IndyCar » 23 July 2012
Castroneves wins caution-free Edmonton
Helio Castroneves righted a past wrong by clinching victory in the 2012 Edmonton Indy, but he had to work hard over the final laps to hold off a hard-charging Takuma Sato.
A caution-free 75-lap Edmonton Indy nonetheless managed to serve up entertaining on-track battles and culminated in a gripping 16-lap stand-off between Helio Castroneves and Takuma Sato for the race win, with Helio able to hold on to the top spot thanks to some crucial early hoarding of his push-to-pass power boost to claim his first victory in the event and make up in part for his infamous 'stolen win' of 2010.
Dario Franchitti started from pole position alongside Ryan Briscoe, after five engine change penalties included pole winner Ryan Hunter-Reay (who ended up starting from 11th) and leading title contenders Will Power (demoted to 17th) and Scott Dixon (down to 18th.)
In fact it was third-place starter Alex Tagliani who made the first move as the green flag came out, locking onto Franchitti's tail into turn 1 leaving Briscoe hung out to dry on the outside line and having to lift off to avoid thumping into the tyre wall. That forced Briscoe to wait to fall in behind Takuma Sato and Helio Castroneves, a fall of three places in that opening corner.
Next time down the main straightaway, Tagliani wanted still more: he applied his push-to-pass boost in a textbook overtake move on Franchitti and started to pull away from the field, to the ecstatic cheers of the Canadian crowd supporting one of their tho local heroes in the race.
Other drivers were also making some good early tactical use of the push-to-pass, which allowed drivers to access 120 seconds of additional power boost over the course of the race. Will Power used it sparingly at the start of lap 4 to scrape past Josef Newgarden for fourth place, Graham Rahal slipped past Rubens Barrichello for sixth on lap 10 and Justin Wilson made a nice move on Simon Pagenaud for eighth right behind them. Pagenaud lost another spot to Ryan Hunter-Reay next time around, again with the help of the boost button.
But things did not always go to plan on the push-to-pass front: James Hinchcliffe's attempt to deploy push-to-pass to get around Pagenaud into turn 1 on lap 15 fell short, and when he tried again next time he ended up locking up and running wide, haemorrhaging positions in the process. The chasing cars got caught out by this sudden development, and Will Power struggled to make his own way through the corner - even brushing the wall with his right side tyres as the #12 struggled to put the power down again.
It was soon apparent that almost everyone was on a two-stop strategy which required strict adherence to a fuel conservation strategy, especially when no cautions materialised for the entire 75-lap length of the race. JR Hildebrand was an early visitor to pit lane in the opening laps for a new front wing, but otherwise only Tony Kanaan tried to go off-sync with his strategy by converting to a three-stopper by coming in early on lap 12 when it was clear he was making little progress through the field by conventional methods. The lack of cautions meant that Plan B fared little better, however, and Kanaan would slot it out to an 18th-place finish by the end.
The rest of the field cycled through the pit stops at around the one-third race distance mark, with the four leaders - Tagliani, Franchitti, Sato and Castroneves - in on lap 26. They all came out in the same order they entered, but when they returned to the track Castroneves quickly passed Sato and Franchitti clearly had similar ideas about making a move on Tagliani, feeling that the Canadian had spent quite long enough in the lead by now.
It didn't work out that way for him: try as he might with the push-to-pass, Franchitti failed to get around the #98 - and in trying to force the matter over the following corners he left the inside line vulnerable to an opportunistic strike by Castroneves who surged through to second place in turn 5.
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