Following a wicked thunder storm that shut down the entire event for an hour or so, the track was dried by a Indy Lights session and then the big boys came out to play in the sunshine. Top of the heap was Dario Franchitti in the Target Chip Ganassi machine.
It has been a long couple of days and I’m in need of dinner so I’m going to let the IndyCar pros give you all the details!
TORONTO – Saturday, July 11, 2009 – Dario Franchitti will be starting from a familiar spot for the Honda Indy Toronto. The following is a full days race notes including Indy Lights and some interviews.
Franchitti, who started on the pole on the streets of Toronto as a rookie in 1997, posted a quick lap on the 1.755-mile, 11-turn circuit to top the Firestone Fast Six session for the 85-lap race July 12.
Will Power, making his first IndyCar Series start since the Indianapolis 500, also will be on the front row in the No. 12 Penske Truck Leasing car for Penske Racing. Graham Rahal and Justin Wilson, the winner six days earlier at Watkins Glen International, will share Row 2.
Alex Tagliani and Mike Conway will be on the third row. Six different teams were represented in the Firestone Fast Six. Among those missing out were Scott Dixon, Helio Castroneves and Ryan Briscoe — all in the top five in the point standings.
Also on July 11, Sebastian Saavedra passed J.R. Hildebrand on Lap 18 of 50 and went on to a 5.8630-second victory over his AFS Racing/Andretti Green Racing teammate in the caution-free Firestone Indy Lights Grand Prix of Toronto.
James Hinchcliffe, a Toronto native, finished third — for the fourth time this season – in the No. 7 Hinchtown/Sam Schmidt Motorsports car, and Stefan Wilson finished a season-high fourth in the No. 19 Walker Racing car.
To commemorate his father’s 1986 victory in the inaugural event on the streets of Toronto and open-wheel racing’s return, Graham Rahal came up with a special helmet design for the race weekend. It depicts Bobby Rahal’s classic helmet design on one side and Graham’s design on the other.
“I am looking for this father/son helmet design to bring me some additional luck,” the 20-year-old Rahal said.
FIRESTONE INDY LIGHTS GRAND PRIX OF TORONTO POST-RACE NOTES:
* This is Sebastian Saavedra’s second win of the season and the second of his Firestone Indy Lights career. He previously won on the oval at Kansas Speedway in April.
* This is AFS Racing/Andretti Green Racing’s fourth win of the season and the eighth win for the team since they joined forces in 2007.
* J.R. Hildebrand finished second, his sixth podium finish in nine starts this season.
* James Hinchcliffe finished third for the fourth time this season, which ties his season-best finish.
* Stefan Wilson finished a career-best fourth place. His previous best was 12th at Watkins Glen last weekend.
* James Davison finished fifth, his third top-five in four races.
* Richard Philippe led one lap, his first lap led in the Firestone Indy Lights.
FIRESTONE INDY LIGHTS GRAND PRIX OF TORONTO POST-RACE QUOTES:
SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA (No. 27 Automatic Fire Sprinklers, race winner): “It wasn’t easy, I’m telling you. This is one of the hardest tracks I’ve been to in wet conditions and dry conditions. We made a pit stop, things we’re not use to. The 27 crew did an awesome job. I’m very happy for AFS/Andretti Green Racing. Points are points. We’re thinking about the championship and that’s what is important.
J.R. HILDEBRAND (No. 26 ARPRO, finished second): “We definitely salvaged a good finish out of that. I really owe it to the boys in the pits. They really did an awesome job with the pit stop. I hit the wall early and bent the rear suspension pretty badly, like five or six laps into the race, so I was just hanging on for most of the race. I thought maybe I could stick with Sebastian (Saavedra) because I was sort of keeping up with him for most of the middle segment, and the thing just started going haywire on me through the fast stuff, so after I almost wrecked the car a couple of times. I just backed off and I thought we’d get it to the finish. It was good for the boys, and we’ll see what we’ve got in a couple of weeks in Edmonton.”
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 7 Hinchtown/Sam Schmidt Motorsports): “Man, what a tough race. With the conditions changing like that and having to do live pit stops for the first time in my career in Firestone Indy Lights was a bit exciting. The car was really good. The SSM (Sam Schmidt Motorsports) guys gave us a great car all weekend. Qualifying on the front row and bringing it home on the podium was great. I think we lost a little time on the pit stop but we were running consistent race laps after that, so I’ve got to be happy with a hometown podium. I’ve got to thank all of my friends and family. It was a great weekend, and like I said, it was tough in those changing positions but we had good Firestone Firehawks in the rain and good Firestone Firehawks in the dry, so it was a great weekend.”
STEFAN WILSON: (No. 19 Walker Racing, finished fourth): “It was good, I was quick in the wet and soon as it started to dry out, we pitted for slicks at just the right time, and it was the right choice. We were really quick straight away when we exited the pits and were probably the fastest car on the track. Towards the end, the car started to go off and I had a few problems inside the cockpit so by the last 10 laps there was no way I was going to catch Hinch (Hinchcliffe), so I just preserved and kept my fourth place which is my best finish all year.
