By Amy Konrath
Today’s IZOD IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines:
1. Drivers refuse to give up on streets of Toronto
2. Toronto race draws highest rating on VERSUS
3. Inside the numbers – Toronto
4. Toronto race weekend shows gains
5. Of note
1. Drivers refuse to give up on streets of Toronto: There was a moment during the Honda Indy Toronto, where Vitor Meira thought “Game over.”
The 85 rough and tumble laps on the 1.755-mile, 11-turn street circuit knocked out six of the 26 starters via contact, while a dozen others were able to make quick repairs and rejoin the fray. Meira, whose No. 14 ABC Supply car for A.J. Foyt Racing incurred a few scars from a Lap 47 shunt while running ninth, was among the handful of drivers who actually benefitted.
“It was a big wreck but that’s where we really got lucky,” said Meira, who started 14th and finished a season-best fifth. “We had to change the nose, but when everything was OK I got hopeful again. That’s how it is; you never give up. The day you give up, you don’t deserve to be here.”
Following a Lap 80 restart, Meira overtook Sebastien Bourdais for sixth and inherited fifth place when the cars of Graham Rahal and Ryan Hunter-Reay made contact while battling for third (Rahal spinning out). He held off Bourdais, who also posted a season-high finish, by three-tenths of a second at the start-finish line.
“It was a very tough race but it was one that rewarded experience,” Meira said. “It was plenty aggressive out there. I left a little on the table because I knew people would be crashing right and left.”
Ryan Hunter-Reay, whose No. 28 Team DHL/Circle K/Sun Drop Citrus Soda car received front wing damage on Lap 44 but came away unscathed from the bump with Rahal, recorded his first podium finish of the season. Andretti Autosport teammate Marco Andretti, who won at Iowa Speedway two weeks earlier, charged from 20th to finish fourth.
Rookie JR Hildebrand posted a season-high eighth on a road/street course in the No. 4 National Guard Panther Racing car, while E.J. Viso had to make two unscheduled pit stops because of tire punctures but soldiered on to ninth place in the No. 59 PDVSA KV Racing Technology-Lotus car.
“I think I was literally inches away from every major crash,” said Hildebrand, who has completed all 415 laps on road/street courses. “My mentality very quickly, once we started getting the yellows, was that the guys in front of me were going to crash and if I can just avoid getting passed that I was going to be good. I ended up getting passed a few times, but I gained a multitude of positions by being able to avoid big accidents. We stayed out of trouble and got what the car was giving us.”
2. Toronto race draws highest rating on VERSUS: Overnight ratings for VERSUS’ broadcast of the Honda Indy Toronto on July 10 were the highest ever for an IZOD IndyCar Series race on the network in the 56 metered markets.
The 85-lap race on the 1.755-mile, 11-turn Exhibition Place street circuit won by Dario Franchitti registered a .41 rating. Through six races, VERSUS has seen a 21 percent ratings increase over its 2010 season average.
3. Inside the numbers – Toronto: Some numbers to note from the Honda Indy Toronto at the Streets of Toronto, the
3: Consecutive top-10 finishes for Dario Franchitt. It was his fifth consecutive top 10 finish.
6: Best finish of the season for Sebastien Bourdais, who posted his best finish in four starts with Dale Coyne Racing.
16: Positions gained by Marco Andrettti, the most in the 26-car field. He finished fourth in the No. 26 Team Dr Pepper car.
19: Drivers who have recorded at least 1 top-five finish this year after Ryan Hunter-Reay and Vitor Meira and finished third and fifth, respectively, at Toronto.
23: Laps led by Graham Rahal, the most laps he has led in a single event in his career.
30: Wins for Dario Franchitti in his Indy car career, giving him sole possession of ninth-place on the all-time list. Up next are active win leaders Paul Tracy and Sebastien Bourdais, who are tied for seventh all-time with 31 wins.
43: Straight races for Danica Patrick without a DNF, extending her IZOD IndyCar Series record.
60.6386: seconds it took Dreyer & Reinbold’s Justin Wilson to record the fastest lap of the race on Lap 83 of the 85-lap event.
202: Laps led by Franchitti, who increased his series-leading total to 618. Power (257) is next.
1,318: Laps completed by Franchitti, driver of the No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car, of 1,318.
4. Toronto race weekend shows gains: The third IZOD IndyCar Series race – the 25th anniversary of Indy car racing on the streets of Toronto – helped raise more than $16,000 from spectators attending the Free Friday session (with matching funds from Honda Canada). The event was sponsored by the Ontario Honda Dealers Association.
Overall, the race weekend saw attendance gains over 2010 and an upswing in corporate hospitality and sponsorships.
“We could not have asked for a better way to celebrate 25 years of racing on the streets of Toronto,” said Charlie Johnstone, vice president and general manager of the event for Green Savoree Toronto. “We are confident that the next quarter of a century will bring a growing amount of entertainment and satisfaction to our core race fans, customer base, sponsors, partners in the racing community and general public. There is indeed progress on all accounts.”
5. Of note: Danica Patrick will be a presenter at the ESPY Awards on July 13 in Los Angeles. Franchitti is a nominee for Best Driver. … The Baltimore Convention Center will be home to the VIP Balcony Club in the Camden Lobby, which will offer broad views of Turns 5, 6, 7 and the entrance to pit lane among other exclusive features during the inaugural Baltimore Grand Prix on Sept. 2-4. The convention center also will be the site of the paddock for the IZOD IndyCar Series, Firestone Indy Lights Series, Star Mazda and USF2000. Go to www.baltimoregrandprix.com or call 877-4-FLY-TIX for info about the VIP Balcony Club or race weekend tickets.
The 2011 IZOD IndyCar Series season continues with the Edmonton Indy on July 24 at Edmonton City Centre Airport. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at 2 p.m. (ET) by VERSUS. The race will air live on the IMS Radio Network, SiriusXM channel 94 and www.indycar.com. The 2011 Firestone Indy Lights season continues with the Edmonton Twin 100s at Edmonton City Centre Airport on July 23 and July 24. The July 23 race will be telecast live in High Definition at 4:30 p.m. (ET) by VERSUS.