IRL: Round 11 – Edmonton Indy, Canada – 26 July

Staged on the distinctive converted ‘street’ track of Edmonton City Center Airport’s runways, the Rexall Indy is the second leg of IRL’s Canadian tour. And Penske had the whip hand, with Will Power, Ryan Briscoe and Helio Castroneves locking out the top three spots at the start. Could they convert that dominance to a race win?

As the green flag came out, Raphael Matos was an early spinner as the race got underway. Matos was spun after squeezing Mike Conway going into turn 1. He was able to keep the engine going and he got the car pointed in the right direction after an accidental 360 degree donut to rejoin the race, but he later had to pit with right rear suspension damage and rejoined 111laps down; meanwhile, Mike Conway himself went off later on in the first lap going through the high speed chicane and ploughed through the grass, which also put him into the pits for lengthy repairs that put him 33 laps down.

Mario Moraes was also an early visitor to the pits when he suffered left rear suspension damage as a result of collision with his team mate Paul Tracy who was trying to get past on the inside line. Tracy’s car seemed undamaged by the collision.

As things settled down, Power, Briscoe and Castroneves led the field ahead of Ganassi rivals Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti, with Tracy slotting into 6th place behind them. By lap 25, Power had pulled out a 4.35s lead over his team mates in a hugely impressive display.

Tomas Scheckter pitted on lap 17 with suspected tyre or suspension damage; he was sent back out on a new set of tyres but there was still something clearly wrong with the car and he was back in again the following lap for a deeper look eventually rejoining the race 19 laps down. Richard Antinucci also came into the pits for an extended stay, making four out of the 23 starters now on pit road.

Green flag pit stops commenced on lap 32, with Franchitti and Tracy the first of the top runners to come in, most of the others coming in on the following lap to ensure they weren’t caught out by a yellow flag coming out in the meantime and Helio Castroneves the last on lap 33, using the extra laps out on track to leapfrog Ryan Briscoe for second and gain a place.

But there was drama a lap later when Tony Kanaan’s pit stop ended with a major fuel spillage when the car pulled away, and the fuel hose failed to seal after being extracted. Flames started to dance all over the bodywork and even into the cockpit, and Kanaan braked and tried to bail out of the cockpit; all the pit crews leapt into action to throw water and bring extinguishers, and to help Kanaan out as he’s still suffering from rib injuries sustained at the Indy 500. Crisis over, Kanaan was okay and giving the thumbs-up, although he was clearly feeling the effects of the flames on his face where the helmet visor had been open during the pit stop.

None of this triggered a yellow out on the track, however, where Will Power was finding it impossible to stretch out the sort of comfortable lead he’d enjoyed in the earlier laps of the race now that Helio was leading the hunt, especially as they had to contend with lapped traffic as they went – Marco Andretti in particular proving to be a Royal pain.

Lap 63 saw Franchitti and Tracy once again herald green flag pit stops. Power and Castroneves cane in the following lap, but Briscoe stayed out a lap longer and put in a blistering performance to emerge just in front of his team mate to reverse the move Helio put on him during the first round of stops. And then Scott Dixon came in the following lap, and came out in front of them both by the narrowest of margins: Briscoe had a brief window of opportunity to pressure Dixon whose tyres were still cold, and sure enough Dixon locked up going into the final turns of his out lap giving Briscoe the chance to get past. Castroneves was unable to follow Briscoe through, however, and remained stuck in 4th place ahead of Franchitti and Tracy.

Briscoe’s triumph was shortlived, however, and a few laps later the group hit lapped traffic. As he tried to get passed, Briscoe managed to brush the wall at turn 10 and Dixon was able to use the opportunity to overtake while Briscoe was reporting that “something didn’t feel right” with the back of his car. He was unable to stop Helio Castroneves getting past as well, his pace now so poor that Scott and Helio quickly pulled out a 4s lap over him; fortunately, Briscoe still had a healthy margin over Dario and Paul behind him and was safe in 4th place.

Further back, Ryan Hunter-Reay’s race came to a crunching halt on lap 7 when he lost the back going through the fast turn 8, spun and backed the car into the wall, badly damaging the back wing assembly. He limped back to the pits and the crew leapt into action to try and put a new rear wing on as quickly as possible.

