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Series weathers controversial calls at Toronto

Somewhat against the odds IndyCar managed to pull off its doubleheader in Toronto, but it took some controversial decisions to make it happen.
All in all, the Verizon IndyCar Series can breathe a big sigh of relief after managing to get both races of the Honda Indy Toronto doubleheader in the books despite inclement weather closing in on the circuit at the worst possible moments. But in order to make it happen, race control had to make some difficult on-the-spot decisions in the heat of the moment, not all of which went down well with everyone concerned.

The biggest and most controversial call came on Saturday evening when the day's track activity was suspended without a single lap of race 1 having been completed. Given that one of IndyCar's selling points is that it runs in the rain unlike NASCAR Sprint Cup races, fans and even some teams were bemused at why the race didn't go ahead anyway.

IndyCar's president of competition and operations Derrick Walker defended that call, and refuted suggestions that race control had been indecisive by sending the cars out on track twice before then recalling them again with a red flag.

"No indecision, surprisingly enough," Walker stated. "We were just eyeballing the conditions. The conditions looked like almost we could get it in, we were moving back and forward based on the rain.

"We tried [starting behind the safety car] for a few laps," he added. "[But] I think it would have been crazy to start the race today. It didn't look like a lot of water but when you get out there and look it was enough.

"The other factor that happens here is you get a lot of oils coming out, when it comes out on the blacktop. It's quite slippery and there's a lot of water. I don't think we did the wrong thing. We waited and waited and waited; part of the indecision, as you put it, was going as late as we possibly could to hold. We wanted to try to get the race in."

"On the pace laps, visibility was pretty bad," contributed Mike Conway from the driver's perspective. "That is main reason we are not out there. And we really weren't up to speed yet. Down the back straight you could hardly see the car in front of you, and that was at the speed we were going then. It was going to be difficult to race like that.

"However, we could have kept driving around the track and I think we could have dried the track out a little better," he added. "Maybe if they would have kept us out there it would have dried out quicker. I know it's a difficult decision."

When the window for television broadcasters to cover the race closed, Walker and the rest of the IndyCar management along with the local race promoters decided to call it a day and attempt to run two modified races on Sunday instead. Team owner/driver Ed Carpenter said that he supported IndyCar's decision to postpone.

"I think the Series made a call that was for the best interest of the fans, the drivers, the owners. No one was happy about getting cancelled, but I was okay with that call," he said. "I just feel like within that, we can do a better job knowing what's going on and being prepared and having plan B, C, D and even for the fans, so they know what's going on.

"It took a while to know what we were doing today," he added. "It's tough to know what's going on especially when you're getting ready for their sixth race in four weeks ... Guys are tired. I'm more agitated now than I was four weeks ago, but it's a hard job - I wouldn't want to have Derrick's job, or Brian [Barnhart]'s job or Beaux [Barfield]'s!"

On the advice of the teams, the race distances on Sunday were reduced from 85 to 65 laps to make it physically possible for the drivers, but there was further controversy over the starting order for race 1. Two Penske cars were sent to the back after mechanics had worked on them under the red flags on Saturday; but at other times, teams were able to fix cars without penalties which led to a lot of robust discussions on the matter up and down pit lane.

"When the race was red flagged and everyone went to their cars, some needed more work than others. When one can work on their car, they all could," explained Walker. "When the #12 car disappeared and went back to the truck, we thought it was gone and never coming back. Well they put it together and brought it back. Then we positioned it at the back. Nobody requested any more time to work on the cars.

"At the end of the day, the stewards are trying to get everyone back on track, wheels on and make a race out of it," he added.

The uncertainty carried over to Sunday when Sarah Fisher had been unable to get a response from an overloaded race control on whether her team could repair the #67 car of Josef Newgarden after an early red flag for a multi-car accident. They went ahead and got a drive-thru penalty as a result, but even that was significantly less severe than the official rulebook mandated for the infraction.

