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Dixon Wins, Helio Freaks

John Sturbin | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, July 26 2010

Scott Dixon arrives to Victory Lane after winning the IZOD IndyCar race in Edmonton, Alberta. (Photo courtesy of the IZOD IndyCar Series)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Scott Dixon presented team-owner Chip Ganassi a second victory late Sunday afternoon via a bizarre finish to the IZOD IndyCar Series Honda Indy Edmonton.

Dixon’s victory was nowhere near as squeaky-clean as Jamie McMurray’s win in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Brickyard 400, as it came wrapped amid heated controversy. Dixon prevailed in the 95-lap race on the 1.973-mile, 14-turn City Centre Airport Circuit courtesy of a black flag penalty issued to race-leader Helio Castroneves for blocking Team Penske teammate Will Power on a Lap 92 restart.

Castroneves and Power entered Turn 1 side-by-side, with Castroneves hitting the apex a car length ahead. As Dixon slipped past Power into second place, chief steward Brian Barnhart immediately called Castroneves for blocking his teammate.

The black flag call was radioed to Castroneves’ car, but he failed to complete the drive-thru pit lane penalty. Following the race, Castroneves was penalized 20 seconds and placed at the end of the lead lap (10th). A black flag cannot be appealed, according to Indy Racing League rules.

Castroneves, however, didn’t need to see tape or hear an official explanation of the incident to register his disgust.

Castroneves jumped out of his car and ran to the stand where IndyCar official Kevin Blanche was sitting. A helmet-less Castroneves started screaming and had to be ushered away. He returned and was confronted by a security official. Castroneves grabbed the security official by the shirt with both fists and started shaking him before the two were separated by Team Penske president Tim Cindric.

When the situation stabilized, Dixon and car-owner Ganassi had their victory and a unique Sunday sweep covering Indianapolis Motor Speedway and City Centre Airport.

Power, who was seeking his fifth win of the season and record-tying third in a row, finished second by 2.6688-seconds. Two-time and reigning series champion Dario Franchitti –Dixon’s Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammate – was third. Team Penske’s Ryan Briscoe placed fourth while Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay finished fifth.

The Penske teammates naturally disagreed on the key moment of the race.

“On the last restart I had a good run on Helio, but I just didn’t quite make it around. I got a run on him and he blocked me,” said Power, who qualified the No. 12 Verizon Dallara/Honda on pole and started alongside Castroneves. “I would say a black flag is a pretty harsh penalty, but it is what it is. It was just one of those racing things. When you’re leading on the last restart you want to keep the lead.

“I lost a spot to Dixon and managed to bring home a second-place finish. It was not the result I was hoping for and it was a tough one for the team. We will sort this out, learn from it and move forward.”

Castroneves – who ironically on Saturday had praised Power for motivating him to become a better driver this season _ defend his actions on the restart.

“I never moved my line,” said Castroneves, driver of the No. 3 Dallara/Honda. “I actually did move him outside. When you go side-by-side like that with your teammate and they just take it away from you, it’s just absurd.”

But after a cooling-off period, the popular Castroneves issued an apology.

“Obviously, I disagree with the decisions made by the race officials on the last restart in today’s race, but there is no excuse for my actions after the checkered flag,” said Castroneves, a three-time Indianapolis 500 winner. “I apologize to my team, our sponsors, the fans and the entire IZOD IndyCar Series community for my behavior. My actions were totally wrong and I acted inappropriately to some people who are my friends and people I respect very much. Obviously, I am a very emotional person and today I let my emotions get the better of me and I’m very sorry for that.”

Earlier, Castroneves had overtaken Power in Turns 1-2 of Lap 78 and recorded his fastest circuit on Lap 79 (1 minute, 2.3139-seconds) to put a 1.5-second gap between himself and Power. It appeared then that Castroneves would go on to his second victory of 2010. His first win of the season _at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala., in mid-April _ had thwarted Power’s first bid for a series record-tying third consecutive victory.

