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James-Garner-1985JG-at-IMS-1977So we've lost another one of those venerable figures who seemed universally loved and respected, a man who surely deserved the spotlight, but never behaved like he needed it. James Garner's easy-going manner probably robbed him of some of the adulation he deserved, but he could live with that. He, like other dignified stars of that generation, probably just smiled wryly and accepted that this world is no longer a place for those who are great at what they do but who aren't prepared to brag about it.

"I came to California, and had an aunt who wanted me to get into motion pictures," Garner told the Television Academy Foundation. "I didn't want any part of that. She had talent scouts come look at me, and I just brushed them off... I read what I read in fan magazines, and I thought, 'Oh my goodness, these people are so phony!' I just hated it."

Yet he knew a means to an end when he saw it, and he took a modeling job (despite hating the phoniness of that, too) while he pondered what he really wanted to do. Thankfully for anyone who cares about good cinema, he chose acting.

Now, I couldn't hope to make this a comprehensive tribute to Mr. James Garner, because acting remained his principal job, and I'm no film/TV critic. In fact, I admit I'm ignorant of even some of his major roles. Yes, I think I've seen all 122 The Rockford Files episodes – some of them many, many times since I have 60 percent of them on DVD – yet only a couple of times have I caught Garner's other great TV role, Maverick. And there are many movies of his that I'd never heard of until spending much of yesterday reading the countless obituaries to this great man. Here, I simply wanted to convey why James Garner became a hero for me.

great-escape-james-garner-and-donald-pleasenceGarner and Donald Pleasence in "The Great Escape."There is the automotive connection, of course, yet at first, my fandom had nothing to do with cars and everything to do with Garner's acting in The Great Escape. For this wide-eyed kid, probably eight years of age, Steve McQueen's dramatic attempts to evade capture on a bike were of course, pure gold. But the other fella I was really pulling for was Garner's character. At the time, I couldn't put my finger on what made him so appealing from the moment he appeared on screen. A couple of decades later, I figured it out; Garner throughout was behaving truly naturally...and emphatically not being an actor. Such realism is rare in an "old" movie. There were no theatrical projections of voice, unrealistic facial mannerisms or overly flamboyant movements. Hendley the Scrounger, Garner's character in this immortal epic, was just like your affable next-door neighbor who says, sure, he can illicitly find something you need, and then actually delivers on the promise.

Then, as the group of PoWs attempted to flee Germany, he was prepared to multiply the risk of getting caught by determinedly escorting Donald Pleasence's character, Colin Blythe, who was now blind. I was dumbstruck at James Garner's nobility. Yes, OK, aged eight, my distinction between an actor and his character was non-existent. But even aged 41, while I'm no longer scared of making Lou Ferrigno angry, I still hold the belief that Garner would have manned up and been that Hendley guy for real.

Grand-PrixSome 10 years after that first memory of Garner, I was reading Graham Hill's autobiography and in his brief description of filming John Frankenheimer's movie Grand Prix, he made reference to Garner's considerable talents behind the wheel – in stark contrast with the other actors forced to play racing drivers in that movie. That certainly caught my interest...and then I saw Grand Prix, which did a lot more than that. Garner was the suave, heroic yet very human figure that any adolescent would surely admire. What's the phrase? The kind of guy that men want to be and women want to be with. Yup, forget James Bond; I wanted to be Pete Aron!

1970 Oldsmobile 442 Goodyear GrabberMore investigation revealed just how deeply into cars Garner was. Here was a celebrity (before that word's default definition became "behaving like a moron and getting your own reality TV show") who, like Paul Newman, wasn't going to make racing his career but who loved it as a hobby, and had the means to get involved. Driving that handsome, rugged Oldsmobile 442 in desert races – the 'Goodyear Grabber' – Garner proved what Graham Hill and Jack Brabham had noted during the filming of Grand Prix: he had genuine talent.

Three-time Indy 500 winner Bobby Unser, who was one of Garner's driving coaches, recalled: "James was a very good student of racing. He really listened – didn't act like he knew everything already. And because he listened, he learned and understood and he became very good, I thought. Yes, I liked him."

