Never before have I taken off my headset when the show ended and thought, “What in the world just happened?!” But my head was spinning after the Toronto IndyCar race, and I imagine many of you felt the same. Insults were flying as fast as car parts in Turn 3.
It seemed every time our producer said to get ready for a “through the field,” in one lap, bam! – another yellow. In fact, we never got a “through the field” in the show. Even now, it's hard to list each and every time there was contact on the course. Some stand out – like Tony Kanaan and Ryan Briscoe, Oriol Servia and Marco Andretti, the pileup that left Alex Tagliani on his side, fellow Canadians James Hinchcliffe and Paul Tracy tangling, Graham Rahal and Ryan Hunter-Reay, and of course, Will Power versus Dario Franchitti and Tagliani. The incident specifics might be hard to recall, but the interviews aren't.
We won't soon forget Power calling Tag an endearing term, or letting out seemingly pent-up frustration about Franchitti, saying, “I've always raced him clean and he always races me dirty.”
I was standing with Vitor Meira waiting for our interview when Rahal said, “That's not like Hunter-Reay, but I guess some people strap on their helmets and lose their brain.” Meira laughed and told me it was a good line that he'd have to remember.
And just like it has a few other times this season, the frustrations spilled over onto Twitter. Power called Franchitti a princess. TK, unhappy with race control for not penalizing Briscoe in their lap 2 incident, tweeted, “Race control is starting with their excuses. What a joke. Next time I'll pull over into the parking lot to give him more room.”
Maybe you loved the race. Maybe you hated it. What did I hate? Not having a free second in the race to get in even one interesting team/driver side-story I'd prepared! What did I love? That the IndyCar race was the network's most-watched show of the week, beating out the Tour de France, and pulled in a .5 rating, our second highest. I also loved how the drivers felt comfortable enough to lay it all out there and say what they were thinking.
Here's a real positive, though: It seemed while many of the championship front runners were crashed out, crashing, or about to crash, others were quietly managing to stay out of trouble (for the most part) and capture much-needed finishes. Meira crossed the line fifth, getting his best finish of the season. As his team owner A.J. Foyt said after the race, he was smart and patient, but also lucky. He hit the wall in an incident with Tracy. Lucky for him, it was a square hit and didn't bend the suspension so, after a nose change, he kept going. There was then a huge pileup in Turn 1 on lap 76 and Meira managed to drive through it unscathed, then on the next restart he squeezed into Turn 1 with former Toronto winner Sebastien Bourdais, held his ground with about six inches to spare, and came out in front.
Bourdais finished right behind him in sixth, securing Dale Coyne Racing's best finish this season. Impressively, he also posted the third-fastest lap of the race. It couldn't have been easy for Bourdais to come to Toronto – where he's won once and been on pole three times – knowing it was probably going to be a struggle like it has been in his earlier races this season. But surprisingly, he was running right up there in practice, narrowly missed the Firestone Fast Six in qualifying and earned a starting spot of seventh. He's told me all season that it would take time…but that his time would come. He says his new engineer, Neal Fife, is really helping.
Panther Racing's rookie JR Hildebrand made it cleanly through nearly every accident and collected eighth, his best finish ever on a road/street course. He came out of the carnage with only slight damage to his front wing after contact with the back of Justin Wilson's car. Other than advancing 14 positions in the race, he said what really pleased him was that his crew had the best pit stops they've had all season.
Simona de Silvestro came in 10th – and she needed it. She said she had no choice but to go into Toronto like it was the first race of the season. She missed Iowa after failing to get medical clearance 30 minutes before the first practice session because of post-concussion symptoms from her qualifying crash in Milwaukee the previous week. During May, she burned both hands in a crash at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
It's no secret she's more comfortable on road courses. She started 17th, ran as high as fourth at one point, avoided trouble, and saved fuel. Had she not had fuel-feed issues that caused her to make two extra stops, she might have finished in the top five, since she had been running ahead of fourth-place finisher Marco Andretti. Then again, as HVM Racing team owner Keith Wiggins realistically observed, that might have put her in the track position to get caught up in other people's shunts. Either way, comeback complete.
I'm looking forward to Edmonton this weekend for a few reasons. One, to see if leftover tempers from Toronto will flare again. Second, it's a brand-new layout and no one really knows what to expect although this virtual lap helps. And, of course, it's the site of last year's “Helio goes after Charles the security guard.”
As we've done the last few races, Versus has allowed us to extend our qualifying show to 90 minutes so we can show you all the rounds of knockout qualifying live on Saturday, 5:30-7:00 p.m. Eastern. The Indy Lights race airs at 4:30 p.m. prior to qualifying. Race coverage starts at 2 p.m. Eastern on Sunday. Tell your friends and let's try to keep these ratings going in the right direction.