But a full-course caution flag was displayed on Lap 89 after the No. 78 car driven by rookie Simona de Silvestro ran out of fuel and pulled off-course in Turn 7. Castroneves led the field into Turn 1 of the restart, with Power making a bid to regain the lead he had held for 76 laps.

Drivers were warned by Barnhart, the IRL’s president of competition and racing, during the pre-race meeting on blocking: “You have plenty of options on where to put your car and we should not have any defending or blocking. Again, we will be visually dividing the braking point through the entry into the corner in half. You can only be on the inside half if you are attempting to pass someone. If you are on the inside half because you are under attack from someone else, it is blocking. Don’t move your car in reaction to a following car and don’t impede the progress of a car with a run on you.”

The following sections in the IZOD IndyCar Series Rule Book were applied concerning Castroneves’ penalty:

Rule 9.3 (B) A Driver must not alter his/her racing line based on the actions of pursuing Drivers or use an abnormal racing line to inhibit or prevent passing. Blocking will result in a minimum of a black flag “drive- through” penalty.

Rule 7.1 (B) (4) (C) (4) The Senior Official shall determine the type and length of any black flag. The penalized car shall proceed to pit lane as directed by Officials and may return to the Race only upon the declaration of Officials. In the case of the Driver Violating the Rules, no work may be performed on a Car during the execution of a black flag penalty. Should any such work occur, the conditions of the penalty are unfilled and the penalty procedure must be executed again in its entirety on a subsequent lap. The penalty may not be protested and/or appealed.

Rule 9.2 (A) Race Procedure Penalties are a result of on-track conduct and are generally imposed during on-track activity. If the imposition of a penalty is near or at the end of on -track activity and Driver/Car does not fulfill it, the Senior Official may reposition the Driver/Car in the posting of results or apply the penalty to subsequent on-track activity to reflect the fulfillment of the penalty. The penalty including without limitation any repositioning in a posting is non-protestable and/or appealable.

Dixon, a two-time series champion, sounded stunned by the events that produced his 23rd career IndyCar win, extending a series record.

“I can’t believe that we won,” said Dixon, driver of the No. 9 Dallara/Honda. “Brian always says that if you’re blocking going into any corner and you are on the right side _ especially into Turn 1 _ you’re going to get a penalty. We get told every week, so you could see something was going to happen. Obviously, Will had a pretty good run. The only way from stopping him was blocking. So if that’s what you call it, yeah, that’s blocking.

“All in all, not what I expected to happen at the end. In some ways, I knew those two, Will and Helio, were fighting pretty hard. You could see that the first time Helio passed Will. But to go that far to the right I think in Turn 1, I just continued on with the regular line where it’s nice and clean and figured or hoped that they picked up a lot of debris and were going to make it tough through (Turns) 1 and 2. That’s kind of what happened. Pretty strange to not lead a lap and actually win the race.”

Dixon, however, was credited with leading Lap 35 en route to his second victory of the season. The native of New Zealand previously had won at Kansas Speedway in May. Dixon also won for the second time in three starts at City Centre Airport, including the first IndyCar event in the Canadian city in 2008.

Power’s runnerup finish was his eighth top-five of the season and allowed the native Australian to pad his lead in the series standings to 50 points over Franchitti. Briscoe remained fourth in the championship chase, now 96 points behind Power, while Castroneves is still sixth, 115 points behind the leader with six races remaining.

The IndyCar season resumes on Sunday, Aug. 8, with the Honda Indy 200 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio. The race will be televised by VERSUS at 3 p.m. (EDT).

