Random Thoughts On Toronto

Sometimes in football, a team will gut out an “ugly” win. In doing so, the winning team doesn’t do anything real spectacular and incurs some mishap and misfortune along the way, but somehow finds a way to win. Overall, I would say that the 2010 version of the Honda Indy Toronto would qualify as an ugly race. It was certainly entertaining, mind you. In fact, it was one of the more entertaining versions of this race that I can remember. But so far as being a clinic on the art of street racing, this would not be a great example.

There was so much carnage in this race, that it was almost a multi-turn open-wheel version of Bristol Motor Speedway. Unlike most people in my home state, I’ve always found racing at Bristol a little hard to watch. There is never any rhythm to the race. That was the problem with Toronto.

Shortly after Milka Duno was mercifully parked on lap ten, the attrition started. Maybe all the drivers let their guard down when they saw the CITGO car pull into the pits. Whatever the case, it began when teammates Mario Moraes and Takuma Sato added to the ever-growing repair bill at KV Racing Technologies. Sato didn’t look happy with his teammate, but Moraes was just getting started as he would end up bouncing between several cars before finally being penalized.

Vitor Meira’s brake issues had an impact on several drivers – most notably Helio Castroneves. Helio misjudged Meira’s early braking point and ran up Meira’s left rear, launching him into the concrete barrier first before Helio helplessly plowed into the tire barriers without the aid of any brakes. Although Helio was quick to lay blame at Meira’s braking zone, it’s miscalculations like this that might explain Helio’s lack of a championship in Helio’s eleventh year at Team Penske.

This was the type of day it was – some unexpected twists and turns, even at the front of the field; as evidenced by Justin Wilson spinning late in the race while running in second. He would recover enough to finish seventh. Tomas Scheckter had been silent throughout most of the day. Perhaps he felt the need to get his sponsor, Mona Vie, some airtime, because with twelve laps to go, he tried a banzai move on Alex Tagliani that didn’t work out. Both drivers found the tire barriers but would continue – albeit a lap down.

The most exciting part of the day was the last round of pit stops. With Dario Franchitti leading and Will Power and Justin Wilson not far behind, the three caught slower traffic. Franchitti darted into the pits as soon as he was inside his pit window, the other two stayed out one more lap. When they pitted, Wilson barely beat Power out of the pits – but they both came out just ahead of Franchitti. While it seemed Power couldn’t quite get up to speed and was holding up Franchitti; Wilson checked out and left them both behind. Only another troublesome caution could slow Wilson down. It did. Power got Wilson on the re-start, Wilson spun a few laps later and Will Power ran off for another win.

Good day for Andretti Autosport: All four Andretti Autosport drivers improved their positions to finish higher than their starting spots. Danica Patrick improved six spots in a solid performance to finish sixth. Ryan Hunter-Reay moved up one spot to finish third. Tony Kanaan finished a steady fourth after starting eighth and Marco Andretti moved up from tenth to eighth. This was a vast improvement over the team’s performance at Toronto a year ago – on the very track that team owner Michael Andretti seemed to own as well, racking up seven victories at Exhibition Place in his CART career.

KV woes continue: I continue to marvel at the amount of patience and disposable income of team owner Kevin Kalkhoven. Both must be close to running out, as KV Racing Technologies encountered their nineteenth and twentieth crash of the season on Sunday. With seven races to go, they could be facing an historic repair bill by season’s end. Moraes drove like he was blindfolded, as he continued to bounce his way through traffic. Sato has made his share of mistakes, but was a victim of Moraes on Sunday. Through no fault of his own, EJ Viso got caught up with Raphael Matos. Before that, Viso was having a relatively calm day.

Quote of the day: You had to love the genuine emotion displayed by Will Power in his victory lane interview. At first, it was the obligatory thanking the team and blah, blah, blah. Then out of nowhere, with a big smile on his face; he busted out with "Man, I just love winning!". It’s rare and refreshing to see such true excitement come out of most of today’s buttoned-down drivers.

Goodbye ABC: I traveled this weekend to visit my mother for her birthday. The local ABC affiliate where she lives, chose to pre-empt the pre-race show in order to show the weekly telecast from the local First Baptist Church. So if there were any infamous moments during the pre-race show, I missed them. Grrrrr!!!!

