TORONTO — Facing red-hot temperatures and tempers to match, Dario Franchitti kept his cool — and it paid off with a checkered flag.
The Scottish driver overcame a rough early pit stop and took advantage of a late crash between Helio Castroneves and Toronto’s Paul Tracy en route to victory Sunday at the Honda Indy Toronto.
It’s the second career victory in Toronto for Franchitti, who outpaced Australia’s Ryan Briscoe by more than a second-and-a-half on the 1.755-mile temporary street course at Exhibition Place. Another Aussie, Will Power, finished third.
Franchitti had been stung by the challenging Toronto course before, and wasn’t about to be victimized again.
“I remember ’98, when I had a massive lead and made a mistake pushing too hard,” said Franchitti, who overtook Scott Dixon for the overall points lead. “I lost the brakes going into (Turn) 1, but had I not been pushing so hard in ’98, I wouldn’t have had the problem.
“I got out to a lead that I was pretty happy with, and I was controlling the pace from there, not pushing too hard. There was a couple of instances today I felt if I’d have taken a bigger risk, I would have ended up with a bent race car.”
The two Canadians in the field were involved in the two biggest incidents on a sunny but humid day at Exhibition Place.
Tracy’s No. 15 KV Racing car was crunched into the wall following a collision with Castroneves on Lap 66.
Tracy was attempting to pass Castroneves for second place when he made contact with the Brazilian driver, who then swerved back into Tracy, mashing him up against the barrier.
Tracy had mixed emotions after the race.
“I’m relieved and I’m frustrated, and I’m also happy that we put on a great show,” said Tracy, a two-time winner in Toronto. “To come from 15th and to pass the guys that I passed was a good feeling. Nobody else was doing that on the track other than me, so I’m happy that I ran well but the end result, I felt we should have been on the podium. Or maybe a win. So it’s disappointing.
“We’ll move on and take the positives from this and move on to Edmonton.”
Castroneves was lustily booed by the pro-Tracy crowd.
“It’s too bad,” said Castroneves. “If there’s one guy that I didn’t want that to happen with, it’s PT, especially here in Canada.
“I feel bad for the fans. They were great and I still love Toronto.”
Alex Tagliani of Lachenaie, Que., also had an eventful race.
The Conquest Racing driver led for 21 laps of the race, but wound up ninth — and nearly suffered the same fate as Tracy after running into Tomas Scheckter in a dust-up on Lap 74. Tagliani remained in the race, but Scheckter did not — prompting the angry South African to throw his racing gloves at Tagliani’s car the next time the Canadian passed him.
Tagliani said he was trying to pass Scheckter but ran out of room.
“I got in there, and the door shut off like a funnel,” said Tagliani. “We got caught in a racing incident.
“Everybody was blocking the inside, and they want to keep squeezing you to the inside, and there’s no room.”