Honda Indy Toronto
Getting the Call
by Esteban Morales
July 12, 2009
The “Thrill from West Hill,” Paul Tracy, injected some needed excitement into the IndyCar season by nearly scoring a win in Toronto after qualifying deep in the field. Despite almost claiming the win, the Canadian went out in typical Tracy style, with a crash. Unlike many crashes in the early days of his openwheel career, however, this one probably was not his fault. On lap 66, while battling with Helio Castroneves for second, Tracy moved to the inside in the fourth turn. The Dallaras made enough contact to jerk Castroneves’ car into Tracy’s as they exited, sending Tracy into the retaining wall. A second surprise was Tracy’s reaction. There was no brawl, not even any name-calling. Instead, Tracy just called it “one of those things.” After the accident, Dario Franchitti dominated until the checkered flags dropped on lap 85.
The race might have turned out very differently had it not been for a questionable call during the third caution of the race. On lap 59 Ed Carpenter pressed Graham Rahal into the retaining barrier. Franchitti entered the pits just before officials showed the yellow flag. Meanwhile, Tracy, who made his final stop a few laps earlier, drove by Franchitti who was pitting and lined up in the second position behind Castroneves for the restart. Before the drop of the green, however, officials moved Franchitti ahead of Tracy. A few laps after the restart, Franchitti made the move of the race and took the lead for good.
Tracy was much more vocal about the call than about the accident with Castroneves. "I'm baffled that we weren't the theoretical leader on the track,” said Tracy. “I passed Dario while he was in the pit lane and they reversed the position. I've never seen that happen in all my days of racing where you beat a guy out on the track while he's still in the pit and you change positions."
Before the call and the accident, Tracy ran a great race. After qualifying fifteenth on the grid for his fourth IndyCar start of the season, Tracy quickly began to carve his way through the field. On the opening lap Tracy moved from fifteenth to eighth. Tracy settled in the position before the first caution flew after Dan Wheldon and Richard Antinucci made contact, sending Wheldon into a spin. Pole winner Dario Franchitti controlled the race through the second caution on lap 12, which flew after Carpenter spun. During the melee, Tracy gained two positions and moved into fifth on lap 15. By lap 29, Tracy moved into second. Meanwhile, Franchitti ran into trouble after pitting out of the lead on lap 25. As Franchitti made his stop, a crew member working the left rear tire had trouble securing the wheel on. Despite dropping back in the field, Franchitti ultimately recovered with a bit of help from the officials.
Lost in the commotion was an impressive run from Tracy’s fellow Canadian, Alex Tagliani, which ended unceremoniously. After qualifying fifth in a part-time Conquest Racing entry, Tagliani ran in second for the first 24 laps and led for nine laps when Franchitti pitted. Tagliani later cycled through stops with cars that were running out of sequence and led for another twelve laps from lap 48 to 59. After making his final stop on lap 60, Tagliani never broke back into the top five. Tagliani’s run ended on lap 75 when he collided with Tomas Scheckter, collecting Mario Moraes in the process.