BOURDAIS, WILSON'S PARALLEL WEEKENDS – They were two of the best in the Champ Car days. They are still two of the best road and street drivers in IndyCar today, even if they're considered as not being with the best teams. And at Toronto, both Sebastien Bourdais and Justin Wilson were in podium positions after bouncing back from being joined at the hip for all the wrong reasons on Friday.
It all started with the pit incident in Friday morning practice, Wilson stuck in gear and then careening into Bourdais' pits and hitting three of his Dragon Racing crewmembers. Despite the incident, none of the four crewmembers affected (three Dragon and one of Wilson's Dale Coyne guys) were seriously injured.
Come Sunday, starting from third and fourth on the grid (best starts of the year for both), they should have been in contention for the win. Unfortunately for Wilson – driving a car with a mended front wing after earlier incidents in the weekend – later had a mechanical issue that sidelined him. He was as high as second before the gremlins struck. Wilson explains:
“The Sonny's Bar-B-Q Honda was pretty good out there and we were having a strong race,” he said. “In that last stint I was just battling away to get on the podium and I thought we had a good shot at that. About half way round that last lap I started to lose power, but it was intermittent, so it would just die and accelerate, die and accelerate. Eventually I got to Turn 11 and it died as I entered. As I got to the apex suddenly it gave me full power back. It spun the wheels, the rear came out and clipped the wall and bent the suspension. So I'm very disappointed. We've found the part that failed which caused the power loss, and we'll just have to learn from that.”
For Bourdais, who had hung around the top 10 most of the day and suddenly found himself in third place on the last restart, he was in the unenviable position of being the outside car in a pinball-type Turn 1 situation. His initial comments pointed to Charlie Kimball being the guilty party although Mike Conway was the perpetrator.
“Too many idiots,” Bourdais surmised in his TV interview. “He shouldn't be standing on the podium. He doesn't deserve it.”
After seeing the replay, Bourdais adjusted the blame and clarified in a tweet post-race. Both drivers, though, could count themselves unlucky for another race where the results didn't match the pace.
PODIUM EXPLOSION – Kimball and Conway's first podiums of the year makes 15 the number of different podium finishers in 2012, which is a mark one greater than the entire 2011 season. The 2011 number was achieved in 17 races; 2012's in 10, with five races to go.
Kimball, Conway, and Takuma Sato are among those who've cracked the top three this year. Those who haven't include Oriol Servia (RIGHT), Alex Tagliani, Sebastien Bourdais, Rubens Barrichello, E.J. Viso, JR Hildebrand, Josef Newgarden, Ed Carpenter, James Jakes, Simona de Silvestro and Katherine Legge. Realistically, at least three and possibly five of those 11 could accrue one later in the year.
OTHER TIDBITS – Target Chip Ganassi Racing and Team Penske, collectively, haven't won in four straight races. The last season there was more than one race in a row without a Penske or Ganassi victory was 2008, when Tony Kanaan and Hunter-Reay won successive races at Richmond and Watkins Glen for Andretti Green and Rahal Letterman Racing, respectively. Earlier in the year, Graham Rahal and Danica Patrick had also completed that feat at St. Petersburg and Motegi.
The Target Ganassi squad's horrible race included Scott Dixon's early engine failure, and Dario Franchitti's first pit stop gone wrong where he missed his marks. Franchitti started on pole for the third race running, and has yet to finish better than 17th in that run. It's been as surprising as frustrating for them to see them mired in this current mini-slump.
Along the same parity lines, 10 different teams finished in the top-10 – and none were a Target Chip Ganassi Racing team. Down to 14th-placed Bourdais, 13 different teams were represented. The only one with two cars was KV Racing (Kanaan fourth, Rubens Barrichello 11th), and the only teams not represented were TCGR, Ed Carpenter Racing and Lotus HVM Racing.
Oriol Servia, in another ho-hum, “from nowhere to top-five” run, climbed from 14th to his fourth top five finish of the season. All have come on ABC-televised races, and all have come from 14th or worse on the grid.
Out of the spotlight, Helio Castroneves finished sixth – a career-best at Toronto dating to his rookie season in 1998. With his fourth consecutive top-10 finish, Castroneves has quietly snuck back to third in the standings, and his elusive first championship could be in the offing with another win and some luck affecting Power and Hunter-Reay in front of him.
Credit to James Jakes, the Dale Coyne Racing sophomore who ran quietly but consistently to a career best eighth-place finish.
The series has a week off before the second Canadian round of the season in Edmonton on July 22.