Hunter-Reay grabs points lead with third straight win
Toronto, ON (Sports Network) - Ryan Hunter-Reay made a strong statement in Sunday's Honda Indy Toronto that he is the driver to beat for this year's IZOD IndyCar Series championship.
Hunter-Reay continued his red-hot summer streak by winning his third consecutive race in the series. The Andretti Autosport driver also moved atop the standings, as he holds a 34-point lead over Will Power, who finished 15th.
"Three in a row, I don't even know what to think about this," Hunter-Reay said. "We're looking to make a championship run here, no doubt about it."
Hunter-Reay took the lead for the first time on lap 49 and then ran in front for all but one of the remaining 37 circuits around the 1.75-mile, 11-turn Exhibition Place street course in Toronto. He gave up the lead when he made his second and final pit stop.
A caution for an incident involving rookies Simon Pagenaud and Josef Newgarden set up a three-lap shootout to the finish. After the final restart, Sebastian Bourdais was bumped from behind and spun into the turn one barrier before a multi-car crash occurred in turn three, involving Dario Franchitti, Ryan Briscoe, Ed Carpenter, Marco Andretti and Pagenaud. The race ended under caution.
"I didn't know what to expect at the beginning of the race," said Hunter-Reay, who won in IndyCar for the eighth time. "The car was loose, but it really came to us. And (team owner) Michael (Andretti) was just great on the radio today. He was saying, 'Save those tires for restarts.' We saved the tires and gapped them at the end."
Hunter-Reay had won at Milwaukee and Iowa -- both oval tracks -- prior to Toronto.
He became the first American driver to record three victories in a row in the series since A.J. Allmendinger did it in 2006. On Saturday, NASCAR revealed that Allmendinger has been "temporarily suspended" from competition after violating its substance abuse policy. He drives for Penske Racing in the Sprint Cup Series.
Andretti won seven CART/Champ Car races as a driver on the streets of Toronto before scoring his first victory here as an IndyCar team owner.
"We were lucky with the strategy there when we pitted before that yellow (first caution) came out, and he just drove a perfect race," Andretti said. "It's great to finally win one here as an owner."
Charlie Kimball from Chip Ganassi Racing recorded his first career podium finish in IndyCar with a second-place run.
"Now that I'm here, it's a big deal," Kimball said. "The car was good all day. All I had to do was turn the wheel and press the pedals."
Mike Conway finished third, while Tony Kanaan placed fourth after rebounding from a drive-through penalty for hitting a tire in another competitor's pit stall. Oriol Servia completed the top-five.
Helio Castroneves, J.R. Hildebrand, James Jakes, Takuma Sato and Canadian Alex Tagliani finished sixth through 10th, respectively. Pagenaud, who had led 23 laps and was on pace for a top-five run before his incident with Newgarden in the closing laps, wound up finishing 12th. Newgarden placed one spot behind him in 13th.
Power, who entered this race with a three-point lead over Hunter-Reay, sustained a broken wing on his left-front tire after he made contact with Newgarden on lap 56. The Penske driver fell one lap behind when he was forced to pit two times for repairs.
"I just touched the back of his car, and these (wings) are just so weak," Power said. "It ruined my day."
Scott Dixon fell 54 points behind Hunter-Reay following his last-place finish in the 25-car field. Dixon suffered engine failure and retired on the eighth lap.
Franchitti's bid for a fourth IndyCar title in a row is all but over after he ended up finishing 17th. Franchitti started on the pole and led the first five laps, but the Ganassi driver had a lengthy pit stop due to a fueling issue and never recovered from there. He is now 105 points out of the lead.
"It was just a miscommunication in the pits," Franchitti admitted.
Just five race remain this season, with the series running next on July 22 in Edmonton, Canada.
Franchitti has started on the pole in the last three races but has failed to finish each one of them. He didn't even start the June 23 Iowa race when his engine expired during the pace laps.
"It just seems like it's one thing after another," he said.
Toronto-native James Hinchcliffe had engine failure as well shortly before the halfway point and finished 22nd in front of his home crowd.
"It's a shame," Hinchcliffe said. "I'm definitely disappointed for everybody here in Toronto. The fan support here this weekend has just been awesome. It's just too bad I didn't get a better finish."
Hinchcliffe's team made an engine change on Friday, resulting in a 10-grid spot penalty. He started 19th.
07/08 17:08:23 ET