Without watching the replay, I don’t recall any major gaffes with the telecast. There was a slight mix-up with the pit reporters on their useless “up to speed” segment; but other than that, I thought it was a fairly clean telecast for Marty Reid and company.

For the hard-core race viewer, the good news is that the remaining races of the IZOD IndyCar Season are all on Versus. The production value is immeasurably better than that of ABC/ESPN and there is no chance of any part of the telecast being missed for local weather issues or being purposely pre-empted as my telecast was…that is, providing that you can actually get Versus. Of course, the downside is that this was the last good chance for the series to pick up the coveted casual fan from a major network. It will be an interesting offseason to see what Randy Bernard might be able to do to offset this problem.

All in all: It was an entertaining race. Will Power was his usual self, but the rest of Team Penske did nothing to improve their seasons. Ryan Briscoe has struggled the majority of the season, except for his lone win at Texas. So far, it looks as if Helio Castroneves is continuing his pattern of fading in the second half of the season with his usual combination of unforced errors and uninspired drives. With increased rumors that lack of sponsorship may force Roger Penske to scale back to two cars, this is a trend that Helio would do well to reverse.

As I’ve said before, Toronto is not my personal favorite, but I found this race to be enjoyable and exciting – even if it was ugly at times.

George Phillips


17 Responses to “Random Thoughts On Toronto”

  1. I thought it was OK, but the stop/start feelingsucked a lot of the rhythm out of the race which was a shame.
    Good job by Power, but I felt so bad for Justin and the D&R guys

  2. Brian McKay Says:

    Very good post, George! Right on target again and again. ABC affiliate here also showed another program then ads until one second before green flag. I was so surprised that one second after an ad ended and I saw cars on front straight, they began racing. Wished that we had at least a few minutes orientation before green flag flew. Not happy.
    Crash fest made it hard for me to enjoy. I have always been a proponent of racing on natural terrain road courses and some cities’ streets. But I can see why oval-racing fans would be upset with race, stop, race, stop, race, stop, race, stop, race, and Team Penske wins again. I WISH that cranes could lift from overrun zones errant cars (Sato’s, HCN’s) so that racing could continue. So sick of eight-lap full-course cautions. Make it hard for fans at the track and at home to enjoy racing when they’re not racing.

  3. As we watched on ABC, the race was really mared by that….however, the race was okay, but A. once ,Wilson wrecked no one could stay with Power and B. massive attrition. And, another win for the Big Two…

  4. Starting at about lap 18 when Tracy took the lead by forging a pit stop with the remainder of the field Mary Reid started talking about how Tracy maybe only needed 1 more stop. Well the rest of the field also only needed 1 more stop and had full tanks/new tires. I could not figure out how it was going to be remotely possible for Tracy to only make a single stop all race. He was going to have to average 44 laps on each tank of fuel (85 scheduled plus 3 pace laps) when 30 laps was the anticipated green fuel economy. The massive yellows surely made that more feasible but it still seemed impossible.

    Somebody please correct me if my calculations are flawed in some manner.

    • No, I wondered exactly how that was supposed to work out, too. I was less than surprised when even with all of the yellow (which Marty Reid and Scott Goodyear were saying was critical to PT making it on one stop) that PT made two stops and dropped down the order. It was worth a shot to get off sequence, given that he’d started so far back, but I never felt like one stop was remotely possible.

  5. Didn’t care for it. It was Power/Franchitti through most of the race, and it’s been Power/Franchitti far too often. I respect them both and their teams and teammates. But I feel like I’m watching Le Mans. Penske/Ganassi are running Prototypes and everyone else is running GT.

    I don’t find that compelling racing.

  6. Mario Moraes drove like he was audtioning for the fendered series. Is it really that difficult to install a freaking starter in these cars? Felt bad for Wilson as well as Hinch in the Junior Varsity game.

    I thought ABC/ESPN did much better this week, and had the feeling if maybe they did the whole series their work would improve. And they did show a lot of Toronto Indycar adverts during the British Open coverage. But I’m looking forward to watching the next one on Versus.

