Ryan Hunter-Reay won the 2012 Honda Indy Toronto, notching his third successive victory in the 2012 IZOD IndyCar series season, and helping him take over the points lead in the drivers' championship standings. The win was his first non-oval win of the season, and the eighth win in his IndyCar series career. Charlie Kimball finished second, the best result of his career, and Mike Conway was third, scoring his best result of his season, and third podium in his career.
The win was significant for Hunter-Reay for more reasons that taking the championship lead. He is now the winningest active American driver in the IndyCar Series, and the second Andretti Autosport driver to win three races in a row, matching the late Dan Wheldon, who accomplished the feat on his way to the 2005 IndyCar championship.
"Today we had the right strategy," said Hunter-Reay. "We had the right race car; we had the good pit stops; and I did it on the track."
Second-placed Kimball survived an early bump with his Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Graham Rahal. The two touched slightly at turn 3, Kimball slid wide and gently touched the barrier. He found himself in nineteenth position after that but battled his way back through the field.
"I know that there were only twenty-five of us out there," said Kimball, "but the amount of times I passed people there felt like there were about fifty cars, so a lot of credit to the Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing crew, the '83'. It was quick and all I had to do was turn and make a couple of moves when they were there."
Rahal, though initially surviving that incident, crashed soon after at turn one and was out of the race. Rahal's crash brought out the first caution.
Pole-sitter Dario Franchitti, running second behind Will Power, had a slow pit under this yellow. These problems sent him near the back of the field; he was never in contention again, and finished seventeenth.
Power, who came into the race in the championship lead and has also, won three races in a row this season, lost the lead at this first caution period to Simon Pagenaud, who did not pit under the yellow. Later Power and Josef Newgarden touched, causing Power's front wing to break and his tire to be cut, and he was required to pit for repairs. Power eventually finished fifteenth.
After that first caution, the race, unusually, ran caution-free for most of the rest of the way, with Pagenaud, Hunter-Reay and JR Hildebrand trading the lead during their pit-stops. After the pit stops shook out, Hunter-Reay led in front of Tony Kanaan, Pagenaud and Kimball. Conway was still out of the top ten at this point.
Kimball then battled hard with Pagenaud, attempting a few passes at turn 3, before finally getting past both him and Kanaan with thirteen laps to go. Pagenaud went to pass the struggling Kanaan, the two of them slid wide and Kimball dove down the inside of both. Kanaan then fell back through the field, conserving fuel.
Newgarden, running fourth with six laps to go, slid wide at turn three and his stationary car brought out the second caution. He would finish thirteenth.
The restart was a chaotic affair, with bumping and crashing at both turns one and three. The third full-course caution came out before they had completed a single lap, and the race would finish under that caution (the lowest ever at the Toronto Indy). Sebastien Bourdais, Franchitti, Rubens Barrichello, Ryan Briscoe, and Marco Andretti were some of those involved in the late crashes, and all fell out of the top ten. Pagenaud was the biggest loser in the chaos, suffering a penalty and dropping from his third position to finish twelfth. Conway, incredibly, found himself moving up to his third position and Kanaan had climbed back up to fourth.
"I don't know whether to be happy or mad," said Pagenaud. "The HP car was pretty awesome during the race. We led and controlled the race for a little while. The team did an awesome job. It just didn't go our way on the strategy. We tried to go for the win with a little bit of strategy. It just about worked out."
When asked about his penalty he said, "You know, I am eager to watch the replay. I have no doubt on what I did. I think I respected the rule, which is to keep your line. I kept my line, but Newgarden went into a hole where there was no space. If I didn't move back, he was never going to stop. I had to move back to make sure he wasn't going to take me out."
Behind Conway and Kanaan were the guys that stayed out of trouble at the restart. Oriol Servia finished fifth, with sixth-placed Helio Castroneves scoring his best ever result in Toronto. Hildebrand was seventh, James Jakes eighth and Takuma Sato ninth. Canadian Alex Tagliani rounded out the top ten, with the other local Canadian hero James Hinchcliffe retiring early.
The next race is again in Canada -- the Edmonton Indy at the Edmonton City Centre Airport on July 22nd.
"Awesome," said Hunter-Reay when asked how it felt to lead the championship. "But there is still a long way to go."