And his interests went beyond the instant gratification of driving. Pulled directly from Wikipedia: "Garner was an owner of the "American International Racers" (AIR) auto racing team from 1967 through 1969. Famed motorsports writer William Edgar and Hollywood director Andy Sidaris teamed with Garner for the racing documentary The Racing Scene, filmed in 1969 and released in 1970."

Here's a 5min clip from it:


RockfordTheGarnerFiles

What I love about Garner's presence at Indianapolis for those three years – 1975, ’77 and ’85 – in which he drove the pace car for the "500", is that, although gratified at the crowd's appreciation of him and happy that it would bring more attention to the already hugely popular Rockford Files, more than anything, I suspect he just loved pacing the field at the world's biggest race. Sure, Garner was in a position to be offered some great opportunities in his life, but you can be sure he appreciated them as an enthusiast like you or I.

There's something else massively appealing about Garner, whether you're a race fan or not. If you read his excellent autobiography "The Garner Files" and read or watch any interviews with him, you'll see that he was able to take pride in his accomplishments and show an awareness of his status without ever descending into egotism or self-absorption. He was modest; he accepted there were actors who had more on-screen presence and acknowledged he'd never had any formal training in his art. But he never sounded deliberately self-effacing in order to prompt sycophantic retorts from an interviewer, writer or reader – "How can this great man not realize that he, too, is one of the icons?" etc.

Despite his relaxed demeanor, Garner was certainly not a pushover. Here was a man who always stood up for what he thought was right. His principles are why he wouldn't allow himself to get fleeced by studio executives who apparently went out of their way to live up to the stereotype of greedy, seedy, slimeballs trying to take financial advantage of the talent put in their charge. His principles are why Garner was front and center (to be accurate, third row from the front) for Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech after joining him for the march on Washington. His principles are why Garner fought for this country in Korea.

And at the other end of the scale of importance, Garner's principles are why, in the final two seasons of The Rockford Files, he quit accepting Pontiac's offer of a new Firebird (pictured, TOP) for each series; he simply didn't like the front-end styling of the post-1978 models. I'm with him on that one, too.

There's no getting away from the auto-fanatic side of Mr. James Garner. And it hit me like a brick when Steve Shunck e-mailed me Parnelli Jones' tribute to his friend and golfing buddy; the 1963 Indy 500 winner and the man who de-glamorized the role of private detective shared some very important character traits – pride, determination but also humility. Both of them appreciated fans' respect yet were humble enough to be slightly disconcerted by outright adulation.

That was a major part of Garner's appeal to so many of us, but there was much more of course. His looks combined matinee idol with trustworthy homeliness. He was openly family-oriented and avoided scandal. And yes, there were Jim Rockford's evasive J-turns in that copper-colored Pontiac Firebird Esprit, one of many maneuvers that must have put as much strain on its auto transmission as his stunts outside a car punished his knees. (There's a grim and probably accurate rumor that Garner's circa-50-year-old body demanded on average one knee operation per series of The Rockford Files).

But most of all, he will be missed because of who and how we believe he was. Only those closest to him could confirm this – like most, I can only go by what I've read or seen of the man – but that old cliché about life imitating art appears to be applicable to James Garner, the man. He truly was the standup guy he so often portrayed on screen. Cool, yes, but warm too.

A sad and fond farewell then, to a gentleman who turned acting without artifice and behaving with decency into heroic qualities. James Garner – the genuine article, and a car guy, too.

Massa warning for young F1 drivers

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Felipe Massa has called on Formula 1's younger drivers to calm down, following his first-corner crash with Kevin Magnussen at the German Grand Prix.

The Brazilian believes that the McLaren driver was to blame for their collision at Turn 1 that flipped his Williams upside down and out of the race. Having felt that Magnussen had the opportunity to back out of the move, Massa says he is frustrated by the number of incidents being caused by too much aggression from new drivers.

"It is not the first time he has been in an accident on the first lap," said Massa. "Most of the time, these young drivers, they want the win the race at the first corner. And if you take most of the accidents that happen, it happens mostly with them."

Massa warning for young F1 driversMagnussen says he had nowhere to go

Massa believes there are more collisions now compared to when his generation of drivers were coming through.