As it turned out, the controversies were not over: a second multi-car accident once again blocked the track five minutes before the end of race 2. IndyCar doesn't have a NASCAR-style green-white-chequered system of handling late cautions while still delivering a green flag finish wherever possible but on this occasion threw a red flag which suspended the clock, meaning that the track could be cleared in time to restart the race for a final sprint finish. That innovation mirrors what happened earlier this year in the 2014 Indianapolis 500 in May and so at least this time it was less of a shock to the teams.

"We've been in situations, you know, it's worked for us twice now, we won here and I won at Fontana in a red flag situation," said Carpenter. "It was very difficult circumstances for IndyCar this weekend, but as a competitor we spend a lot of time preparing for different scenarios all the time, and I would just like more clarity on where we're going with that."

It seems that despite the inevitable gripes, most people involved acknowledged that the Series did everything it could to actually get two races in the books - and had managed to do so, delivering some exciting racing action to the fans in the process. A few procedural rules may have been bent or bruised in the process, but that that can be looked at another day. For now, this weekend's Toronto event appears to be a case of snatching a commendable victory from the jaws of near disaster.



Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Rain drops on a space nose cone for Ryan Hunter-Reay`s car (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
The nose cone of Grahan Rahal`s car on pit lane. (Photo by: Eric Anderson for IndyCar Media.)
Cars on track at a wet Toronto (Photo by: Chris Jones  for IndyCar Media)
The scene on pit lane under a rain delay at Toronto. (Photo by: Eric Anderson for IndyCar Media.)
The red flag is waived halting attempts to start Race 1 of the Honda Indy Toronto on Saturday. (Photo by: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)
Scott Dixon, driver of the #9 Degree Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet V6 IndyCar, raced to a sixth-place finish Saturday, June 27, 2015, in the Verizon IndyCar Series race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. (Photo by Phillip Abbott/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Sage Karam, driver of the #8 Comfort Revolution/Big Machine Records Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet V6 IndyCar, races to a fifth-place finish Saturday, June 27, 2015, in the Verizon IndyCar Series race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. (Photo by Perry Nelson/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Juan Pablo Montoya, driver of the #2 PPG Automotive Refinish Team Penske Chevrolet V-6 IndyCar, races to a fourth-place finish Saturday, June 27, 2015, in the Verizon IndyCar Series race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. (Photo by Perry Nelson/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Tony Kanaan, driver of the #10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet IndyCar V6 races to a second-place finish Saturday, June 27, 2015, in the Verizon IndyCar Series race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California.  (Photo by Perry Nelson/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Marco Andretti, Tony Kanaan, and Graham Rahal go three-wide going into Turn 1 during the MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Simon Pagenaud affixes the Verizon P1 Award emblem after winning the pole for the MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway (Photo by: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)
Simon Pagenaud with the Verizon P1 Award Green Flag after winning the pole for the MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Simon Pagenaud accepts the Verizon P1 Award after winning the pole for the MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Simon Pagenaud affixes the Verizon P1 Award emblem after winning the pole for the MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Simon Pagenaud, driver of the #22 Penske Truck Rental Team Penske Chevrolet V-6 IndyCar, celebrates capturing the pole position during qualifying Friday, June 26, 2015, for Saturday`s Verizon IndyCar Series race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. (Photo by Phillip Abbott/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Simon Pagenaud, driver of the #22 Penske Truck Rental Team Penske Chevrolet V-6 IndyCar, celebrates capturing the pole position during qualifying Friday, June 26, 2015, for Saturday`s Verizon IndyCar Series race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. (Photo by Phillip Abbott/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Simon Pagenaud, driver of the #22 Penske Truck Rental Team Penske Chevrolet V-6 IndyCar, qualifies fastest Friday, June 26, 2015, capturing the pole position for Saturday`s Verizon IndyCar Series race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. (Photo by Phillip Abbott/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Scott Dixon, Ed Carpenter, and Tony Kanaan go three-wide during practice for the MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway (Photo by: Richard Dowdy for IndyCar Media)

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