Random Thoughts On Toronto

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Well, the red cars finished one-two again, as Dario Franchitti led Ryan Briscoe by a comfortable margin as he crossed the finish line in Toronto. But between Franchitti’s starting from the pole and crossing the line for the win, it was hardly the parade that we had grown accustomed to seeing on the ovals this season. There was great on-track passing, unscheduled pit stops, more than a few stubborn moves by some drivers and a controversial call by race control that may have affected the final results. All in all, it was a pretty entertaining day for a street race.

The tone of the race was set from the start as Will Power didn’t have the best of starts and cut across the bow of Graham Rahal, before the first turn. Power came into the pits after limping around with a cut tire for an entire lap. He was able to hold off Franchitti from lapping him and benefited from a full-course caution caused by Dan Wheldon’s spin, and get back around to the back of the field before being lapped. After a very precarious start, Power finished third in probably the best looking car in the field.

Scott Dixon made some bold moves in the last few laps to get by EJ Viso, Danica Patrick and last weeks winner, Justin Wilson, to earn a fourth place finish. Wilson and Patrick finished fifth and sixth, respectively. The fact that Danica was even running in the top ten speaks volumes after the disaster that Andretti-Green Racing had in qualifying. Danica started eighteenth for her second worst starting position for the season (twenty-second at Long Beach). Ryan Hunter-Reay finally had a good run for AJ Foyt, bringing the ABC Supply car home in seventh place after starting twelfth.

Alex Tagliani had an interesting day, to say the least. He led for twenty-one laps early on, but made an ill-advised bonsai move late in the race, which took out Tomas Scheckter and also collected Mario Moraes. He finished ninth, but only after Scheckter made his patented “glove throw” at him.

The moment of the race came on lap sixty-five with Helio Castroneves and Canadian Paul Tracy battling it out for second place. Helio was also battling an ill-handling racecar, as Franchitti had already dispatched Helio from the lead earlier on the lap. Franchitti was getting away and Tracy had no time to mess with Helio. As they both barreled down Lakeshore Boulevard, Tracy had a run and Helio seemed to give way entering the corner. As they exited the corner, they made contact once with Tracy on the inside of the right-hander. Then, as they approached the next turn, they made contact again causing Helio to veer sharply into Tracy, putting him into the barrier. Castroneves was able to nurse it back to the pits, where he was greeted by a chorus of boos from angry Canadians.

I am a Castroneves fan, but I have to side with Tracy on this one. Tracy clearly had the faster car and only had one goal in this race…win. Helio needed a good finish to stay within reach of the championship. He probably had a fourth or fifth place car and should not have been so stubborn with a driver who had no interest in points racing. Instead, he wound up eighteenth on the day and is now seventy-eight points behind new leader Franchitti. In all actuality, Castroneves took himself out of any realistic chance of staying in the championship hunt with that move. These momentary lapses in concentration combined with a bit too much stubbornness, might explain why Helio Castroneves has never won an open-wheel championship at any level.

Of course, the boneheaded move of the day came after the checkered flag and involved two of my least favorite drivers. While on the cool-down lap, EJ Viso was coasting down Lakeshore Boulevard flipping his visor up and about to have a drink of water. Suddenly, Mario Moraes went along Viso’s left sidepod and made contact with Viso’s car — spinning him ninety degrees to the left and into the concrete wall, causing significant damage to Viso’s car. I’m not a Viso fan and this was obviously retaliation for what happened late in the race, but this was a Kyle Busch type move on Moraes part (without the Kyle Busch results to back it up). Brian Barnhart should penalize him significantly before the next race in Edmonton.

