Sunday, July 17, 2016

Will Power Wins Toronto Indy 2016 Beats out Castroneves, Hinchcliffe

The drivers predicted a wild one.

And that’s precisely how it played out on a sunny Sunday afternoon on the streets along Lake Ontario, with Australian Will Power surviving a race that truly had a bit of everything on his way to capturing career win No. 3 at the Honda Indy Toronto.

Ageless Helio Catroneves finished second to give Penske a 1-2 finish and the top three drivers in the overall standings. Canadian James Hinchcliffe crossed the line in third to secure his best result on home soil and keep his comeback campaign on an upward trajectory following a near-fatal injury more than a year ago. And the spills and thrills came early and often throughout the 30th running of the Indy along the famed temporary downtown circuit.

When defending champion Josef Newgarden lost his bid for another Toronto title, hitting a damaged curb that earlier forced a yellow caution flag to drop, his day was done. It was one of several heart-stopping moments on an 11-turn mixed-surface track known for its element of surprise. Juan Pablo Montoya, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Jack Hawksworth headed up the hit parade with car-to-car contact, while the likes of Power and Hinchcliffe made hay with their overall race strategies, particularly in the late stages.

Power pitted on Lap 57 of 85. Just as he did that, Newgarden crashed on Turn 5, injuring his hand. It brought out a caution and spelled ruin for pole-sitter Scott Dixon, a former two-time winner who dominated for most of the race, ultimately finishing eighth.

Dixon had yet to pit and was behind Power and in a traffic jam when he and several others did make their stop.

“There’s always a risk in the first stop if you stay out. We had enough fuel to go a couple more laps, but we opted to pit on the same lap as Dixon,” said Australia’s Power, the series champion in 2014, who won previous Toronto races in 2007 and 2010. “But, you know, that worked out for us in the last stop. The team called me in just at the last minute. Perfect timing. I mean, I can’t tell you how many times it has gone the opposite way for me at this place, and many other places.”

It has gone sour for Hinchcliffe in Toronto more times than he wishes to remember, but the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver had to be smiling when a caution with four laps remaining — stemming from Hawksworth smashing into a tire barrier, and then Montoya doing the same — set up one final restart with a lap to go.

“It is the nature of IndyCar racing. It’s what kind of throws us these off-results every once in a while,” Hinchcliffe said. “As I said before, Will has been on the losing side of that one a bunch of times. He caught it today. Same as Helio. Less times for me. I’ve done it, too. I had an almost certain win in Houston taken away to a sixth place because of the way the cautions fell.

“If it shows some shocking results once in a while, that’s good for entertainment,” Hinchcliffe added. “It’s going to bite you some days, it’s going to help you some days. I think it kind of shakes out over the course of the season.”

Hinchcliffe equalled his best finish of the season — he was also third at the Grand Prix of Indianapolis in May — and picked up the 10th podium finish of his career while vaulting into eighth in the overall championship picture as the series resumes in two weeks in Ohio.

It was the 28th career victory for Power, who missed the season-opener in St. Petersburg, Fla., with what was later discovered to be an ear infection. He finds himself just 47 points back of Penske teammate and overall leader Simon Pagenaud, who finished ninth.

“As my engineer says, it’s so hard to win. It’s not simply qualify, pole, drive away,” Power said of racing in Toronto. “It’s always mayhem, yellows falling at odd times. It’s a tough one to win.

Staying patient is key, and Power, a veteran on the circuit, said he has learned to keep an eye on the bigger picture rather than focusing simply on each race.

“Yeah, I would say I’m driving differently to the way I would drive in 2014 when I won the championship, when I just went for it all the time,” the 35-year-old said. “Now I just let the races come to me. I don’t seem to ever get desperate or feel desperate to make something happen. I just do it. Push when you need to push. Always stay within your limits.”

Debris was flying early and there were two full-course cautions at just past the halfway mark of the race. While the sunny conditions were favourable all weekend, the course, which was realigned this year due to a hotel being constructed in the middle of the Exhibition Place grounds, was not so kind. Drivers voiced concerns about the lack of width around Turn 8. That was rectified overnight on Saturday. But shortly after pieces of asphalt curbing came loose along Turn 5 — bringing out a yellow flag — Newgarden hit the damaged curb, his wheels locking up and the Ed Carpenter Racing driver hitting the wall on the 59th lap. Newgarden, who was nursing a hand injury sustained several weeks ago in Texas, appeared to reinjure himself. He was to be re-evaluated on Monday, at which point his driving status would be determined.

“I didn’t know it was concrete until I saw the repairing. I thought it was a piece of rubber. I was attacking pretty hard that curb, to be honest,” said Castroneves, who overcame a flat tire earlier in the race. “When I realized that was the track coming apart, I was like: ‘Wow!’ I was kind of shocked.”

Added Hinchcliffe of the 9-10-11 turn sequence: “If we could find a way to make 11 a little wider, that would not be awful. The fact that we got away with it this year doesn’t mean it’s perfect. Just because it wasn’t an issue this year doesn’t mean it couldn’t be in the future.”


James Hinchcliffe is always on.

But he’s about to shut off for a little while.

“I think we’re going to run up to the cottage probably and enjoy some dowtime up on the lake,” the 29-year-old Oakville native said following his third-place finish at the Honda Indy Toronto on Sunday. “Turn the cellphone off for a few days and just try to recharge a little bit.”

Hinchcliffe held the sixth position off the starting grid, fell back early, then worked his way into third, seemingly in a flash. Having opted against using his final allotted pitstop when several others were doing so, Hinchcliffe ultimately benefitted from a full-caution flag coming out with four laps remaining. He held on to third when the race was re-started with one lap remaining to secure the best result by a Canadian at the Indy since Paul Tracy’s second-place finish in 2006.

“For once in my career here in Toronto, we caught a lucky break. It’s not just that I haven’t had great luck here, I’ve had insanely bad luck here,” said Hinchcliffe, whose previous best Toronto finishes of eighth came in 2013 in 2014. “Today, we were on the other side of that. It’s part of IndyCar racing. It’s the nature of the beast. For the number of times it goes against us, we’ll take the time it goes to us.”

Australian Will Power continued his surge up the standings with his third win in four races, while Helio Castroneves, the series’ oldest full-time driver at age 41, finished in second for the 40th time in his career, which is the second-most runner-up finishes in series history.

“We’re one, two, three in the championship now,” said Castroneves, who sits third in the overal standings along with fellow Penske drivers Power and leader Simon Pagenaud. “That’s what we want. We want to keep pushing this way. Mid-Ohio is next and we have some work to do.”

It was the 10th career podium finish for Hinchcliffe, who said in the leadup to the race he puts an immense amount of pressure on himself to perform at his hometown event. He was able to breathe a sigh of relief on this day.

“No doubt, this will be a highlight in the career reel, memory reel. Hopefully, we can better it in the future,” he said. “It would be so great to win here. I’ve just always wanted to give the Toronto fans a good result because they’ve been so supportive day in and day out from the start of my IndyCar career. Finally good to give them a good result to cheer for.”

In some ways, it felt like a win for the Canadian.

“We walked away with a podium. We had our best qualifying effort here. Top Honda. Best finish here. It’s very rewarding and gratifying,” he said. “A win is a win. You can’t take that away. But truly to be up on the podium is almost as good a feeling here.”

Hinchcliffe, always aware of his surroundings, was true to form until the end in Toronto, peeling the label off a water bottle that awaited him upon sitting down for his post-race news conference. It’s something he started doing back when he raced with Andretti.
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