When Hunter-Reay returned to the track, he quickly found himself tangling with Ed Carpenter – right as Dixon and Castroneves came up fast behind them. The two faster cars split either side of the backmarkers, but Helio was more savvy and chose the right line, sliding past Dixon on the inside. To his credit, the Kiwi gave Helio enough room so that they both avoided an accident, but it cost him second place in the process.

With ten laps to go to the end, there was no touching Will Power who had a 5.8s lead over Castroneves and Dixon. It was a peerless performance by the Aussie, who clearly demonstrated why he deserves a full time ride with Penske in the future by notching up his maiden IRL series victory. But Scott Dixon thwarted the Penske 1-2-3 by claiming third place, a threatening late revival charge by Briscoe (now over his handling problems) stopped in its tracks by the one and only yellow flag of the race, triggered by Tomas Scheckter hitting the wall hard and leaving debris on track. The race finished under the caution.

Dixon’s third place is crucial to the IRL championship, as it puts him back in the lead of the title race by 3pts over his team mate Franchitti. Ironically, Power’s success kept points away from the Ganassi duo’s main rivals Castroneves and Briscoe – but it’s still wide open as IRL heads into the final six races of 2009.

Race result

Pos  Driver             Team                      Time/Gap
 1.  Will Power         Penske               1h42m42.3773s
 2.  Helio Castroneves  Penske                  +  1.0936s
 3.  Scott Dixon        Ganassi                 +  1.3213s
 4.  Ryan Briscoe       Penske                  +  1.8266s
 5.  Dario Franchitti   Ganassi                 +  4.4652s
 6.  Paul Tracy         KV                      +  6.3941s
 7.  Graham Rahal       Newman/Haas/Lanigan     + 26.5700s
 8.  Justin Wilson      Coyne                   + 26.9169s
 9.  Robert Doornbos    Newman/Haas/Lanigan     +    1 lap
10.  Marco Andretti     Andretti Green          +    1 lap
11.  Danica Patrick     Andretti Green          +    1 lap
12.  EJ Viso            HVM                     +    1 lap
13.  Alex Tagliani      Conquest                +    1 lap
14.  Hideki Mutoh       Andretti Green          +    1 lap
15.  Dan Wheldon        Panther                 +    1 lap
16.  Ed Carpenter       Vision                  +   2 laps
17.  Ryan Hunter-Reay   Foyt                    +   8 laps
18.  Raphael Matos      Luczo Dragon            +  10 laps
19.  Tomas Scheckter    Dreyer & Reinbold       +  22 laps
20.  Mike Conway        Dreyer & Reinbold       +  32 laps

Retirements/not classified:
     Tony Kanaan        Andretti Green       34 laps
     Richard Antinucci  3G                   20 laps
     Mario Moraes       KV                   0 laps

IRL championship standings

Pos Driver  Points
1   Scott Dixon         380
2   Dario Franchitti    377
3   Ryan Briscoe        366
4   Hélio Castroneves   309
5   Danica Patrick      285
6   Marco Andretti      259
7   Dan Wheldon         255
8   Justin Wilson       241
9   Tony Kanaan         239
10  Graham Rahal        235
11  Hideki Mutoh        220
12  Robert Doornbos     197
13  Ryan Hunter-Reay    194
14  Raphael Matos       194
15  Will Power          187
16  Ed Carpenter        186
17  Mário Moraes        169
18  Ernesto Viso        164
19  Mike Conway         160
20  Tomas Scheckter     125
21  Alex Tagliani       114
22  Paul Tracy           87
23  Vitor Meira          62
24  Milka Duno           51
25  Stanton Barrett      50
26  Sarah Fisher         43
27  Jaques Lazier        41
28  Darren Manning       38
29  Richard Antinucci    36
30  Townsend Bell        32

  1. Victoria Reid

    Thanks for posting IRL information. I don’t get versus and have a hard time finding race recaps as detailed as yours. I’m also interested in MotoGP and F1 and have just started a similar (but much less detailed) blog. Yours is interesting and informative. Thanks for being a good role model. If you’d like to give mine a read check

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