"Honestly, I don't remember in the past that this type of accident happening all the time," he said. "I was young and I even crashed many times, but I don't remember following different rules to the ones we have.

"I don't remember myself, Kimi [Raikkonen], Fernando [Alonso], being involved as young drivers in so many things like that. Anyway, it is just the way I think: I am not saying the young drivers don't have the talent to be in F1, it is very good talent. But sometimes you need to understand that you cannot win the race at the first corner."

Magnussen has not spoken to Massa about what happened at the first corner, but the Brazilian says he will offer him some key advice when they do talk about it.

"Take it easy," said Massa, when asked what he will tell Magnussen. "I am not losing alone, he loses as well.

"He spun and maybe his car was not the same, so he lost points as well. I hope it is enough to understand to take it a bit easier at the next race."

 

Originally on Autosport.com

072014 toronto BC 371097

RACER: Mike Conway Toronto Race 2 winner

The RACER Channel speaks with 2inTO Round 2 winner Mike Conway, who earned Ed Carpenter Racing's third IndyCar victory of the season in Toronto.

RACER: Ed Carpenter Toronto Race 2 winning owner

Toronto IndyCar Round 2 race-winning team owner Ed Carpenter speaks with Robin Miller about the team's third win of the season.

RACER: Will Power Toronto Race 2 third place

Team Penske's Will Power survived a rough weekend in Toronto to take third place on Sunday, and spoke with The RACER Channel's Robin Miller afterward.

RACER: Vasser and Sullivan Toronto Race 1 winning owners

The RACER Channel speaks with Jimmy Vasser and James "Sulli" Sullivan, two of the three Round 1 race-winning KVSH team owners, about Sebastien Bourdais' breakthrough win at Toronto.

RACER: Helio Castroneves Toronto Race 1 Second Place

Team Penske's Helio Castroneves puts in another strong performance to lengthen his championship lead after placing second during Toronto Round 1.

RACER VIDEO: Sebastien Bourdais Toronto Race 1 winner

The RACER Channel's Marshall Pruett interviews Toronto IndyCar Race 1 winner Sebastien Bourdais after the Frenchman put in a dominating drive to score the KVSH team's first victory since the 2013 Indy 500.

Alonso says Ricciardo 'unbelievable'

Fernando Alonso reckons Formula 1 rival Daniel Ricciardo is doing an "unbelievable" job since stepping up from Toro Rosso to the championship-winning Red Bull team.

Canadian Grand Prix winner Ricciardo lies third in the drivers' championship, nine points ahead of Ferrari driver Alonso, and 24 points clear of Red Bull team-mate Sebastian Vettel. Double world champion Alonso, who battled wheel to wheel with Ricciardo for fifth in the closing stages of Sunday's German GP, said the Australian had surprised everyone with his consistently strong form over the first 10 races of the season.

"Daniel is a surprise from Australia – I think he is doing unbelievable," Alonso said. "He is 7-3 [ahead in results] in the first 10 races with Sebastian, which probably not one of us suspected [would happen], so he is doing a very good job.

"He's driving fantastically, and in Germany he was battling very smart, always taking my slipstream after I passed him, and braking very late, attacking very late, and [he] never missed the corner. He was very, very smart, [with] respect also with the rules. It was a great fight."

Red Bull boss Christian Horner also praised the fighting spirit Ricciardo showed in recovering from a first-corner excursion while avoiding the incident between Kevin Magnussen and Felipe Massa at Hockenheim.

"It was great racing with Fernando and Daniel," Horner said. "The great thing to watch from our perspective was that Daniel did not give up and you could see the fighting spirit within him. The passes were Nigel Mansell-esque in many respects.

"I think really we had a demonstration of F1 racing at its best."

 

Originally on Autosport.com

Conway-jump

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It hadn’t been a particularly good weekend for street master Mike Conway. The winner at Long Beach earlier this season started 13th and finished 20th in Sunday’s opening race of the Honda Indy Toronto doubleheader and lined up 11th for the second 65-lap sprint.

But when it began raining on lap 12 everything changed – pit strategy, tire selection and traction. And it was Conway’s call to go from rain tires to slicks that propelled him into victory lane for Ed Carpenter Racing.

