Thursday, July 5, 2012
IndyCar News and Notes - July 5, 2012
by Amy Konrath
1. Another tight title chase heading into the stretch: Thirty points separate first and fifth in the IZOD IndyCar Series championship standings, while there's a 93-point gap between Graham Rahal in 10th place and front-runner Will Power.
Another tight IZOD IndyCar Series title chase is taking shape with six races remaining, including the next five on road and street circuits (Toronto, Edmonton, Mid-Ohio, Sonoma and Baltimore). The finale is Sept. 15 at Auto Club Speedway - a 500-miler on the sweeping oval that will amp up the drama. The series champion has been decided in the final race the past six years.
First up is the Honda Indy Toronto on the 1.75-mile, 11-turn street circuit, where all the title contenders but rookie Simon Pagenaud (sixth) has competed at least once. Dario Franchitti has won two of the past three IZOD IndyCar Series events at Exhibition Place, while Power won in 2010 and was the pole sitter last July (he also won the Champ Car event in '07). Franchitti exited Toronto with a 55-point championship advantage after Power sustained his second consecutive DNF (contact between their cars in Turn 3 being a major factor).
This year, Power enters the 85-lap race with a three-point spread over Ryan Hunter-Reay, who has vaulted from seventh to second with two consecutive short track victories. Two-time series champion Scott Dixon is 15 points off the pace in third.
"We have some unfinished business and I know everyone here is working hard to get back to Victory Lane," said Power, who has three road/street course victories this season in addition to qualifying on the front row in four of those five races.
Toronto also has been a place for Hunter-Reay to record positive results (back-to-back third-place finishes). In fact, since joining Andretti Autosport in 2010, he's not finished out of the top 10 in any of the next five events.
"It feels like we're prepared for a championship effort," said Hunter-Reay, who had two podium finishes in the early-season road/street races. "We're going to keep our heads down and attack each race, each lap. A big part of our success the past two races has been the ability to save our tires and then make our move when the other cars lose pace. We can do some of that at a street course like Toronto, and the real secret to making that work is having a car that is well-balanced and allows a driver to stay with the leaders while still saving tires and equipment."
The driver leading the series championship at the midway point of the season has won the title in six of the past 13 seasons.
2011 Averages - Next Five Races
Will Power 1.8 8.2
* 3 Poles, 5 top-six starts, 3 wins
Ryan Hunter-Reay 9.0 6.2
* 2 top-six starts, 2 top-five finishes
Scott Dixon 4.0 7.2
* 1 Pole, 4 top-six starts, 1 win, 4 top-five finishes
James Hinchcliffe 10.2 16.0
* 1 top-six start, 1 top-ten finish
Helio Castroneves 13.2 11.4
* 1 top-six start, 2 podium finishes
2. Ostella gets confidence from hometown event: Doing what you love in the city you grew up in is not something that many race car drivers get to experience.
There might have been the small local track around the corner, but performing at an elite level in one of the largest events in your hometown is something special. For the second year in a row, Firestone Indy Lights driver David Ostella gets to count himself among those few.
Ostella, who grew up in Maple, Ontario, will be driving the No. 22 TMR-Global Precast-Xtreme Coil Drilling car for Team Moore Racing in the Toronto 100 on July 7.
"Racing in my hometown is special because I can have my family and friends there to support," Ostella said. "I know I have the support of the fans as well, which just gives me more confidence on track."
Ostella will also be joined in Toronto by a new sponsor, the LiUNA Ontario Provincial District Council, a certified council of trade unions made up of affiliates of the Laborers' International Union of North America, which played an integral role in the development of the Exhibition Place circuit.
The 20-year-old Ostella will take to the 1.75-mile, 11-turn street course with a field of talented rookies and veterans in their eighth race of the season.
Second-year Firestone Indy Lights competitor Esteban Guerrieri holds a slim championship points lead over Sam Schmidt Motorsports teammate Tristan Vautier. With both Vautier and Sebastian Saavedra, who sits third in the standings, encountering difficulties at Iowa Speedway two weeks ago, the door has opened for Gustavo Yacaman and Victor Carbone to gain momentum in the championship battle. A win on the streets of Toronto, known for its bumps and passing zones, could do just that.
"The course of Toronto is unique in the fact that as a street course there is plenty of opportunity to pass, and that is hard to find in other courses," Ostella said. "It is also a very bumpy track and takes a lot of physical as well as mental strength to make sure you're consistent out there."
The 2011 event was won by Andretti Autosport's Stefan Wilson, who capitalized on a mistake by pole sitter Guerrieri to lead the final 29 laps. Peter Dempsey, who has returned to the series in the No. 9 Belardi Auto Racing car for the remainder of 2012, finished second, while Yacaman was third.
For Ostella, a podium finish in his hometown would be a great way to recover from last year's event, in which he made contact with the tire barrier in Turn 8 to end his day early. After a slow start, he has recorded two consecutive top-five finishes at Milwaukee and Iowa, and is looking forward to an even better result in front of his friends and family.
"As a team, we had a rough start," Ostella said. "Now we have found our bearings and are looking forward to Toronto. My goal is the same for this race as it is the rest of the season: get on the podium."
3. Wilson named ambassador: Dale Coyne Racing driver Justin Wilson has been named an ambassador of the International Dyslexia Association.
"I'm really looking forward to helping the IDA to raise awareness about dyslexia and to promote the association's work in helping children with dyslexia achieve their full potential," he said. "Most importantly, as someone who has learned to live with dyslexia, I want to provide hope and inspiration to children and their parents that it is still possible to achieve your dreams, whatever they may be."
IDA Ontario branch members will meet Wilson on July 6 at Exhibition Place.
The 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series race continues with the Honda Indy Toronto on July 8 at the Streets of Toronto's Exhibition Place. The race will be televised by ABC at 12:30 p.m. (ET) and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network on SiriusXM (XM 94 and Sirius 212). The next Firestone Indy Lights race is the Toronto 100 on July 7 on the Streets of Toronto's Exhibition Place. The race will be televised by NBC Sports Network at 5 p.m. on July 12.