Dario Franchitti held off Ryan Briscoe to claim his third win of the 2009 IndyCar Series season at the Honda Indy Toronto as the 'old guard' survived to ensure that there was no repeat of Justin Wilson's surprise victory from a week earlier.
While Franchitti appeared the most likely winner in the early stages, a botched pit-stop seemed to have doomed him to a mere points finish, while the likes of local favourites Alex Tagliani and Paul Tracy stepped up to hint at a second successive shock result. When things shook out, however, the top two had a familiar look, with second and third both recovering from early-race tyre problems to reach the podium.
In an 85-lap race that included something for everyone - passing, crashing, cheers and jeers - Franchitti led comfortably from pole, but front row partner Will Power found Graham Rahal too close to comfort on the run to the green, slicing his rear tyre and breaking the American's front wing. With one likely contender reduced to bringing up the rear, and Briscoe's challenge dented by picking up a puncture on the debris, Franchitti headed Tagliani and Robert Doornbos through the first round of pit-stops, with the second half of the field opting to stop early when Dan Wheldon and Richard Antinucci tangled.
However, when the leader came to make his stop - under green on lap 25 - the left rear refused to seat properly, dropping the Scot down to 15th and making the first possible upset more plausible, as Tagliani made his fuel last a further eight laps. The Conquest driver had the second Ganassi car on his tail initially but, when Scott Dixon peeled off for fuel and tyres, ran at the head of a 'home' 1-2, with Tracy having rattled off the passing moves - including seven on the opening lap alone - to rise from a disappointed 15th on the grid.
Tracy's KVRT team-mate Mario Moraes hit the front for a lap when Tagliani finally pitted, before his open stop allowed Tomas Scheckter - one of those to pit under yellow on lap ten - to assume control of the race for six laps before his strategy caught up with him and dropped him to 13th, allowing Helio Castroneves to give Penske a taste of the lead.
The Brazilian made his fuel stretch to lap 48 before having to stop, at which point Tagliani returned to the front for another dozen tours, again with Dixon and Tracy providing the closest opposition. The Conquest car made it to the next yellow before pitting, but the timing was wrong and 'Tag' was made to wait until the field had lined up behind the pace car before being able to peel off.
Franchitti, on the other hand, had received the break he was looking for, having already arrived on pit-road at the point when Rahal and Carpenter tangled, the Newman/Haas/Lanigan driver being pinched into the wall as he attempted to lap the wayward Vision car. Franchitti emerged in second place, behind Castroneves and retook the lead by capitalising on a rare mistake from the Brazilian at turn one on lap 65. From there, the Ganassi car was never headed again, Franchitti posting his fastest lap just two tours from home to emphasise his pace.
The victory was Franchitti's third of the season - and the eleventh of his IndyCar career - as well as Ganassi's sixth in the ten races run so far in 2009.
"I guess we timed it right with strategy," the winner admitted, "We really struggled towards the end in that first stint, as we really used up the reds. Then I got stuck behind some really slow cars in the middle stint - Moraes, in particular, didn't do the same thing twice in any corner. I just stayed out of his way, but I couldn't get past him.