“It was drying and I thought we needed to take a shot and go for it,” said the soft-spoken Englishman who stopped on lap 43 for dry-weather rubber even though the 1.7-mile circuit was still wet around the edges. “The grip was better than I thought and I knew the two guys ahead of me were on rain tires so it made things kinda easy.”

In a wild afternoon that followed a pretty docile opener (won by Sebastien Bourdais), it became a timed race instead of 65 laps because of all the caution flags and that made Justin Wilson and Josef Newgarden gamble and stay out on wets.

lat-levitt-tor-0714 08922lat-levitt-tor-0714 12173Following one of the six caution flags on the day, Wilson led Newgarden to the green flag on lap 49 with Conway sitting third. But he smoked past both of them and into the lead on lap 50 just as another full-course yellow flag waved. With a little under 5:00 remaining, IndyCar Race Control decided to throw the red flag so the patient Canadian fans could get a green-flag finish.

“I don’t have a problem with that,” said owner/driver Carpenter afterward, “but I just wish I knew if we were going to do it all the time or sometimes or what the protocol is.”

It turned out to be a two-lap shootout but it was anti-climactic, at least at the front, as Conway pulled away from runner-up Tony Kanaan.

“All credit to Mike,” said Carpenter, who decided last winter to split the driving duties with the young man who quit his full-time ride with A.J. Foyt two years ago because he no longer wanted to race on ovals. “He made the call to go to slicks and he did a helluva job.”

It was the third victory of 2014 for ECR as Conway kept Chip Ganassi out of the winner’s circle for the 14th straight race. But Kanaan made a splendid recovery to snag his third straight podium. After plugging into the tires on the opening lap and dropping back to last, T.K. charged back to put the Target Dallara-Chevrolet in second place – just ahead of Will Power.

Power had one of the luckiest and best weekends of his rollercoaster season. He got a reprieve from a crash on Saturday when the race never started and was eventually called because of rain. He started 23rd in the first race and soldiered home in ninth place in the Verizon Team Penske Dallara-Chevrolet.

The starting lineup for Race #2 was based on entrant points so he took the green flag on the outside of the front row next to his teammate and point leader Helio Castroneves. They had a great duel in the rain before Power finally got past to take the lead on lap 42 and start pulling away. The Aussie was just about to pit for slicks on lap 44 when the yellow flag waved, the pits closed and that cost him any chance of winning since Conway was already on slicks and wouldn’t need to stop again.

“A good points day and four races to go,” said Power, who trails Castroneves by 13 points with four races to go in the Verizon IndyCar series.

Castroneves, who finished second in the opener, faded to 12th in the nightcap with a broken front wing.

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Results - 56 laps:
Pos Driver Team/Engine Time/Gap 1. Mike Conway Carpenter/Chevy 1h20m35.5420s 2. Tony Kanaan Ganassi/Chevy +3.5418s 3. Will Power Penske/Chevy +5.1545s 4. Charlie Kimball Ganassi/Chevy +5.4857s 5. Takuma Sato Foyt/Honda +6.6210s 6. Jack Hawksworth Herta/Honda +7.8701s 7. Scott Dixon Ganassi/Chevy +7.9350s 8. Marco Andretti Andretti/Honda +10.1765s 9. Sebastien Bourdais KV/Chevy +12.0212s 10. Justin Wilson Coyne/Honda +15.7853s 11. Ryan Briscoe Ganassi/Chevy +15.8671s 12. Helio Castroneves Penske/Chevy +16.2205s 13. Josef Newgarden Fisher/Honda +20.9127s 14. Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti/Honda +22.6140s 15. Carlos Huertas Coyne/Honda +29.2715s 16. Luca Filippi Rahal/Honda +46.4382s 17. Carlos Munoz Andretti/Honda -4 laps* 18. James Hinchcliffe Andretti/Honda -4 laps 19. Juan Pablo Montoya Penske/Chevy -4 laps * Not running at finish Retirements: Graham Rahal Rahal/Honda 50 laps Sebastian Saavedra KV/Chevy 49 laps Simon Pagenaud Schmidt/Honda 47 laps** Mikhail Aleshin Schmidt/Honda 11 laps ** Running again at finish

Bentley-overheadIf you read the promotional literature for the road-going Bentley Continental GT, you’ll learn about its “perfect fusion of supercar performance and handcrafted luxury.” Converted into GT3 competition form and wielded by Dyson Racing, the same descriptors have rung true; the car’s aesthetic merits further reinforced by a strong debut on the fast swoops of Road America.