Results Sunday of the Honda Indy Edmonton IZOD IndyCar Series event on the 1.973-mile Edmonton City Centre Airport Circuit, with order of finish, starting position in parentheses, driver, chassis/engine, laps completed and reason out (if any):

1. (3) Scott Dixon, Dallara/Honda, 95, Running

2. (1) Will Power, Dallara/Honda, 95, Running

3. (4) Dario Franchitti, Dallara/Honda, 95, Running

4. (5) Ryan Briscoe, Dallara/Honda, 95, Running

5. (8) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Dallara/Honda, 95, Running

6. (15) Paul Tracy, Dallara/Honda, 95, Running

7. (14) Mario Moraes, Dallara/Honda, 95, Running

8. (6) E.J. Viso, Dallara/Honda, 95, Running

9. (13) Takuma Sato, Dallara/Honda, 95, Running

10. (2) Helio Castroneves, Dallara/Honda, 95, Running

11. (16) Marco Andretti, Dallara/Honda, 94, Running

12. (24) Tony Kanaan, Dallara/Honda, 94, Running

13. (10) Raphael Matos, Dallara/Honda, 94, Running

14. (20) Bertrand Baguette, Dallara/Honda, 94, Running

15. (21) Danica Patrick, Dallara/Honda, 94, Running

16. (23) Vitor Meira, Dallara/Honda, 93, Running

17. (11) Hideki Mutoh, Dallara/Honda, 93, Running

18. (18) Alex Lloyd, Dallara/Honda, 92, Running

19. (12) Tomas Scheckter, Dallara/Honda, 90, Running

20. (22) Dan Wheldon, Dallara/Honda, 90, Running

21. (9) Justin Wilson, Dallara/Honda, 88, Running

22. (7) Simona de Silvestro, Dallara/Honda, 87, Out of Fuel

23. (19) Alex Tagliani, Dallara/Honda, 52, Contact

24. (17) Mario Romancini, Dallara/Honda, 52, Contact

25. (25) Milka Duno, Dallara/Honda, 4, Handling

Race Statistics

Time of Race: 01:50:37.0551

Winner’s average speed: 101.666

Margin of Victory: 2.6688 seconds

Cautions: 4 for 10 laps

Lead changes: 4 among 3 drivers

Lap Leaders: Power 1 – 34, Dixon 35, Power 36-77. Castroneves 78-94, Dixon 95.

Point Standings: Power 420, Franchitti 370, Dixon 349, Briscoe 324, Hunter-Reay 316, Castroneves 305, Kanaan 291, Wilson 252, Andretti 244, Wheldon 243.

John Sturbin | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, July 26 2010
6 Comments

6 Comments »

  • Duke says:

    Helio was not blocking, he was simply setting up for the corner. This is racing, not a Sunday’s drive in the park…
    DJH

  • [...] ran side- by-side …Power play by Castroneves broke racing's unwritten ruleMontreal GazetteDixon Wins, Helio FreaksRacinToday.comHelio denied Indy winToronto SunAutoWeek -TSN -SPEEDtv.comall 818 news [...]

  • Cal says:

    This action by the Indycar official was clearly wrong – even the race commentators were surprised by this call – and the replay showed Castroneves did not block Power. Castroneves had every right to be angry over the penalty. I guess the series wants to emulate the WWE, where the goal is to put in a farcical show, not an fair race. The series is becoming a joke.

  • [...] Dixon got around Power for second behind Castroneves after the blocking allegedly occurred, and was declared the winner despite crossing the finish line second to Castroneves because Castroneves never served his penalty. The black flag call was radioed to the No. 3 car, [...]

  • [...] Dixon got around Power for second behind Castroneves after the blocking allegedly occurred, and was declared the winner despite crossing the finish line second to Castroneves because Castroneves never served his penalty. The black flag call was radioed to the No. 3 car, [...]

  • Jim says:

    I honestly thought it was some good hard racing. I didn’t see any blocking and if blocking was the call then wow, what has racing become. The drivers are there to race! It is a racing sport not a leisurely drive sport. It is getting to the point where good solid racing is not allowed anymore and that is sad. A goos race ruined by a very bad call in my opinion.