TORONTO — It took a lot of skill and a little luck for Dario Franchitti to avoid multiple collisions, difficult restarts and a challenge by a tenacious rival to win his third title on the 25th anniversary of the Honda Indy Toronto.
Franchitti survived a crash-filled day Sunday that knocked out Will Power and several other drivers at Exhibition Place for his fourth IndyCar victory of the season, giving the Scottish driver a little breathing room atop the IZOD series points standings.
“That was a wild one, wasn’t it?” he said. “That was an absolute wild one.”
Franchitti took the checkered flag on the 85-lap, 1.75-mile street course with Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Scott Dixon in second and Ryan Hunter-Reay coming in third in the 26-car field. It was Franchitti’s 30th career win and fourth of the season, giving him a 55-point lead on Power in the standings.
The two rivals battled throughout the race until Franchitti nudged Power into a spin on the 57th lap that stalled the Australian driver’s No. 12 Team Penske car. Franchitti kept going and stayed with the leaders while Power had to try to recover from 18th.
There was initially confusion about whether or not Franchitti’s team had repealed a drive-through penalty, which would have cost Franchitti valuable position in the pack, but race officials later said the incident had been reviewed and no penalty had been handed out.
That incensed Power, whose day was done nine laps later after getting banged into the wall from behind by Alex Tagliani of Lachenaie, Que. Power finished 24th in the second straight race he failed to finish after suffering a mild concussion in a crash at Iowa last month.
“We went into the corner and I gave (Franchitti) room and then he just drove into me,” said Power.
“I understood he was going to get penalized but then there was no call. I just don’t understand that.”
After the race Franchitti said Power had cut across the front of his No. 10 car, and that Franchitti couldn’t avoid the slight collision.
“I think it was a racing incident at best,” said Franchitti.
“I don’t think I’m known throughout the paddock as a driver who races people dirty.
“I will say, in his defence, had that happened to me today, I would have been steamed when I got out of the car too. Particularly if I’d crashed later in the race. … I understand his anger but hopefully when he watches the replay on television he’ll realize it was a racing incident.”
Franchitti also benefited from a decision that, depending on who you ask, was either exceedingly smart or extremely lucky.
He made a pit stop shortly before Helio Castroneves collided with Tagliani. The resulting caution flag forced Power, who had been leading, to pit. The move looked like a terrible blunder by Power’s Penske teammate, and Castroneves was effectively out of the race when his car required a long repair job.
With Power in the pit and out of the lead, Franchitti took over the top spot for the first time in the race.
“I think you have to have a certain amount of luck to win any race,” said Franchitti. “It’s one of the ingredients, it’s one of the millions of things that has to go right to win any race. It’s part of it. There’s so many stages, every single person in the organization has to do their job right and you’ve got to have a certain bit of luck, too.”
Luck often seemed in short supply on a cloudy day but hot day near Lake Ontario.
Tagliani was launched into the air and out of the race by Danica Patrick on the 72nd lap, while a close battle between Toronto natives James Hinchcliffe and Paul Tracy resulted in a flat tire for Hinchcliffe and a damaged front wing for Tracy.
Tracy’s hopes for a hometown victory were wiped out after he bumped into Vitor Meira on the 45th lap, dropping the 42-year-old fan favourite three laps out of the pack to a 16th-place finish.
Hinchcliffe, meanwhile, finished 14th after being involved in a five-car collision when Marco Andretti turned into Oriol Servia. Andretti, who finished fourth after starting 20th, escaped the pile up that banged up Hinchcliffe, Servia and Charlie Kimball as well as ended Mike Conway’s day.
Patrick started 21st and was a non factor after a collision with Japan’s Takuma Sato punctured one of her wheels. She finished 19th, but could at least say she crossed the finish line.
Brazil’s Tony Kanaan couldn’t say the same. He made an early exit after Ryan Briscoe clipped Kanaan’s back wheel rounding a corner, sending Kanaan airborne into the wall just three laps from the start. Kanaan pointed at his head and yelled at Briscoe from the side of road as the Australian passed by the wrecked car.
“That’s the thing about Toronto, right?” said Hunter-Reay. “It’s bumpy, it’s messy, it makes for some good racing.”