JAMES DAVISON (No. 21 People*s Liberation, finished fifth): “We were running second and the track dried out to the point where everyone had to pit and get off the rain tires because we just couldn’t turn anymore. And then there was a very big miscue with my pit stop I’m not quite sure what happened but we lost like 30 seconds and I went all the way back probably nearly to last. I’ve never driven so hard in my life to get through the field and secure a top five so I’ve gotta be happy with my drive. A bit disappointed with the result considering we had the speed to win today but people know we’re quick and our time will come.”
POST-PEAK PERFORMANCE POLE QUALIFYING NOTES:
Ã‚Â· This is Dario Franchitti’s third PEAK Performance Pole Award of season and the ninth pole of his career.
Ã‚Â· This is Will Power’s second front row start of the year. He started from pole at Long Beach.
Ã‚Â· This is Graham Rahal’s sixth top-five start of the season.
Ã‚Â· Alex Tagliani qualified a career-best fifth
Ã‚Â· Dario Franchitti and Justin Wilson are the only drivers to qualify for Firestone Fast Six in each of the four races this season. Will Power and Graham Rahal have qualified for three of the four. Power has qualified for all three of his road races this season.
POST-PEAK PERFORMANCE POLE QUALIFYING QUOTES:
DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing, PEAK Performance Pole Award winner): “I think I got my first pole here in ’97, which is an awful long time ago. So that was ’97. I was trying to remember what I did right back in ’97 this morning so I could kind of put it to practice with the Target car. Usual story. The guys worked really, really hard to improve the car yesterday. Then with the rain this morning, we didn’t do too much running. And it was good actually with the changes we made in qualifying. The car was good out of the box. The lap that I did in the Fast Six, I came in afterwards and said basically, ‘That’s it. That was a hell of a lap. That was as good of a lap as I’ve driven around here. If they can go quicker, let them have it, because that’s all she’s got.’ I was very happy with the car and the job I did today.”
WILL POWER (No. 12 Penske Truck Rentals, qualified second): “My crew just walked in this weekend; the first time they’ve been back since May and same with me. They did a fantastic job. We’re really happy to be second. We would have been a lot happier with first, but second is great. The car has been good since we rolled it off the trailer and the same at Long Beach. I’m just doing my job.”
GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 02 McDonald’s Racing Team, qualified third): “At the end of the day, the McDonald’s car ran extremely well and we made great improvements and it shows what this team can do. We’re happy to be third today.”
JUSTIN WILSON (No. 18 Z-Line Designs, qualified fourth): “I thought it was a reasonable day. Things went quite well. But we weren’t just quite quick enough. We started out quite loose, struggling to get the power down, struggling for grip. We kept working on it, kept making improvements. Quite pleased with what we managed to do on the used reds. Unfortunately it wasn’t enough to beat Dario (Franchitti). He was on good form as well as Graham (Rahal) and Will (Power). I’m pretty pleased with fourth. Hopefully we’ll have a trouble-free race and we’ll move forward.”
ALEX TAGLIANI (No. 34 King Tut/Conquest Racing, qualified fifth): “It was a great job for the Conquest Racing team. All of the boys did a fantastic job. We didn’t run as much as we wanted to yesterday. I think we left a couple things on the table by not running a new set of tires on Friday. I think the car was decent. We missed a couple of attempts at the end to improve our lap and be in the top three but it was a great effort from all of the boys.”
RAPHAEL MATOS (No. 2 US Marines Luczo Dragon Racing, qualified ninth): “I’m a little bit frustrated that we didn’t make it into the fastest six. We had a car that could fight for a top five, but I just made a mistake and hit the wall in turn 11. It bent the right toe link and we couldn’t go back out. It just means we have to work harder for tomorrow’s race.”
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Team Penske, qualified 10th): “I have to say, what an incredible crowd. It’s great to be back here in Toronto. In qualifying, unfortunately, I got caught in a lot of traffic. I lost about three laps there because of traffic in front of me. This is a tough street circuit. We have some different drivers and teams in the Fast Six, so it should be interesting tomorrow in the race. Team Penske will be ready and we will go for it on Sunday.”
RYAN BRISCOE (No. 6 Team Penske, qualified 11th): “It’s tough out there. I just had a difficult time finding the balance on the Team Penske car. It was tough to get the tires to come in, and I just couldn’t get enough grip. We’re starting further back than we’d like but we’ll just have to work a bit harder in the race tomorrow and work our way through the field.”
When Dario Franchitti won the pole at Toronto in 1997, Bobby Rahal qualified third. On the first lap, Franchitti and Rahal made contact going into Turn 1. This weekend, Dario scored his third pole at Toronto and the next generation of Rahal – Bobby’s son Graham – will start third.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing): “(Laughing) Looking at the grid, I think Graham is third. In 1997 when I got my first pole, his dad qualified third and took me out in the first corner. So I’m going to have a word with the next generation and talk to Graham and work things out for tomorrow morning so we can get through Turn 1.”