What a weekend it was at Exhibition Place on the streets of Toronto. Great racing, outstanding weather, larger crowds and perhaps most importantly, more of that buzz and excitement that used to be part of the Indy weekend every July during the glory years of the event.
Sure, the free Friday and double-header weekend and first-ever standing start (although delayed one day) for IndyCar helped boost the crowd and create some additional excitement. That’s what they’re supposed to do. We also had a sweep of the weekend by the Target team that had endured their difficulties this season which now seem a distant memory.
Scott Dixon, the two-time series champion has served notice that he’d like to make it three, championships that is. By winning both ends of the Toronto double he’s racked up three consecutive victories. Last year’s champion Ryan Hunter-Reay also scored three straight including a win in Toronto en route to his title.
Hometown Hero James Hinchcliffe had mixed results with a top ten in race one but a stuck throttle put him in pit lane at the start of race two. Alex Tagliani was the victim of late race contact in race one but benefitted from a late collision in the second round. Both drivers attracted plenty of attention all weekend.
Like we’ve seen in many previous years the racing was terrific and with this event in Toronto it also seems to bring out unusual occurrences. What took place, how the series viewed the incidents and proceeded still has me shaking my head.
It started during the Saturday race when IndyCar announced that they would not penalize drivers who did not keep two tires on the race track as it states in the rulebook. Apparently they took a page from the NHL does in the playoffs and "let them play." Guess that didn’t go over too well, since there were tires placed on the course to prevent such a thing from taking place on Sunday.
Then there was the ruling that saw Dario Franchitti classified as 3rd, then 13th and then back to 3rd when he was penalized while accepting his trophy on the podium only to have the penalty rescinded a couple hours later. The penalty for blocking was bogus and IndyCar got the call right. But they look like goofballs in the terrible PR manner in which it was handled. All they had to do is say "the incident is under review" and then take their time to make the right ruling for the last lap incident. Take your time, get the call right. Isn’t that why we use instant replays?
Most puzzling to me is why Franchitti wasn’t penalized on Sunday after changing off his red alternate tires after a first lap incident that damaged his front wing. According to rules drivers must complete two green flag laps with both sets of tire compounds. Franchitti did no such thing. However, he was allowed a pass because of the contact that damaged the wing.
That’s the kind of rules interpretation that causes confusion and frustration. I know officiating is questioned in all sports leagues, but this weekend officials became far too big a part of the race story. That has to stop for the good of the series.
But I don’t want the confusing officiating by the series to take away from what was an extremely successful weekend. I’m a huge fan of the Indy weekend in Toronto, I grew up with it and I’m thrilled it was a very good year. This year’s race had that big league feel once again. Toronto officials must start immediately to harness the surge in interest from this year to keep building it for next year and beyond.