  7. Spot on as usual George. It was a truly ugly race, but oddly enough, I found it entertaining despite ABC’s pathetic coverage. Like all entertaining events it had a nice mix of the predictable
    – KV wrecking
    – Power showing himself to be the best Penske driver
    – Milka getting lapped within minutes of the start
    – Schekter taking someone out with a ridiculous bonzai move
    – Moraes causing angst and frustration among the field
    – Inexplicable brain fades by Castroneves &/or Briscoe

    as well as the unpredictable
    – Wilson making an unforced error?
    – Dixon making Castroneves/Brisoe like mistakes
    – Rahal charging through the field
    – Danica P6????
    – Three American’s in the Top 6? Four in the Top 8?

    The predictable makes a fan feel like an expert for being able to anticipate events. The unpredictable makes for excitement.

    Regarding KV, Kevin Kalkhoven must be thinking “It was cheaper to prop up ChampCar than run these three clowns”

    These unforced errors, and brain fades are the reason Penske hasn’t won a Championship since Hornish left and the mergification happened. The only question at this point, when he goes to 2 cars next year does he drop Briscoe or Castroneves?

    • In all fairness Tom, Sato was completely faultless in his incident with Moraes – Sato may have been on the outside, but Mario completely swiped clean across the track and wiped out Taku

    • Brian McKay Says:

      all good points! Why, oh why, oh why isn’t Moraes BOOTED?! Does he pay KVRT for his crash damage? He’s been irking racers and fans since first turn of first lap of first race this season.

      Mr. Penske intends to field three IndyCars next season.

  8. I tend to agree. It was an exciting race, but it was also very ugly at times.

    What I saw were drivers making overambititious banzai moves, trying to shut the door after being passed and making what I feel are silly mistakes. The quality of driving in this race was for the most part, deplorable.

    Congratulations to Will Power for his fourth win of the season. If he can be even average on the ovals, he might have the field covered for the overall title as well as the road/street course title.

    I feel really bad for Justin Wilson. I feel he had this race covered untli he spun.

    At what point does Kevin Kalkhoven decide enough is enough? 20 crashes this season by KVRT?! Unacceptable.

    Brian, the race actually was like an oval race. Start, stop, start, stop. The only difference is that in this race, there were actually reasons for the caution flags. Mostly idiotic driving by more than a few drivers-16 of the 25 or 26 cars had damage at the end of the race.

    I can only imagine the number of drivers/teams wanting to talk to Brian Barnhart after this race.

    • Brian McKay Says:

      I had hoped that the next-gen IndyCars would have onboard starter motors. But with the newly-announced low target weight, I’m not hoping any longer.

      But I would like to see only local cautions when, for instance HCN goes so far from the racing line. Let the competitors compete and entertain viewers elsewhere on track while far from the racing line Helio quickly exits his car, a crane and sling hoist the car, then three guys quickly drag the stacked tires a few feet.

  9. What has been overlooked are the horrendous cautions, not crashes. The first stint was interrupted when the first crasher ran well into the runoff area. A local yellow would have been sufficient to clear that car out. The result was a resart that led to a crash and caution. Then a whole string of crash / cautions ensued thus dissrupting the flow of the race. The problem was when Briscoe got punted, there was no caution. Track workers were running out onto the track to retrieve his front wing with cars still at speed. Perhaps the yellow never flew because They were running out of airtime on ABC and they wanted to complete the full distance.

    I won’t even begin to tackle the issue of Mario ” MORON” Moraes. At least Milk Dud gets called in to the pits when the field approaches her from the rear. It is safer for her to lose the lap while she is pitted.

  10. SkipinSC Says:

    The incidents with Moraes made me think very much of the Robert Duvall line in “Days of Thunder:” “Son, I want you to go up and hit the pace car, ’cause God knows, you’ve hit everything else out there!”

    Maybe Mario needs a trip to the bench alongside Milka.

    What has astounded me about this year is the overwhelming number of “unforced errors,” be it brain fade, overdriving one’s ability or whatever. Yes, these happen, but I can’t recall a season when so many of the frontrunners have been so affected.

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