TORONTO – It began when the first standing start in IZOD IndyCar Series history went yellow after an aborted start and ended with several drivers seeing red.
That summed up Saturday’s Honda Indy Toronto “2 in T.O” as Scott Dixon drove his red No. 9 Target Dallara/Chevrolet to his second-straight victory and his teammate, Dario Franchitti, was penalized for blocking and dropped from third to 13th as the four-time IndyCar Series championship called it a “Bull-Shit Call.”
Franchitti was involved in an incident with his old Toronto nemesis Will Power in the third turn – the same area where the two had an incident in 2010 and Power called Franchitti a “dirty driver.” It was a one-lap green flag restart to the checkered flag when the incident happened and Franchitti went on to score an apparent third-place finish. But he was informed at the podium celebration that he was being penalized 25 seconds for blocking and would be dropped to 13th place.
Two hours after the race, however, IndyCar officials announced after meeting with Franchitti and the Target/Chip Ganassi Racing team members and after further review the blocking penalty issued on the final lap of the race would be rescinded, putting Franchitti back in third place. The team presented car data showing steering track and braking points from the lap 85 incident with Power’s car and the group also viewed additional video.
On the track, it was Dixon to that drove to the 31st IndyCar win of his career which ties him with Paul Tracy, Sebastien Bourdais and Dario Franchitti for seventh on the all-time list.
“Obviously for me it means a lot,” Dixon said after the win. “To think we’re all tied for seventh or something, but to think the next group of people have last names of Unser, Andretti and Foyt, that’s pretty special to be even on the same list of those guys. I’ve always had a lot of respect for them. I remember watching races when I was very young.
“It’s exciting. I think the time to look back on those sorts of things is once you’re done with your career. For me it’s more about today, looking forward to tomorrow, trying to improve on that. If we can get more victories, we’re obviously doing something right. I credit a lot of that to the team. I think 30 of those victories have been with this team. That’s nice.”
Dixon, who won last Sunday in IndyCar’s return to Pocono Raceway for the first time since 1989, scored his first win at Toronto’s Exhibition Plaec and moved him to third in the points, just 42 points behind the leader Helio Castroneves, who finished eighth.
“The way the year started, I didn’t think we’d even be close towards the front of the championship,” Dixon said. “I think there’s been a fair share of other good guys, guys that have had good points that have had their issues, as well. It’s actually closed the gap a fair bit.
“I think the biggest turning point for us was obviously Pocono. To win at a track I think where we knew we might have been at a disadvantage on straight-out speed was nice to come through like that. Obviously some of the others not having a great day, we made a ton of points. Obviously today with Hunter-Reay, I saw him in the fence. He would have had a tough day with points, too.
“This is the stretch that we need to make, you know, a good time of it. Helio has had pretty much a free run this year. He hasn’t had any DNF’s. I think he’s finished on the lead lap of every race. No mechanicals. Hunter-Reay has had a few DNF’s, been involved in a few accidents, and so have other people. Hopefully we can make a good strong run towards the end, but Pocono was the turning point to us.”
Ryan Hunter-Reay had a challenging race including stalling in the pits twice and a brush with the wall to finish 18th place. He remains second in the standings 39 behind Castroneves.
After seven months of hype the first “Standing Start” in IZOD IndyCar Series history fizzled after Josef Newgarden’s Dallara/Chevrolet stalled on the grid. Brian Barnhart, who was in charge of Race Control because Race Director Beaux Barfield had issues getting into Canada and missed this race for “personal reasons,” ordered an aborted start.
That meant a standard rolling start, per IndyCar rules, and the fans in the grandstands loudly booed the decision to not attempt another standing start.
Barnhart was also involved in the penalty that infuriated Franchitti but the decisions in Race Control are done collectively rather than unilaterally.
“People need to realize that there are a group of us in Race Control that help the Race Director make the call,” IndyCar President Derrick Walker said in the paddock prior to the race. “Any calls that are made tonight are not as simple as Brian making the call. We all look at it before a decision is made.”
Because IndyCar aborted the standing start and Franchitti was penalized Barnhart is being highly criticized on social media and prior to the race knew he was in a no-win situation because of his previous reputation for micro-managing the officiating of a race.
“If someone stalls on the standing start and that forces us to abort it will still be ‘my fault,’” Barnhart said before the race. “My first race back as Race Director and it has to be a doubleheader weekend with a standing start.”
IndyCar officials also announced at 7:45 p.m. Eastern Time that Sunday’s race – originally schedule for a rolling start – would now be a standing start.