POWER, CONWAY SURGE – It's hard to describe the magnitude of what both Power and Mike Conway achieved on Sunday. A caution-free race, with not even a local yellow until the final turn of the final lap in a battle for 12th, and with pit windows fairly closed offered so little chance to perform a quantum leap from starting to finishing position.
Bottom line, both drivers put on a passing clinic throughout the race. Power advanced early from 17th to crack the top 10 by lap 24, and stayed eighth when emerging from the pits ahead of Ryan Hunter-Reay (much to RHR's chagrin). A demon series of laps on reds in his second stint propelled him further into the top five before his last stop on lap 53. A pass on Tagliani for third at lap 57 moved him into his eventual podium position.
Conway, starting 23rd, had advanced to 16th by his first stop. Once the first cycle was complete Conway followed Dixon through the field to the fringes of the top 10 – 12th by his last stop at lap 51 – and later passed James Hinchcliffe and Simon Pagenaud in the last stint to end in 11th at the flag. After his largely chance third place in Toronto, you could argue his drive at Edmonton was a better one. And this time there were no post-race penalties assessed.
BIG TWO'S RESURGENCE – Following the surprise run of three straight races where only one Target Chip Ganassi or Team Penske entry captured a top five out of 15 potential top-five finishing positions (Scott Dixon's fourth at Iowa), the “big two” recovered in a big way in Edmonton. Call it “The Empires Strike Back.”
Penske earned its first podium since Ryan Briscoe's third at Texas with Castroneves' win and Will Power's charge from 17th to third. The Target duo of Dario Franchitti and Dixon were a less satisfied sixth and 10th, but for Franchitti, it still represented his best result since his runner-up finish at Detroit five races ago. Briscoe's eighth (his first top-10 since Texas) meant all five drivers from the power teams were all represented in the top 10 for the first time all season.
RHR'S CALL – With no accidents or cautions, the closest thing to a controversy came when Power exited just ahead of Hunter-Reay after his first pit stop on lap 28. To hear Hunter-Reay on the radio was one of the most entertaining elements of the race.
“It's absolutely ridiculous that wasn't called!” the points leader called out, with his team owner and race strategist Michael Andretti striving to calm him down for the duration.
From multiple angles, it appeared that Power didn't swerve into Hunter-Reay's path or force the American to either lock his brakes or take evasive action to avoid him. There was enough of a gap from where Power exited the pit-out blend line to fall into traffic in between the car ahead of him and Hunter-Reay. A no-call there appeared the right one; if anything, the reaction was purely from a frustration standpoint that Power's pit stop was good enough to jump RHR before he took off on the reds.
Hunter-Reay needs to forget the Edmonton weekend as quickly as possible, because there had to have been extra pressure placed on him that forced him into a couple questionable calls. Racing with the possibility of winning a fourth straight race, and as the points leader for the first time in his career, RHR was almost driving as if the world needed to part ways whenever he was coming through. The James Jakes dust-up on Friday was a perfect example; all Hunter-Reay needed to do was wait one more corner to pass him in the practice session.
He did well to score pole on Saturday, but compared to how Power made the most of his engine change grid penalty, RHR was lackluster in contrast. Whether that came down to psyche or actual performance will be seen another day, but all told, he didn't lose a ton of points despite the seventh place, and can still move closer to the title if he can recapture the same form and mental state that served him so well prior to this weekend.
DISAPPEARING ACTS – Of the top-10 finishers in Toronto, only Hunter-Reay (first in Toronto), Castroneves (sixth), Sato (ninth) and Tagliani (10th) made it back to the top-10 in Edmonton.
Save for Rubens Barrichello starting seventh, KV Racing Technology entirely missed the setup and Tony Kanaan's team opted for a strange three-stop strategy that went nowhere fast. E.J. Viso was far from the pace as well. Panther Racing and DRR were also baffled by Edmonton, with JR Hildebrand and Oriol Servia rarely cracking the top 20 at any point over the course of the weekend. The team tried new things that Hildebrand said “they'd be better for” in the long run.
James Hinchcliffe and Simon Pagenaud are in respective top-10 droughts; Hinch is zero for his last three, with Pagenaud's fifth at Iowa his only one the last four races. Meanwhile, Toronto runner-up Charlie Kimball wasn't able to provide an encore performance, and dropped himself from 12th to 19th with his last lap contact on Pagenaud that earned him a 30-second penalty.
All three, Hinchcliffe, Pagenaud and Kimball, have showed strongly at Mid-Ohio in their prior appearance last year. Pagenaud deputized last-minute for Justin Wilson a year ago, while Kimball had his second-best qualifying performance (10th) and Hinch led 26 laps.
After a week off, IndyCar will be back in the U.S. at Mid-Ohio on Aug. 5.