The 2012 IndyCar title rivals among those with a tough two days in Toronto

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Ryan Hunter-Reay won at Toronto in 2012 and finished third in 2011. Will Power is a two-time Toronto winner.

The two combined didn’t have a finish better than 15th in either race this weekend.

They are among those needing to leave their bad luck behind in Canada and move onto Mid-Ohio seeking a rebound. Here’s what happened to them and some of the others who could have used a better weekend in Toronto.

  • Ryan Hunter-Reay and Will Power. What a tough weekend for the championship rivals of 2012. “RHR,” whose momentum was rolling through the short oval run of the season, has hit the skids in the last three races through almost no fault of his own. On Saturday, the defending champion had two stalls on pit lane and a nose change that ultimately left him 18th. He ended a spot worse on Sunday after last lap contact with Power exiting Turn 1, heading to Turn 2. Power’s trouble spot all weekend was Turn 3, as twice on Saturday he overcooked his braking point and slid off line, while the contact on Sunday left him 18th.
  • Takuma Sato. If Franchitti’s been the top riser in points, Sato has been on an uncontrollable decline since Brazil. He led the points entering Indianapolis; he’s now 12th, nine races later, with just one top-10 finish in that time frame. He retired with a broken exhaust header on Saturday and from contact on Sunday after being caught up in the RHR-Power contact, with nowhere to go. Tough days for the A.J. Foyt Racing team and driver, who seek to recapture their early season momentum.
  • Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. The pair of Graham Rahal and James Jakes took four combined top-10s at Detroit and a grand total of zero from Toronto. Rahal’s Saturday charge was halted by contact with Tristan Vautier – which didn’t amuse his dad and team boss Bobby – and an anonymous run to 13th occurred on Sunday. Jakes, meanwhile, had the pace to be a contender as he made the Firestone Fast Six on Friday, but was saddled with a 10-spot grid penalty. He recovered to 12th. On Sunday, Jakes made a rare mistake when he hit the curbs hard through Turn 5, with the jolt forcing his hands off the wheel and sending him into the wall.
  • Sebastian Saavedra. The Colombian has punched above his weight at times this year, but with a mostly new crew in his camp and teammate Sebastien Bourdais finally finding form with new engineer, it was a rough weekend for the “junior Seb” at Dragon Racing. Last place on the grid on Saturday and getting caught up on the Lap 65 four-car pileup then left him 16th, while he was slightly better on Sunday, ending 15th. Saavedra is just three points ahead of Mike Conway – Saavedra has driven all 13 races this year, Conway just five.

Valiant efforts from Hunter-Reay, Dixon come up just short at Road America

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Ryan Hunter-Reay and Scott Dixon drove about as hard as they possibly could during Sunday’s KOHLER Grand Prix, and they both drove nearly perfect races.

Hunter-Reay took advantage of Will Power’s engine issues on the start to immediately jump into second, and stalked pole sitter and leader Josef Newgarden from there, often staying within only a couple car lengths of his gearbox.

Dixon, meanwhile, had a tougher chore after qualifying a disappointing 12th. Further, he was starting in the same lane as Will Power, and when Power had engine issues when the green flag waved, Dixon was one of several drivers who was swamped in the aftermath.

Scott Dixon had to come from deep in the field on Sunday’s KOHLER Grand Prix. Photo: IndyCar

However, as is his style, he quietly worked his way forward, running sixth after the opening round of pit stops, and then working his way up to third after the second round of stops.

It all meant that, after Lap 30, Newgarden, Hunter-Reay, and Dixon were nose-to-tail at the front, with the latter two in position to challenge for the win.

Yet, neither was able to do so. Hunter-Reay never got close enough to try to pass Newgarden, while Dixon couldn’t do so on either Hunter-Reay or Newgarden. And, neither driver went longer in their final stint – Dixon was actually the first of that group to pit, doing so on Lap 43, with Hunter-Reay and Newgarden pitting together one lap later.

And Newgarden pulled away in the final stint, winning by over three seconds, leaving Hunter-Reay and Dixon to finish second and third.

It was a somewhat bitter pill to swallow, with Hunter-Reay noting that he felt like he had enough to challenge for a win.

“I felt like we had the pace for (Newgarden), especially in the first two stints,” he asserted. “I really felt like it was going to be a really good race between us. Whether it be first, second, third, fourth stint – I didn’t know when it was going to come.”

He added that, if he could do it over again, he would have been more aggressive and tried to pass Newgarden in the opening stint.

“In hindsight, I should have pressured him a bit more in the first stint,” Hunter-Reay lamented. “We were focused on a fuel number at the time. Unfortunately that Penske fuel number comes into play, can’t really go hard.”

Dixon, meanwhile, expressed more disappointment in the result, asserting that qualifying better would have put him in a possibly race-winning position.

“I think had we started a little further up, we could have had a good shot at trying to fight for the win today,” he expressed.

The disappointment for Dixon also stems from the knowledge that his No. 9 PNC Bank Honda had the pace to win, especially longer into a run.

“The car was pretty good on the long stint,” he asserted. “I think for us the saving grace was probably the black tire stint two. We closed a hefty gap there. We were able to save fuel early in the first stint, which enabled us to go a lap longer than everybody, had the overcut for the rest of the race.

“I think speed-wise we were right there. Had a bit of a crack at Hunter-Reay on his out lap on the last stint there, but cooked it too much going into (Turn 14), got a bit loose, lost momentum. That would have been really the only chance of passing him.”

Dixon remains in the championship lead, however, by 45 points, while Hunter-Reay moved up to second, tied with Andretti Autosport teammate Alexander Rossi.

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