The second time around, it faced a very different challenge. If Road America was a natural progression from the road courses around which the car was first battle-tested in Europe, then the bumpy patchwork that makes up the surface of the Toronto street circuit is anything but.

Bentley-Chris-Butch“Getting the car to work at Road America was easy,” said driver Butch Leitzinger (LEFT, with Dyson Racing team owner Chris Dyson) who came away from the Continental’s debut weekend last month with a sixth and fourth. “Now, coming here to a North American street track…the car has never really seen a bump before!”

If taking a new car to a new type of track is a little like learning a different language, then doing so in changing conditions can be like learning a different language while locked in a room with a mariachi band. And the conditions in Toronto were tough. An already-tight schedule meant that the Pirelli World Challenge field had just two 30-minute sessions to get a handle on their setup before they went out to qualify.

Rain showers left the drivers facing a wet and slippery track for their first outing, while the subsequent cancellation of the IndyCar race late on Saturday afternoon snowballed into a complete overhaul of Sunday’s schedule that resulted in the PWC field racing three hours earlier than they’d expected.

“In the greater scheme of things, all these variables are good, because we’re getting a lot of different data about different situations that will be helpful next year,” Leitzinger said prior to the first race. “But for this weekend, it makes it a lot easier for us to get it wrong.

“The preparation time has been really short, so we’ve kind of been taking stabs at the setup when we can. We’ve made some progress, but hopefully we’ll make more.”

Bentley-Turn 2


 

Bentley-ViperThere was a final complication to come. Leitzinger was running well in the opening race until he was caught up in a heavy crash with another car. Or as Leitzinger diplomatically put it, “We got caught up in a little extracurricular activity, unfortunately. He just didn’t want to be passed.”

In relative terms, the damage to the Bentley was minor – Leitzinger managed to crawl back to the pits, while the other car involved did not appear again for the rest of the weekend – but it still made for a late night for the team.

Bentley-pit“The race was at 11 a.m., and we got out of here at 9:30 p.m.,” said Dyson Racing technical director Peter Weston. “There was no suspension damage; it was all bodywork – the support structure for the front bodywork.”

By the time the Continental headed out for the second race on Sunday morning the track had largely dried, and Leitzinger was able to bring it home in ninth. It’s not the sort of result that he or the team will be satisfied with in the long-term, but right now, everything Dyson does with the Bentley is about building toward next year. And on that basis, all of the challenges that Toronto threw at it will provide an invaluable platform for future development.

“We started with a Road America base setup and worked back from there,” said Weston. “But this was the first time I’ve engineered a GT car at a street track. And it’s the first time that myself or the team have been to Toronto, aside from a couple of guys who came here years ago. We’re usually racing up the road at Mosport.

“So when you consider all of that, and take into account that the car as a project is only 12 months old and it’s never been to a street circuit, it has been a really productive weekend – we started off 1.7sec off the pace, and had the car within 0.3sec by Sunday morning.”

Teaching the car to handle bumps better will be a priority in the months ahead, given the proliferation of street courses on the 2015 calendar, and Dyson Racing is already in the process of hatching what Weston describes as a “secret test plan” for the offseason with that very purpose in mind.

Bentley-start“The bumps are the key thing,” said Weston. “The surface changes, the level of grip – it’s a street track, so it’s very polished – and the bumps. We’re trying to get grip out of something that’s very smooth and very bumpy, and control the mass of the car without the tires getting hot.”

The team’s other target in the weeks ahead will be to get the tires up to their optimum temperature faster. But the real keys to unlocking the Continental’s potential are simply time and experience. Every time the team takes the car out onto the track, the learning curve flattens by an extra few degrees.

“During a race weekend you just have to field-engineer the car and hope for the best,” Leitzinger admitted. “But we’re learning a lot, and the car was good here. Its strongest suit, I would say, is the high-speed corners. It makes very good downforce. The slower turns are maybe where we’re giving up a little bit, and we’re making a lot of improvements there as we start to understand the car and figure out exactly what it likes. But right now the faster the corner, the better we are.”

