www.indycar.com.
From the Honda Indy Toronto, fans can choose from: Will Power for his Lap 72 pass of Justin Wilson to take the lead and go on to win; Graham Rahal for driving from 14th to fifth place in his first race back with Newman/Haas Racing; Justin Wilson, who after spinning out of contention for the victory, advanced seven positions in as many laps to finish seventh.
The 2010 IZOD IndyCar Series season continues July 25 with the Honda Indy Edmonton. The race will be telecast live at 5 p.m. (ET) by VERSUS. The race will air live on the IMS Radio Network, XM channel 145 and Sirius channel 212. The race also will be carried on www.indycar.com. The 2010 Firestone Indy Lights season continues with the Edmonton 100 at noon (ET) July 25. The race will air live on indycar.com.