Toronto, ON – Ryan Hunter-Reay continued his success in the IZOD IndyCar Championship by placing first at the 2012 Honda Indy Toronto on July 8, where he finished third last year. It’s his third win in as many races this year, and with five races left on the schedule, it puts him in striking distance of his first-ever IndyCar Driver’s Championship, ahead of second-place Will Power by 34 points.
He credited a big part of the win to his team’s pit work.
“To jump in the pit lane and have a flawless pit stop each time is instrumental to winning,” Hunter-Reay said after the race. “(The pit crew) just did an awesome job.”
He knows, however, that even with only five of 15 races left, there’s still plenty of work to be done.
“I certainly hope there’s a lot more to come,” he said. “We just need to have a real strong end to the season like we did last year.”
Like all athletes, Hunter-Reay knows he has to keep pushing to get to the top but even if he doesn’t, you’d have to think he’s pretty happy with what’s gone on so far.
“This is always what I’ve wanted, since I was little,” he said. “To be able to be competing in the IndyCar series in a top-level team…just to be given this opportunity is incredibly special to me.
“I’m appreciative of every lap that I get in this series.”
At the outset of this year’s race, it was not looking like a Toronto Indy for the ages; Dario Franchitti was on pole—just as he had been for three straight races in the 2012 Izod IndyCar Championship–Power was in second (he and Franchitti were the main combatants in last year’s race, until Franchitti spun Power out of the race) and Justin Wilson stood third.
And indeed, for the first 24 laps, Franchitti and Power undertook a fairly uneventful battle for the lead until they both pitted on lap 24 under a full-course yellow after Graham Rahal hit the wall at turn 1, allowing France’s Simon Pagenaud to take the lead after he decided not to stop. All pretty standard stuff.
Even when Hunter-Reay took over the lead from Pagenaud on lap 49, it was Pagenaud’s turn to forfeit the lead by heading in to the pits.
Hunter-Reay would lead for the rest of the day, winning his first street race after to wins on ovals.
But it was the battle for second and third that provided the most fireworks at race’s end; first, American Charlie Kimball made the move of the day, passing both Pagenaud and Indy veteran Tony Kannan at the always-excitng turn 3, taking second place. Kanaan would find himself dropping as low as tenth in the space of two laps, but would recover and finish the day in fourth place.
Pole-sitter Franchitti, meanwhile, would never finish after colliding with Ryan Briscoe.
Pagenaud, however, was not done being the center of attention yet. Again in turn 3, this time on lap 79 of 85, rookie Josef Newgarden in the #67 car made a bid to overtake Pagenaud, who made a move to block at the last second, forcing Newgarden to actually stop mid corner, sacrificing numerous spots in the process (he would eventually finish 13th overall). No penalties were assessed, but that didn’t mean the move didn’t put the noses of Newgarden’s pit crew out of joint, if the looks on their faces after the accident were any indication.
Even the move second-place finisher Kimball used to earn his spot on the podium didn’t end up in a clean pass, as he bumped Sebastien Bourdais’ car number 7, a mishap Kimball blamed on track conditions.
“I think (the incident was) more a function of doing a two-wide re-start after such a long green run without working on the marbles,” he said after the race. During the race, little round pieces of hardened rubber fly off the tires and collect at the side of the track, causing loss of traction if you stray too far from the racing line and hit them.
“I think (IndyCar) and the driver’s association need to discuss whether with five laps to go, trying to finish under green, maybe we go to a single-file re-start instead of sweeping two-wide.”
Nevertheless, Kimball (who is well known for driving with diabetes) finished the day on the podium, and was happy with his run, for the most part.
“It was a fun day of racing,” he said. “I love racing here because it’s such a great event; the fans are awesome, and you can really feel that from inside the car.
“We had the car to be able to run really competitive lap times, and save enough fuel so at the end of the race, were able to be super-quick. A lot of credit has to do to the Novo Nordisk team, the whole Chip Ganassi organization this weekend’s been fast and I think we’ve learned a lot form each other.”
“I’m disappointed to not be coming out with maximum points, obviously, but second’s a lot better than 13th where we started, or even 8th where my previous career best was,” he said.
Unfortunately for the Canadian contingent, this was not a banner year. Fan favorite James Hinchcliffe, who hails from just outside Toronto in Oakville, Ontario, retired on lap 28 with engine trouble, while Montreal’s Alex Tagliani started 16th and finished 10th.