The sharp shock of a rugged street course makes way for relatively familiar surrounds when the team moves on to the next event at Mid-Ohio in two weeks. Leitzinger will still be flying the Bentley flag solo – the team retains ambitions to field a second car for Chris Dyson later in the season, although plans are still being finalized. But in the interim, the team has much to be excited about. In a self-described “development year,” Toronto was supposed to be the big curveball. A top 10 finish and a stack of new data has to be considered a solid return on a weekend’s work.

Bentley-pan-blur

vipKuno Wittmer, of Montreal, Quebec (GT) and Mark Wilkins, of Toronto (GTS), scored victories in their home country at Sunday's Pirelli World Challenge at the Honda Indy Toronto, Round 10 of the 2014 season. Additionally, Michael Mills, of Angleton, Texas, captured the GT-A victory to provide EFFORT Racing its second win of the weekend.

The win is Wittmer's seventh of his career; he drove the No. 92 Dodge/SRT Motorsports Dodge Viper SRT GT3-R. Wilkins' fifth and second this season (Round 3, Barber) in the No. 38 PutOnTheBrakes.org Kia Optima came at a new closest GTS margin of victory, 0.039 of a second over Alec Udell.



Winning in Canada means a lot to both drivers.

"It's extremely special," Wittmer said. "There's not a lot of Canadian events in North American series; so when you do have a chance to race in front of your home crowd, it's really special because you grew up racing in Canada. You look up to be at this level."

Added Wilkins, "The first time I raced here was Canadian Formula Ford in 2001; that was a long time ago. In 2003 I was leading in Formula Renault and got taken out. It's a great feeling to win. There's not a lot of opportunities to race on Canadian soil and you have to make the most of them. That was the goal. Thanks to the fans."

wc2In GT, Wittmer staged a huge battle with his Saturday nemesis and Round 9 winner Nick Tandy, of Bedfordshire, England in the No. 31 EFFORT Racing Porsche GT3 R after both drivers passed polesitter Mike Skeen, of Charlotte, N.C., in the No. 2 Hawk Performance Audi R8 Ultra in the opening laps.

Wittmer started second but passed Skeen on the run down to Turn 3 on the opening lap, around the outside, a move that was named the Cadillac CTS-V Move of the Race. Tandy, who started third, eventually made it past Skeen on lap 7. From there, it appeared Tandy had the advantage, as he looked inside and outside to try to pass Wittmer, but was never able to make it past.

A single caution flag on lap 13 – caused following contact between Bret Curtis, of Austin, Texas, in the No. 32 Spectra Resources/United Steel Supply/Valspar Paint Audi R8 Ultra and Walt Bowlin, of Tarpon Springs, Fla. in the No. 23 Tampa Bay Jaw Surgery Centers Audi R8 Ultra exiting Turn 3 into Turn 4 – tightened the field.

But from the restart on lap 16, the battle once again could rage. Anthony Lazzaro, of Atlanta, Ga., in the No. 61 R. Ferri Motorsports Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 made the Invisible Glass Clean Pass of the race, getting around Skeen for third place following the restart.

Although Tandy came close, his race would end in sheer disappointment following a spin on lap 23 at Turn 1 following contact with Wittmer. Nick Mancuso, of Chicago, in the No. 16 R. Ferri Motorsports Ferrari 458 Italia GT3, hit Tandy exiting the corner as Tandy was trying to right his car. That knocked both drivers out of the race; Tandy was left stranded at Turn 2 for the remainder of the day.

Wittmer held on from there over Lazzaro by 1.26 seconds, with Skeen able to bag a fortunate podium in third place.

"It's definitely an extremely special feeling to win a home round," Wittmer said. "It doesn't come close to anything else. Hats off to the entire Dodge/SRT Motorsports team, who did an incredible job preparing this Dodge Viper SRT GT3-R.

"For the race itself, it was super exciting even just from my seat, so I can only imagine what it was for the fans!" he added. "The fight we had with Nick was really good. I broke on the racing line; he popped out and tried to go for it. I knew he was there so I didn't pitch the line as tight as I would, went wide, but there was slight contact on my right rear. It broke something on his car."

