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Dario Franchitti: Intense Toronto circuit can make tempers flare

Posted by Matt Pepin, BostonGlobe.com Staff  July 12, 2011 12:45 PM

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Dario Franchitti (left) admits some of the blame for this incident with Will Power in Sunday's Toronto race. (AP photo)

Editor's note: Through a special arrangement with New Hampshire Motor Speedway
and Chip Ganassi Racing, two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Dario Franchitti will blog exclusively on Boston.com throughout the IndyCar season, with extra entries around the series' event at New Hampshire Aug. 14.

The best way to sum up Toronto is with one word: madness.

I donít know if there was one driver who didnít have some contact during Sundayís Honda Indy Toronto, and Iím not sure that anyone left without being angry at another driver. It was a crazy race, but Iím pleased that we were able to come out of it with another victory.

From qualifying on, everything was incredibly close. The top four cars in qualifying were less than four-tenths of a second apart. For a 1.755-mile street circuit, thatís extremely competitive.
I ran fourth and then third during the first stint of the race. My turning point came when my engineer, Chris Simmons, pitted me early as my teammate, Scott Dixon, and Will Power and I were starting to get into lapped traffic .

Things got pretty mixed up three laps after that when a yellow came out. Some people stayed out, and as a result we were a bit further up the field than either Scott or Will. Later, Will and Justin Wilson passed me on a restart, and not long after that I got a run on Will on the backstraight. I had to brush the brakes just to keep from running into him.

He braked so deep going into Turn 3. That was pretty impressive, but because of that, he missed the apex. That opened the door for me and I went down the inside and alongside him. He gave me enough room going into the turn, but then he came back down through the middle of the turn. I was tight against the right-hand wall, which actually comes out a bit as you go through the turn. I could see Will coming down but couldnít get my car out of the quickly shrinking gap.

As I said on TV afterward, Iím willing to take a portion of the blame for it, but I really believe it was a racing incident. Will had some scathing comments afterward, but I think it was a case of the frustration of having two DNFs in a row. If he looks back at the video, I think heíll see that we were both at fault. If not, then there's nothing I can do about it. Itís not the first time two drivers involved in an incident have had differing views about it!

Itís not impossible to go through that corner side-by-side.I saw many people do it, and I did it all day with guys like Justin and Ryan Hunter-Reay. It was difficult to do, but it could be done. We just werenít able to get it done that particular time.

But I do understand Willís frustration. I certainly know what it feels like, and I hope we can talk about it before Edmonton and put it behind us.

After the crash, I started to make up some ground and passed my way back up to second. Then Graham Rahal and I couldnít get side by side on a restart and got waved off a couple of times. It was just so difficult to come out of those last two turns side by side, as the rules require, because all the marbles made sticking the thing in the fence a real possibility.

In the end, though, it was a 1-2 finish for Team Target, which was massive for Scott and I. Target will have a huge presence in Canada in 2013, so a lot of Target folks were there. It was an important showing for us in a lot of ways.

But it was a mad race. Having talked to some of the drivers afterward, I know how angry people were. There was a lot of contact and a lot of temper.

Toronto is an intense circuit. It tends to lead to lots of crashes, but not normally to the level we saw on Sunday. It was madness. Because of the competition and the closeness of the cars and drivers, weíre always in tight proximity with each other.

Add to that the difficult conditions and the marbles and the trouble with the pickup on the tires, and we all had difficult situations out there. It took a good five laps after a caution period to clean the tires of all the tiny bits of rubber that build up on them under caution. As the green flag waved, you were skating around, especially on the concrete sections of the track.

Youíre constantly trying to get as close to the limit as possible at Toronto without going over. When you go over the limit, itís not a small problem. Itís a massive one.

But we managed to get through it and post our 30th career victory and increase our lead in the championship standings. The points lead is nice to have, but we just have to focus now on Edmonton on July 24. We just have to maximize what we do there and do our very best.

And we finished 1-2 for the team, which means Scott is driving extremely well at this point. In my opinion, he was the car to beat all weekend. The whole team was happy after this one and definitely looking forward to the next one.

As the season moves into the second half, the tension ratchets up. By the time we get to New Hampshire Motor Speedway next month, it will be at full intensity. Stay tuned.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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