Photo: Joe Skibinski
Will Power claimed his third win of the season and third on the streets of Toronto’s Exhibition Place by 1.5275 sec over Penske teammate Helio Castroneves, driving directly into the 2016 championship conversation in the process. Power now sits second in the standings despite missing the season opener, 47 points behind teammate Simon Pagenaud. (Honda Indy Toronto box score)
"Getting close, that's good," said Power, who sat out the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in March with an inner-ear infection after winning the pole in qualifying. "It's good to get this momentum for the team going forward for the rest of the championship. Five (races) to go, all good tracks for me. If we can close that gap going into (the season-ending GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma in September), we can do this, we can win this championship, absolutely."
Starting fourth, Power trailed pole sitter Scott Dixon (Chip Ganassi Racing), Castroneves, and Pagenaud most of the first two-thirds of the 85-lap battle on the 1.786-mile temporary street course - the 32nd Indy car race in Toronto. Power was running third on Lap 58 when race strategist Tim Cindric ordered him to the pits just before a full-course caution came out when Josef Newgarden's car made contact with the wall in Turn 5, closing the pits.
Power cycled ahead of Dixon and Pagenaud - who had to wait to for their stops until the pits were opened during the caution period - then waited in second place until leader Tony Kanaan (Ganassi) had to stop for fuel nine laps from the finish.
"The team called me in just at the last minute. Perfect timing," said Power, whose third Toronto win ties him with Dario Franchitti and trails only Michael Andretti's seven victories at the track. "I can't tell you how many times it has gone the opposite way for me at this place and many other places. But I was so stoked to see yellow lights as I was going into pit lane. It's not often you catch a yellow like that."
Power held off Castroneves on a last-lap restart to collect his 28th career Indy car win - moving the 35-year-old ahead of Johnny Rutherford alone into 13th on the all-time victories list. One win ahead of Power are Castroneves and Rick Mears, now a Team Penske driver coach.
Castroneves overcame a punctured left-front tire midway through the race to record his 40th career runner-up finish - second all-time to Mario Andretti's 56. Castroneves is third in the standings, 74 points behind Pagenaud.
"It's a shame (about the puncture)," Castroneves said, "but don't get me wrong, the Pennzoil Chevrolet machine was really strong. Second (in the race) is better than third."
James Hinchcliffe thrilled the partisan Toronto crowd by finishing third in his hometown race in the #5 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda. His best previous Toronto showing was eighth place in six previous races. The Penske and Ganassi teams are powered by Chevy.
"For once in my career here in Toronto we caught a lucky break," Hinchcliffe said. "It's not just that I haven't had great luck here, I've had insanely bad luck here. Today we were on the other side of that. It's part of Indy car racing."
Verizon P1 Award winner Dixon finished eighth and points leader Pagenaud ninth. Newgarden, the defending Toronto winner, finished 22nd and last after his crash. He was checked and released from the infield care center but will have his right hand that was fractured in a June 12 crash at Texas Motor Speedway reevaluated before he is cleared to drive.
The Verizon IndyCar Series heads next to The Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio, July 29-31. Dixon, the reigning series champion, is a five-time winner at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio. The race airs live at 2 pm ET July 31 on CNBC.