Robert Thorne, of Littleton, Col., drove a consistent race in the No. 6 K-PAX Racing McLaren 12C GT3 to finish fourth for his second top-five finish of the year. Andy Pilgrim, of Boca Raton, Fla., was the best finishing Cadillac, fifth in the No. 8 Cadillac Racing Cadillac CTS-V.R. Teammate and GT points leader Johnny O'Connell, of Flowery Branch, Ga., ended eighth in the No. 3 Cadillac Racing Cadillac CTS-V.R.

In GT-A, Mills led from start-to-finish in the No. 41 EFFORT Racing Porsche GT3 R to deliver his second win of the season (Round 2, Long Beach). Dan Knox, of Pilot Point, Texas, in the No. 80 ACS Manufacturing, Inc./Performance SpeedTech Dodge Viper SRT GT3-R was second with Henrik Hedman, of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., third in the No. 10 DragonSpeed Ferrari 458 Italia GT3.

"We're still making up points; the gap isn't insurmountable," Mills said. "We are thankful to Porsche for offering up Nick Tandy this weekend; it kind of woke everything up. Positive weekend with his overall win yesterday and mine today."

The GTS battle was as consistently tight and gripping as in GT. Wilkins, who had the pole by virtue of setting the fastest race lap in Saturday's Round 9, controlled the pace to heed off a snarling pack of five other drivers in class.

Wilkins' closest pursuer was Udell, of The Woodlands, Texas in the No. 17 Watson Racing/MDG Ford Mustang Boss 302S, who started second and had the edge, pace-wise, everywhere on the 1.755-mile street circuit except the straights. Wilkins consistently gapped Udell on the streets while Udell would close through the corners; more than a couple tenths rarely separated them.

Udell made one last ditch effort coming through Turn 11 and nearly got Wilkins on the run to the checkered flag. But the teenager came up just fractionally short despite trying to Wilkins' outside on the exit of the left-hander.

"Never give up! We had a lot of adversity this weekend, starting from the back yesterday, but I just kept my head down, drove really hard, stayed out of trouble. That's what you have to do on these street courses," Wilkins said. He also praised Udell's race craft.

"I have to say Alec Udell drove a fantastic race," Wilkins added. "He was clean, we had a great battle, and he made me drive down the inside of the track. That made it fun and stressful at the same time! I used up those front tires. We have a lot of momentum to go after this thing."

This 0.039sec winning margin breaks the previous mark, 0.326 of a second, set by Paul Brown over Peter Cunningham at Mid-Ohio in 2011. The closest class margin of victory in 2014 had been 0.839sec at Round 1 in St. Petersburg, when Lawson Aschenbach beat Andy Lee.

Behind them, Jack Roush Jr., of Livonia, Mich., scored his second straight third-place finish in the No. 60 ROUSH Road Racing Ford Mustang Boss 302R.

Fourth was Jack Baldwin, of Marietta, Ga., in the No. 73 RESET-MD Porsche Cayman S with Aschenbach, of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., fifth in the No. 1 Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Camaro.

Of note, Nic Jonsson, of Buford, Ga., took home the Optima Batteries Best Start Award with a gain of three positions from 15th to 12th, where he ultimately finished in GTS in the No. 36 DonorsChoose.org Kia Optima. Additionally, Drew Regitz, of Denver, Col., bounced back nicely in the No. 02 TRG-AMR North America Aston Martin GT4 with the Sunoco Hard Charger Award; he started 16th and ended eighth in GTS.

Results and points are unofficial until posted as final. O'Connell and Wilkins are projected to continue in the GT and GTS points leads, respectively.

This weekend's Toronto races will air on NBCSN on Aug. 10, at 1:30 p.m. Eastern.

The next rounds for the series are at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course (August 1-3), with Rounds 11 and 12 for GT, GT-A and GTS classes while TC, TCA and TCB classes race Rounds 9 and 10.

2014TorontoMPruettSat71914 828Back in the 1960s and 1970s there were holes in the track at Terre Haute and Eldora that nearly swallowed sprint cars whole. But the show went on and drivers either figured out how to negotiate those ruts or got upside down trying.

