Ryan Hunter-Reay recorded his third straight win in the IZOD IndyCar Series in Toronto, and moved into the points lead after many of his championship rivals encountered problems. In the process, RHR becomes the first American driver to pull a three-peat since A.J. Allmendinger in 2006 in Champ Car, who, coincidentally, also won his third straight in Toronto.
Hunter-Reay led all but one lap from lap 49 onward, and survived the final frantic restart with three laps to go. The Andretti Autosport driver ran Firestone's red alternate tires on the last stint, and that's when the track and race really came to him.
"All of a sudden the track started coming to us,” he said. "We were going quicker than we were in the first stint by a lot. When we put on the Firestone reds at the end, we were really fast.
"It's been nice. The last few times we led at the right times, at the end. Like the guys said, it sounds cliché, to jump into pit lane and have a flawless pit stop each time is instrumental to winning."
Charlie Kimball finished a career-best second, and Mike Conway completed the abnormal podium. Tony Kanaan and Oriol Servia rounded out the top five, marking the second time in three races where IndyCar's top five did not include a single driver from Target Chip Ganassi Racing or Team Penske.
Kimball never led but it was arguably the race of his career for the Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing sophomore.
"I'm disappointed not to come out with maximum points obviously, but second is a lot better than 13th, where we started, or even eighth where my previous career best was," he said.
A relatively caution and accident-free day occurred the first 75 laps before the last 10, when various contact occurrences drastically altered the running order. Simon Pagenaud, Josef Newgarden and Sebastien Bourdais were all in podium contention before their races changed in the waning moments.
Hunter-Reay won under caution – marking the second straight occurrence for him and third this season (Dario Franchitti did likewise at Indianapolis) – following the race's last restart that immediately then went back to yellow.
Prior to that, Hunter-Reay ran second in the middle portion of the race behind Simon Pagenaud, who had vaulted to the lead after off-sequence strategy jumbled the order in the first set of stops. The top seven had not pitted on lap 24, when Graham Rahal brought out the day's first yellow after making an unforced error and crashing in Turn 1.
Pagenaud led the middle stint of the race but behind them Charlie Kimball was making headway after pitting prior to the first yellow, then mixing it up with the leaders. Kimball's race had been compromised when Rahal made slight contact with him at Turn 3 and nudged him into the wall. Pagenaud's last stop came at lap 49, four laps before Kimball and another two before Hunter-Reay.
Kimball made arguably the move of the race on lap 73 when at Turn 3, as Pagenaud and Tony Kanaan drifted wide and Kimball snuck through on the inside to claim second.
"I got a really good run out of Turn 1,” Kimball explained. "I braked as late as I could, and I thought that neither of them were going to make the corner. I turned in, hit the concrete patch, put my foot down, and my Honda drove past them. They were both locking wheels, knocking off each other trying to stay out of the wall. I just kind of ran it clean and got the thing spooled up.”
Newgarden, who had since climbed to fourth, tried a move down Pagenaud's inside at Turn 3. It appeared to be a reactionary move by the Frenchman as Newgarden looked for the way past on the inside. But with enough room to clear it, Newgarden made it past but couldn't brake in time to get his car stopped. The contact with the barriers led to only the race's second full-course yellow.
Come the restart, Kimball was placed second with Bourdais and Conway on his heels. Conway went three-wide to the inside at Turn 1, pitching Kimball into Bourdais and Bourdais out of the race.
A less than pleased Bourdais initially blamed Kimball in his post-race TV interview, even if the video evidence pointed to Conway.
"Too many idiots,” Bourdais opined. "The TrueCar/McAfee boys did a hell of a job. We were P3 earlier, and when the yellow fell, I feel that's it. He just pitched me into the wall. He shouldn't be standing on the podium, he doesn't deserve it.”
Conway, who didn't directly address the incident in his TV interview, expanded in the post-race news conference.
"At the last restart, I went inside of Charlie,” he said. "We got a little bit close into Turn 1 but we both made it through.”
While some of the focus on the last restart was at Turn 1, there were further collisions in Turn 3 – Ryan Briscoe was turned into the outside retaining wall, while Pagenaud and Ed Carpenter were among cars stopped in an accordion effect at Turn 3.
"It was frustrating that we got caught up in the Turn 3 crash at the finish,” said Carpenter, who was last-in, last-out in the mess. "I thought I could have finished higher. That is the biggest disappointment for me. I was the last one to stop in the mess and I was the last one to get restarted. There were guys who caused the crash who got restarted before me. That doesn't make sense. They move me out of the way and restart those guys. That cost us today by losing a lap.”
The last restart confusion jumbled the running order and behind the top five, Helio Castroneves finished sixth – a career-best in Toronto dating back to his rookie start in 1998 – ahead of JR Hildebrand, James Jakes (career best finish overall), Takuma Sato and Alex Tagliani.
Front row drivers and championship rivals Will Power and Dario Franchitti each had incredibly frustrating days. As both were among the ones caught out by the timing of the first yellow, they each fell into the teens on their first stops, and never recovered.
Franchitti's third straight pole ended with his third straight frustrating afternoon – 17th after his first stop saw him miss his pit mark when he fell to 21st. Power had a front wing break off – he called it fragile afterward – and the extra pit stop dropped him to 15th.
Equally frustrating days for Scott Dixon – who had his fifth and last fresh engine fail early in the race – and hometown favorite James Hinchcliffe, who retired past the first caution with mechanical issues.
Hunter-Reay now leads the championship standings for the first time in his career, and first time for an American since 2006, when Sam Hornish Jr. won the IndyCar title. It's a 34-point gap to second-placed Power (335-301), with the consistent Castroneves now third (289), Dixon fourth (281) and Hinchcliffe fifth (268).
The series resumes in Edmonton in two weeks.
Results - 85 laps:
Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap
1. Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti DW12-Chevy 1h33m26.5096s
2. Charlie Kimball Ganassi DW12-Honda + 0.0757s
3. Mike Conway Foyt DW12-Honda + 0.2848s
4. Tony Kanaan KV DW12-Chevy + 1.6672s
5. Oriol Servia Panther/DRR DW12-Chevy + 1.9128s
6. Helio Castroneves Penske DW12-Chevy + 2.4795s
7. JR Hildebrand Panther DW12-Chevy + 2.6233s
8. James Jakes Coyne DW12-Honda + 3.7294s
9. Takuma Sato KV DW12-Honda + 6.5633s
10. Alex Tagliani Herta DW12-Honda + 9.9764s
11. Rubens Barrichello KV DW12-Chevy + 11.4636s
12. Simon Pagenaud Schmidt DW12-Honda + 43.8734s
13. Josef Newgarden Fisher DW12-Honda + 1 lap
14. Sebastien Bourdais Dragon DW12-Chevy + 1 lap
15. Will Power Penske DW12-Chevy + 1 lap
16. Marco Andretti Andretti DW12-Chevy + 1 lap
17. Dario Franchitti Ganassi DW12-Honda + 1 lap
18. Ed Carpenter Carpenter DW12-Chevy + 1 lap
19. Ryan Briscoe Penske DW12-Chevy + 2 laps
20. EJ Viso KV DW12-Chevy + 4 laps
Justin Wilson Coyne DW12-Honda 67 laps
James Hinchcliffe Andretti DW12-Chevy 28 laps
Graham Rahal Ganassi DW12-Honda 23 laps
Simona de Silvestro HVM DW12-Lotus 9 laps
Scott Dixon Ganassi DW12-Honda 7 laps