TORONTO – It's unavoidable in the Verizon IndyCar Series: Sometimes the yellows go your way, sometimes they don't.
Sunday's Honda Indy Toronto proved that expression true as the three drivers on the podium went home extremely pleased with the way the yellows fell, while a few others ended up banging their steering wheels in frustration.
The happiest may well have been Canadian James Hinchcliffe, who not only scored his first podium at his home race in seven tries, but also saw a yellow go his way after years of misery on the 11-turn, 1.786-mile temporary street course at Exhibition Place.
“It's nice to finally catch a lucky break in Toronto, it's been a bunch of years of the opposite,” Hinchcliffe said.
“Before that last caution we were close (on fuel). I know we were going to make it because we were hitting the fuel number we needed, but it was hard work. TK (No. 10 NTT Data Chevrolet driver Tony Kanaan) was the big question because we didn't know if we could keep him behind us once he came back out (from his final pit stop) and was able to run full rich (not save fuel).”
CLICK HERE: Honda Indy Toronto race highlights
A fortunate yellow flew with four laps to go as the No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda driver worked hard to stretch the Sunoco E85R ethanol in his tank and hold onto a much-desired podium finish. He pitted for the last time on lap 47 of 85 and needed effective fuel conservation to make the car go 38 laps (68 miles) to the finish.
Although Hinchcliffe had a pair of prior eighth-place finishes in Toronto, the racing gods haven't exactly smiled on the Oakville, Ontario, native at home. Mechanical failures, contact and other mishaps have left the popular Canadian frowning more often than not after the Toronto weekend. Last year, he didn't even start the race due to injuries suffered in an accident in practice for the Indy 500 that put him out for the season.
“It's a big result,” Hinchcliffe said. “To go from not really knowing how it was going to play out, but not really expecting anything awesome, to be able to pull this off was very special.”
No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet driver Will Power also saw the race shift to him due to a well-timed yellow on Lap 58 that flew just seconds after he entered the pit lane for his final stop. By INDYCAR rule, Power was permitted to complete his pit stop because he entered the pit lane before the full-course caution was ordered. Also by rule, once there is a caution, the pits are closed to those not already in them until the field packs up on track behind the pace car.
The perfect timing of his stop vaulted Power into second place behind Kanaan, who was slightly out of sequence and needed a late stop to top off his tank. Once Kanaan pitted, it was clear sailing for Power, who has seen the yellow ruin previous races in Toronto.
“The team called me in just at the last minute — perfect timing,” Power said.
“I can't tell you how many times it has gone the opposite way for me at this place, and many other places, but I was so stoked to see yellow lights as I was going into pit lane. It's not often you catch a yellow like that.”
The third driver to benefit from the Lap 58 caution was No. 3 Pennzoil Team Penske Chevrolet driver Helio Castroneves, who pitted two laps before it waved.
Until the full-course caution dropped the race in Power's lap, Scott Dixon dominated in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, controlling it from the front and looking unstoppable. That all changed when the Lap 58 yellow ensured his final stop would be made under the full-course caution and he tumbled down the leaderboard behind the drivers who stopped earlier.
Dixon emerged 13th after the stop and recovered a few spots to end the day in eighth.
“It was looking like it was going to be our race all afternoon, but the timing of how everything worked out just took it away from us,” said the four-time Verizon IndyCar Series champion. “It was just about as frustrating of a race as you can have.”
The other driver hurt by the yellow was points leader Simon Pagenaud, who also looked on his way to a podium until the caution caught him out. Pagenaud dropped from second to 14th before recovering to finish ninth.
Still, the driver of the No. 22 PPG Automotive Refinish Team Penske Chevrolet lost more ground to hard-charging teammate Power, who has three wins and a second in his last four races. Power's performance has him only 47 points behind Pagenaud after being 128 back four races ago.
“We lost quite a bit of points today,” Pagenaud admitted.
“I was really happy that I was able to run second for most of the race. We trimmed the car great midway through the race and it was really strong at the end, but unfortunately we got caught on the last yellow and that shuffled us to the back.”
With five races still to be completed, anything can happen.