The dust was so bad at midget and sprint races in those days that drivers used light poles inside the turns to gauge when to back off the throttle and get slowed down to make the corner.

Mario Andretti won the 1976 Japanese Grand Prix in such wicked weather that Niki Lauda pulled out of the monsoon-like conditions and, consequently, lost the world championship.

Those conditions would be termed barbaric today but they were simply the way it was back then. A driver either dealt with it or turned in his helmet.

Which brings us to Saturday's Honda Indy Toronto.

It was raining, but never pouring and more of a steady mist that occasionally got stronger. It wasn't aquaplane-bad and there weren't rivers running across the street circuit like at Elkhart Lake a few years ago.

lat-levitt-tor-0714 04579The drivers went out for parade and pace laps and found the spray back on Lakeshore Blvd. to be blinding at 50mph. During the next two hours, they came in, got red-flagged, tried to start but didn't because of an accident. Even though the rain would periodically stop or be reduced to spitting, it was decided to postpone the first of two races shortly after 6 p.m.

Many of the veteran drivers applauded Race Control for that decision, while a couple of hungry, young rookies like Jack Hawksworth and Mikhail Aleshin couldn't believe they weren't racing.

"This isn't even considered rain where I come from," said Aleshin, who cut his teeth in Europe, beating current F1 Red Bull hotshot Daniel Ricciardo to the Formula Renault 3.5 title. "It was difficult to see but I think if we'd have run a couple laps it would have cleared things off and been just fine. I mean, we're race drivers, this is what we do and I think we should have raced."

I couldn't agree more. Everybody has a throttle and a brake, they didn't have to run balls-out at the start, just take it easy and try to get through a few laps. Drive to what the conditions permitted.

To be fair, IndyCar did try to start only to see Will Power crash coming out of the last corner before the race could go green. And, yeah, I know it's a street course and it doesn't drain like a road course and the wake created by high downforce cars causes this massive visibility problem.

It might also help if Firestone built a good rain tire. Their oval, road course and street tires are the best, reliable and durable but, according to drivers, they had a decent rain tire a couple years ago and changed it. For the worse. A good rain tire with deep grooves would make everybody's life easier and hopefully Firestone will revisit the design.

But the bottom line is that if IndyCar couldn't race in Saturday's conditions, it can't race in the rain and shouldn't advertise itself as the poor man's answer to Formula 1.

As Mario Andretti tweeted:

"New rule, #IndyCar will run road races in the rain as long as there is no spray...#joke"

Mario is old school, just like A.J. Foyt, who rolled his eyes when told how treacherous things were. He conquered Langhorne, Salem and Ascot Park with no cage, no protection and no backing off.

Racing is safer than it's ever been and that's a good thing. But taking risks and dealing with the elements like Saturday is a big part of why people watch or attend or care. If it wasn't dangerous, why would we care? If it didn't require a special skill, why couldn't anyone do it?

Derrick Walker and his stewards had a difficult decision to make and they opted to listen to the majority of the drivers.

In talking about protecting drivers and fans alike, Walker asked: "Do we want a good race or are we gladiators?"

My answer would be that IndyCar is the most diverse and fastest series going with some great racing. And driver safety is paramount. But let's don't kid ourselves, it needs the gladiator element. That's what made it so popular in the '60s and '70s. That's why A.J., Parnelli, Mario, Dan Gurney, Lone Star J.R. and the Unsers remain revered decades after they stopped driving.

They thrived and survived in a lethal era and we were in awe of their bravado as much as their talent.

And that gunfighter mentality no longer exists.

Make no mistake, there are plenty of ballsy racers in the Verizon IndyCar Series and they take plenty of chances during a season. And they have to horse their cars around with no power steering and thread the needle at places like Toronto. However, today it's more measured, more calculated and less caution to the wind.

That was obvious Saturday. They had a chance to thrill people, but they chose to play it safe.

Those patient, loyal Canadian fans sat through hours of rain and were never told anything over the PA system. They deserved to see IndyCar's best shot at dealing with a tough hand. Instead, they got a day of false starts and confusion.

Promoters are going to honor Saturday's tickets on Sunday but the forecast calls for rain again so why would the fans think anything's going to be different?

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