TORONTO – Neither Helio Castroneves nor Will Power won either of the Honda Indy Toronto races this weekend. But with a pair of podiums and their title rivals Simon Pagenaud, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Juan Pablo Montoya all having at least one issue in one of the two races, Castroneves and Power have taken the momentum out of Toronto heading to the final four races of the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series.
Castroneves ended second and 12th; the former result increased his points lead as Power was only ninth. But the Australian’s third place finish in race two caught him back up.
Of course, Power’s weekend can’t be discussed without mentioning his race one spin on Saturday, when he looped it at Turn 11 and damaged the left rear suspension. A rapid effort by the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet crew got the car back together in less than a half hour and even gave him the chance to race, although he was eventually moved to the rear of the grid for race one when it eventually did race on Sunday.
Castroneves now leads Power by 13 points, 533-520, as the series heads for an off weekend before the final stretch of four races in five weekends in August.
It’s an intriguing situation for “The Captain,” Roger Penske, who could well see two of his own fight to win the 2014 title. Both drivers still seek their first championship while Penske seeks his first as an owner since 2006 (Sam Hornish Jr.).
Both drivers continue to focus on maximizing their own races, rather than worrying about their competitors.
“I don’t drive looking to the other guys. I drive when I can push and make it happen, you know?” Castroneves said after his runner-up finish in race one.
Added Power following race two, “At the end of the day you’re always reminded about the championship by the media and your team on the radio. I’ve been so many times in a massive points lead halfway through the season, you get into a points race, and it’s just no good. You have to think of the task at hand.”
While these two now hold the edge leaving Toronto, it was a tough Sunday for the other three that needed good Sundays to get back within striking distance.
Hunter-Reay’s passing attempt on Tony Kanaan in race one ended in tears and left the three-time winner this year 21st. It didn’t get much better in race two with a 14th place finish. Hunter-Reay is still third in points, but after leaving Iowa down 32 to Castroneves, he’s now 69 back after Sunday.
Pagenaud rebounded to fourth in race one after he was contacted by rookie Luca Filippi on the opening lap, which blocked the track exiting Turn 4. But the driver of the No. 77 Oculus Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports Honda ended 22nd in race two, retiring due to an ill-timed electronic issue. Pagenaud is fourth in points and a further two behind “RHR.”
JPM’s day was highlighted – unfortunately – by his nosing into the Turn 8 barrier in race two, then being wedged on top of Mikhail Aleshin who had nowhere to go on the slick surface. Finishes of 18th and 19th made for a miserable Sunday, and leaves Montoya 105 points behind Castroneves in fifth.
Sixth through 10th is a crapshoot, with only 29 points separating new sixth-place man Scott Dixon, defending series champion, from Sebastien Bourdais in 10th.
Although double points are on offer for the season finale at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. on August 30, it’s still likely going to require drivers being within the 25-30 point range of the leaders to have a shot.
“It will be fun to have people up there at the end,” Power said. “The last race, double points, there will be – I’m going to say there will be four people in contention, I reckon. A lot can happen … and man, it can turn so quickly, I don’t know.”
Here’s the top 10 following race two:
1. Helio Castroneves, 533 2. Will Power, 520 3. Ryan Hunter-Reay, 464 4. Simon Pagenaud, 462 5. Juan Pablo Montoya, 428 6. Scott Dixon, 387 7. Carlos Munoz, 384 8. Tony Kanaan, 380 9. Marco Andretti, 375 10. Sebastien Bourdais, 358