Scott Dixon captures opening race at Toronto Indy
Canada's James Hinchcliffe finishes 8th, Alex Tagliani 17th
Scott Dixon said he'd never been on a stranger podium.
Dixon was joined by Sebastien Bourdais and Dario Franchitti but he was the only one who appeared to be celebrating after winning the Honda Indy Toronto for the first time in his career.
Bourdais, who should have been overjoyed at his first podium finish since 2007, watched his second-place trophy fall off the base and smash on the ground.
Franchitti, thinking he had finished third, was told moments before being doused in champagne that he'd been penalized 25 seconds and was actually 13th. After the race the call was again reviewed and Franchitti's third-place finish was restored.
"I felt bad for Sebastien. That sucked," said Dixon, who made a pass on Bourdais with eight laps left in the 85-lap race. "Dropping that nice trophy. It bounced twice, too, so third time lucky I guess it smashed and the funniest thing though is you see it go back past Dario and he ... just watched it. So that was pretty funny."
Dixon was enjoying himself all day. Saturday's victory was his second of the week and the season after capturing Pocono last Sunday, and moved him into third overall in the points standings. It came after the New Zealand native secured the pole in qualifying earlier in the day for Sunday's race, the second of a doubleheader at Exhibition Place.
Dixon also joined Bourdais, Franchitti and Toronto's Paul Tracy for seventh on the all-time wins list with his 31st victory.
"Basically for me it means a lot," said Dixon. "To think we're all tied for what, seventh or something, but to think that the next group of people have names of Unser, Andretti and Foyt, you know that's pretty special to even be on the same list as those guys."
Franchitti was at a loss for words when IndyCar penalized him for blocking rival Will Power on a restart on Lap 79. The three-time champion had started from the pole, but suffered from tire degradation and had to work back through the field.
The same restart that saw Dixon rocket to victory featured fourth-place Power try to pass Franchitti only to shoot straight into a tire wall. After the race, Marco Andretti passed both drivers when Franchitti's penalty moved him to third.
Before the penalty was reversed, Franchitti said he had just been defending the inside racing line like he had through all 85 laps of the 1.75-mile street course at Exhibition Place. He said he would protest the call if he could, but it was reversed well after the race anyway.
"It will be very interesting to know how they make decisions up there sometimes," said Franchitti. "I think it involves a dice and blindfold."
The comment will likely anger IndyCar officials after race director Beaux Barfield missed the event with personal reasons. He was replaced by former race director Brian Barnhart, who was removed from the job at the end of the 2011 season following public spats with Power and Helio Castroneves.
Andretti, the son of Michael Andretti who won the race seven times during his career, watched Franchitti and Power duel but said he didn't want to take a side. "But if it moves me up to third, that was definitely a block," he said with laughter.
Bourdais meanwhile said it was right that Dixon passed him because the fastest car should always win. The 2004 winner in Toronto said he wouldn't miss the broken trophy.
"I've got plenty of trophies," said the French driver. "It's not what makes your day. What makes your day is to have a day like this ... Today we drove well, fought hard, got the result in the end."
The race continued a tradition of disappointment for the Canadian drivers. James Hinchcliffe of Oakville, Ont., finished eighth after starting 13th — his best finish in Toronto in three IndyCar seasons after being knocked out of the last two races — while Alex Tagliani of Lachenaie, Que., ran into Simon Pagenaud on Lap 82 and ended up 17th.
Ryan Hunter-Reay, last year's winner and the defending series champion, was bumped into a banner and out of contention by teammate E.J. Viso on Lap 79, leading to a restart on the final lap.
Quick pit stop
Power, who started third, led the race after 61 laps but conceded first place to Dixon and failed to take the lead after Dixon pitted. Power dropped back to third shortly after when a quick pit stop also put Bourdais just ahead.
On Lap 64, Justin Wilson brought the pack together with a full-course caution after bouncing off the wall and into Charlie Kimball and Ryan Briscoe, who injured his wrist in the accident and was later taken to a hospital.
On the restart, Bourdais moved by Dixon on a pass that was reviewed but later approved by IndyCar officials. The lead lasted until Dixon's strong pass in the dying moments of the race.
The much-anticipated standing start to the race never happened. Drivers were set for the unusual start — IndyCar's first since 2008 — but it was aborted when Josef Newgarden's car stalled on the grid.
IndyCar immediately changed to the normal rolling start, but the race didn't get a green flag until Newgarden's car was taken off the track after stalling again. Race officials later opted to try the standing start again Sunday.
When the race finally began, every car made it through the slippery first turn for a clean start.
Dixon, who would normally be spending the night celebrating his victory with a drink, said he would instead be preparing for a Sunday race he thinks could get testy.
"That's kind of the tough part about today," said Dixon. "If people had a bad day today they're going to take it out tomorrow. I guess if you had a good day you just hope you're not on the receiving end of that."