Two consecutive DNFs, including a public dust-up with three-time IZOD IndyCar Series champion Dario Franchitti at Toronto, played on Will Power’s psyche for 13 days. Or so it appeared.
All of it – even the celebrated spat with Franchitti -- was washed away with the flow of champagne in Victory Circle at City Centre Airport.
Power got the break he was looking for on Lap 19 of 80 and didn't need another to lead teammate Helio Castroneves across the start-finish line by 0.8089 of a second for his second victory in Edmonton and his fourth of the season.
Franchitti finished third (1.1735 seconds back), weaving his way from 10th after losing several positions trying to avoid an incident on a Lap 29 restart, and remains the IZOD IndyCar Series championship points leader by 38 (cut from 55 following the Honda Indy Toronto) over Power.
Power said he stands by initial comments regarding the bump and run in Turn 3 by Franchitti, who went on to the victory. But following a cooling off period, he said "I find it tough to be nasty to people." Even not making eye contact while seated next to each other in the post-qualifying news conference was -- so he says -- part of "a mind game."
"I think it broke the ice this morning after warmup," Power said. "He walked by and I started sort of smiling. I put it behind me. I guess we were both playing a bit of mind games with each other there. But at the end of the day you go out there and race how you race."
He raced hard, overtaking pole sitter Takuma Sato, who missed the apex of Turn 13 on the 2.224-mile, 13-turn City Centre Airport circuit, for the lead on Lap 19. Scott Dixon in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car also slipped past Sato, and Franchitti caught Sato's No. 5 KV Racing Technology-Lotus car in Turn 5 for third.
On the Lap 29 restart for the second and final full-course caution, Power drove past Alex Tagliani’s No. 77 Bowers & Wilkins/Sam Schmidt Motorsports car entering Turn 1 to secure the lead for good. Castroneves pressed his teammate -- never trailing by more than 0.8702 of a second after gaining the position when another teammate, Ryan Briscoe, pitted on Lap 52 -- but couldn't get a clean shot to pass. Franchitti was lurking, trailing by about a second from Lap 57.
"It was so bloody hard there at the end with Helio and Dario pushing me along," said Power, who posted his sixth podium finish. "I just couldn’t gap them. It’s good for Verizon and also good for Team Penske. To finish 1-2 is really good.
"When I came out of (his final pit stop) I had on reds (alternate Firestone Firehawk tires) and thought I have to look after them so I will really be gentle. Then Helio was right there and I’m like, 'Man, I’ve got to go.' I had to ask (race strategist) Tim (Cindric) if that was for the lead. He said, 'Yeah, go!' I just held on there at the end."
Franchitti also didn’t locate any shortcuts on the serpentine track.
“It could have been better but Will and Helio drove clean races,” Franchitti said. “I think the Target car was quicker but they had the track position and they didn’t screw up when I did. I was going as quick as I could behind Helio but he was very strong on the brakes right behind Will. Not a bad day for the championship and the E.J. incident could have really screwed the whole thing up, so I am pleased with my finish.”
Briscoe was on track to finish fourth, but a late stop for a splash for fuel gave the position to Tony Kanaan in the No. 82 GEICO KV Racing Technology-Lotus car. Justin Wilson posted a season-best fifth in the No. 22 Z-Line Designs car for Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, and Sebastien Bourdais recorded his second consecutive sixth place in the No. 19 Boy Scouts of America car for Dale Coyne Racing.
Ryan Hunter-Reay and Andretti Autosport teammate Mike Conway, both of whom received avoidable contact penalties from Race Control early on, recovered to finish seventh and eighth, respectively. Danica Patrick, another Andretti Autosport driver, was ninth and Briscoe finished 10th in the No. 6 Penske Truck Rental car. Rookie JR Hildebrand, who started 24th, came in 11th in the No. 4 National Guard Panther Racing car.
Sato, who earned his second PEAK Performance Pole Award of the season, fell further back when his car was bumped by Hunter-Reay’s in Turn 5 of Lap 39 (the avoidable contact penalty). He was restarted and finished 21st.
“It is disappointing finishing in the back like this,” said Sato, who boldly passed six cars on the Lap 29 restart to move into third place. “The start was very exciting. I had a good feeling leading the race. Then I had a little problem with the balance and lost some positions. After that there was a caution and we changed tires. On the restart I regained most of the positions and was running in second. Everything was looking good and I was comfortable with the pace, but unfortunately Hunter–Reay hit me and damaged my car and put me a lap down.
“It was a long race after that and very difficult to stay motivated.”