ABC Flubs: Unfortunately, ABC did not give us fond memories for the remainder of the summer in this, their last telecast of the season. Marty Reid had many gaffes as he fumbled his way through the broadcast. At the start of the race, as Will Power went streaking toward the Prince’s Gates at the head of turn one, he said “someone” had gone off and we’ll try to see who it is. Power’s bright yellow car is very hard to miss. How could he not be able to identify it? Also, as Paul Tracy had just passed Mike Conway followed by Conway clearly clouting the wall with his right rear, both Reid and Scott Goodyear seemed befuddled as to why Conway suddenly had a flat tire. They were both watching the same monitor we were. Why was it so easy for everyone in my living room to immediately see it, but they failed to?

One of the most spectacular camera angles they showed all day, was that of the “nose cam” mounted at the tip of the nose on Marco Andretti’s car. They utilized this shot for about ten seconds but had the shot covered up with ESPN graphics promoting upcoming shows. They later used it for about three seconds in a side window as Marco was pulling into the pits. Why go to the trouble and expense of even mounting such a camera to use it so seldom? The same goes for Danica’s “foot cam”. That is a pretty unique shot, but it has been used twice for about five seconds in each of the last two weeks.

Not to beat the dead horse some more, but I’m glad to be done with ABC/ESPN for the season. I’m looking forward to having Versus finish the season with their excellent team and coverage.

Dario’s placement: Jimmy Vasser, owner of Paul Tracy’s car, was furious over the fact that Dario was moved in front of Paul Tracy before the re-start on lap sixty-three, and from what I could see…I don’t blame him. I thought it was a gift that Franchitti was allowed to complete his stop when the yellow came on just as he entered the pits. Usually, a driver is either waved on through the pits or allowed to take just enough fuel (and no tires) to last until the pits open. Then after Franchitti benefited from that allowance, race control ordered him into second place between Castroneves and Tracy. Jimmy Vasser said he may not be very smart for not understanding the logic that placed Franchitti in second. I must be stupid too, because the “official” explanation made no sense to me. One could argue that had this call not been made, the Tracy-Castroneves fracas would not have taken place.

Boo-Birds: Helio Castroneves acknowledged that when the Toronto fans booed him for taking out crowd favorite Paul Tracy, it was the first time he had ever been booed. I like Helio, but I can’t say that the booing was a bad thing. At least, the fans in Toronto are passionate about open-wheel racing. Crowds at other venues could benefit from having such passion. It is that passion or lack thereof that will ultimately decide the future of this series.

Overall: It was an excellent race. How Franchitti went from fifteenth to victory lane is still a mystery, even after watching the replay. The road/street courses have provided a spark to a series that was boring everyone to sleep. I hope that Brian Barnhart’s fixes will make Kentucky more competitive. It seems like I’m going against my own grain to gripe about ovals in favor of road courses. I will be very happy to put the universe back into its proper order and get it back to where I look forward to the ovals.

This week: Just a quick note — Tomorrow and Wednesday, this space will be filled with a fascinating article by guest blogger Tom Gahr, who supplied an informative article last month prior to the Iowa race. Tom will have a two-part article about 1926 Indianapolis 500 winner Frank Lockhart. I have read it and history buffs will not want to miss it. I will enjoy the break and will see you back here on Thursday July 16.

George Phillips

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6 Responses to “Random Thoughts On Toronto”

  1. Yes, that was definitely a fun race. Hopefully, some extra work is done promoting the event next year. The race spoke for itself. Too bad the questionable call sullied things somewhat.

    Embrace the dark side, George. Road racing rocks! ;) (not that I want the oval racing to be like it has been for much of the season).

  2. John McLallen Says:

    I liked it, too. By the way, George, let’s plan our trip to Birmingham for next year’s race! I am looking forward to that!

  3. Thoroughly enjoyed the race, but I seriously must question the decision to hire a 4-year-old to direct TV coverage of the event

  4. just as qualified in my eyes… :D

  5. tim nothhelfer Says:

    I don’t know what was worse…Race control ordering Dario to second place in front of Tracy…..the incompetence of setting up timing and scoring to require this ….or Will Power protecting his teammate on the last restart….like AGR super team tactics from a few years ago.

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