Power surge at Rexall Edmonton Indy

July, 27, 2009
The 2009 edition of the Rexall Edmonton Indy wasn't an exceptionally exciting race, and the yellow-flag finish -- the only full-course caution of the 95-lap event -- was definitely a downer, but it certainly maintained the IndyCar Series' tight championship battle.

Will Power's dominant first IndyCar victory had little impact on the championship, given his part-time status in the series. But the seesaw competition between Target Ganassi Racing's Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon continued, Team Penske's Ryan Briscoe dropped only one point despite brushing a wall and his teammate Helio Castroneves maintained his slim championship hopes.

"I think it's the fourth straight week I've swapped the [championship] lead with Dario," observed Dixon, who lost second place to Castroneves in traffic late in the Edmonton race. "It's pretty interesting, it's good for our team and we're starting to pull away from Penske slightly at this point. But there's a long way to go, and I want to be leading the points at Homestead, so we'll see what happens."

Lapped cars played a fairly significant role in the outcome. Power lost most of his comfortable five-second lead prior to the first round of pit stops as he was held up by the slow Andretti Green Racing teammates Danica Patrick and Marco Andretti, and Dixon got boxed in by the battling backmarker duo of Ryan Hunter-Reay and Ed Carpenter.

Franchitti, who finished a distant fourth behind Briscoe, wasn't particularly happy with his former teammate Andretti.

"Marco completely screwed me, held me up for about 10 laps there," Franchitti fumed. "I helped him out a bit at Watkins Glen and kind of hoped for the same today when he was a lap down and didn't get it. So I'm a bit disappointed in him."

After arriving in Edmonton with a 3-point lead over his teammate Dixon, Franchitti left the province of Alberta facing a 3-point deficit. Briscoe is now 14 points behind leader Dixon, while Castroneves made up 7 points on the championship lead to stand 71 points in arrears.

Power play

In the late 1970s, Rick Mears parlayed a part-time ride with Team Penske's Indy car squad into a long and stellar career with the legendary organization. Mears served as Power's spotter Sunday for the Australian driver's first IndyCar Series victory and fifth top-6 finish in as many starts in 2009.

"Everything is going so well this year, and I'm really glad to be a part of this team," Power said. "The first stint was really tough, but then when I relaxed, I felt really good at the end and had heaps of energy. The car was really good all the time.

"It was a bit messy there when we were stuck behind Marco, but once I realized it was going to be risky getting past, I just saved fuel. I was patient until I saw my chance, and when his tires went off, I went for it. It was a great day that had a bit of everything. I loved it."

Power started the season as Penske's substitute driver as Castroneves was going through his tax evasion trial, and after doing all that was asked of him in the opener at St. Petersburg, he was rewarded with entry in the Indianapolis 500 and five more races in a third Penske entry. Power is scheduled to compete in upcoming events at Kentucky Speedway, Infineon Raceway and Homestead-Miami Speedway, driving the bright yellow No. 12 Penske Truck Rental machine.

"Sitting and watching is real tough," said Power, who ranks 15th in the standings despite running only five events. "But I don't mind as long as I'm in this organization, because every time I'm in the car, it's a good one."

Racy Tracy

Paul Tracy finished sixth in what is likely to be his last IndyCar Series start of the season. The Canadian favorite incurred the wrath of his KV Racing team owner Jimmy Vasser after he punted teammate Mario Moraes out with an aggressive move on the opening lap, but he demonstrated Sunday that he deserves a full-time IndyCar ride at 40 years old.

"Not bad for and old, fat dude -- that was pretty impressive!" quipped Tracy's friend and former teammate Franchitti. "It would be great to see him back full time."

"If that's it for the year, I can go home without my head hung low," Tracy added.

Kanaan on fire

Can the 2009 campaign possibly get any worse for Tony Kanaan? The Brazilian was engulfed in his second pit fire of the season, a harrowing reminder of how dangerous racing can be just one day after his friend and countryman, Felipe Massa, suffered life-threatening injuries in a freak accident during qualifying for Formula One's Hungarian Grand Prix.

Kanaan's drama flared up when the chassis-mounted valve fitting that the fuel hose connects to remained open following his first pit stop. Ethanol fuel splashed out, and the No. 11 Andretti Green Racing car was ablaze, including in the cockpit area. Kanaan immediately stopped in the pit lane, allowing pit crews from Team Penske and Panther Racing to douse the burning car with water and fire extinguishers.

"I felt the spray and I knew it was the fuel," Kanaan said. "So at that point, I wanted to get out of the pit so I wouldn't get my guys burned. I just closed my eyes and held my breath and then I started to get out [of the car].

"I want to thank Penske and Panther Racing. The guys definitely saved me. I was trapped in the car for a little bit and got second-degree burns on both of my hands and my face, but I'm OK.

"I wanted to come back and set the world on fire, but not in that way," added Kanaan with a smile.

The 34-year-old is now ninth in the IndyCar standings, with best finishes of third place at Long Beach and Kansas. Kanaan has never finished lower than sixth in the championship in his six years of IndyCar Series competition.

Kanaan's fueler, Brook Hall, also was treated and released from the infield care center with burns to his feet.



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