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Power and Franchitti survive Toronto

18 July 2010

Justin Wilson led the field to green on the streets to Toronto, virtually alone among the runners in opting to start the race on the harder and nominally slower hard (prime) tyres. It didn't seem to cause him any problems and he was able to easily keep the rest of the field behind him, as the race got away to a clean start through turn 1.

Further around the first lap, however, Dan Wheldon misjudged his braking and ploughed into the back of EJ Viso, shattering Wheldon's front wing in the process and forcing him to make a costly pit stop for repairs. Milka Duno was another early visitor to the pits, this time as a result of a black flag for not managing to run within the 107 per cent of the lead time and becoming an impediment to the other cars rapidly coming up to lap her.

Will Power slipped back in the early stint, meaning that Helio Castroneves moved into second ahead of Dario Franchitti (who had been given a fresh engine overnight), Ryan Hunter-Reay and Scott Dixon. Power had just claimed the position back from Dixon on lap 17 when the first full course caution came out, as a result of Mario Moraes pinching his team mate Takuma Sato into the wall, the clash of wheels breaking Sato's front right suspension and likely leading to a heated team debrief to come after the race.

With the exceptions of Paul Tracy and Vitor Meira, everyone came in for an early pit stop. It proved costly for Justin Wilson, who emerged behind Castroneves, Franchitti and Power in effective third place, Tracy and Meira notwithstanding; at least Wilson could now go for the sticky red-wall tyres for the remainder of the race, even as others had to run a stint on the primes.

The restart when it came didn't last long: Helio Castroneves made a move on Vitor Meira on the run into turn 3, but left his move a fraction of a second too late and clipped the rear left wheel of the Foyt car. The impact knocked Helio into the air and then into the wall, and he skidded his way down the wall into the run off area to arrive at some speed into the tyre barrier. According to Helio in the post-race interview, he was on push-to-pass and didn't expect Meira to brake as early as he did into the corner.

The next restart barely lasted any longer: Alex Lloyd ended up in the tyre barrier in turn 1 after something appeared to break on the car. Before the caution, Dario Franchitti and Will Power had managed to dispatch Vitor Meira and step up to second and third respectively.

Local hero Paul Tracy yet again led the field to green, and there was just time for Dario Franchitti to get past him before the yellow was out yet again - this time for Mario Romancini who spun into the tyres and stalled after contact with the hapless Mario Moraes in turn 3 on lap 32. Moraes received a drive-thru penalty for causing the accident.

Deprived of the glory of leading his home race, Tracy (along with Meira) finally opted to pit for fuel and dropped to the back of the lead lap in the process, so now Franchitti led Power, Wilson, Hunter-Reay and the increasingly improving Tony Kanaan in fifth place ahead of a strangely anonymous Scott Dixon.

After the string of non-stop yellows, it was good to get back to a proper green flag stint on lap 35. Scott Dixon immediately made the most of the opportunity by overtaking Tony Kanaan for fifth, after Kanaan was warned for driving defensively offline by the stewards.

As the race passed the 52 lap mark, some of the midfielders started to make what they hoped would be their final pit stop of the afternoon - Ryan Briscoe, Alex Tagliani and EJ Viso led the move with Danica Patrick and Tomas Scheckter among those coming in next time around. The leaders, however, were pushing on.

Dario Franchitti was the first to break: coming up on slow traffic ahead, the Ganassi team opted to bring in Dario at the end of lap 54 along with his team mate Scott Dixon. The rest of the leaders realised the threat and Power, Wilson and Hunter-Reay were in next time around. It proved the perfect play: Wilson got the best stop of them all and returned to the track ahead of Will Power, and they both came out ahead of Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon.

Kanaan, Marco Andretti and Graham Rahal were yet to pit when Bertrand Baguette put his car into the tyres at turn 3; this time a full course caution was avoided, but the leading trio were shaken by the near miss and immediately pitted next time around. That put Wilson back at the front, arguably where he should have been all along, with Will Power and Dario Franchitti second and third.

Wilson avoided a potentially disastrous clash with backmarker Raphael Matos to start to stretch out a 3.5s lead. It's a lead that would have been wiped out if the track had gone yellow again on lap 60 when Ryan Briscoe was spun out of seventh place by a rear-end shunt from Graham Rahal. Briscoe was able to resume, after pitting for a new front win, but was now well down the running order and two laps down.

But on lap 65, the race did indeed go full course yellow again, for a midfield tangle caused when a gaggle of cars simply fell over each other: after being passed by Danica Patrick, Raphael Matos got clipped from behind by Canada's own Alex Tagliani - a pure racing incident, no one to blame - and was spun into the tyre wall. EJ Viso was left with no where to go on the track except into the stationery De Ferran Dragon car. At the same time, in a separate incident elsewhere on track, the other local hero Paul Tracy locked his brakes into turn 3 and narrowly avoided following others into the tyre wall; he did stall however and lost several places waiting to be refired.

There were now less than 5 laps to go, as Wilson continued to lead Power, Franchitti, Dixon and Hunter-Reay (who had passed Kanaan for sixth) to the restart. But Wilson's backend stepped out on the way to the green flag and Will Power pounced on the run down into turn 1 to claim the lead: Wilson's handling seemed to be going away fast, and moments later the Dreyer and Reinbold car simply slid into the turn 7 right hander with massive oversteer, and spun around. Before Wilson could get the car pointing the right way, the entire field had gone past him.

There was plenty else going on at this point: Ryan Hunter-Reay made a lunge down the inside of Dixon into turn 3 and ended up sliding away from the apex and making contact with the Kiwi, launching Dixon briefly into the air before the Ganassi car finally made crunching impact with the wall, demolishing the left front suspension. Dixon limped back to the pits without causing a full course caution, but one came out anyway after Tomas Scheckter and Alex Tagliani clashed and ended up in the tyre wall at turn 1.

So now Power, Franchitti and Hunter-Reay were the top three ahead of Kanaan and Rahal, with Wilson all the way back in tenth spot and fighting to reclaim whatever positions he possibly could before the end of the race. He finally managed to get past Marco Andretti in the final laps to finish in seventh place - good, but not the victory he doubtless expected and probably deserved.

Up front, no one had any answers for Will Power, who claimed yet another season victory while Dario had his hands full just keeping Ryan Hunter-Reay back in third place. The win gives Power a big lead in the IRL championship, as his rivals face an uphill battle to reel him back in.


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