Hunter-Reay wins third straight race

Ryan Hunter-Reay sprays champagne after victory during the IZOD INDYCAR Series Honda Indy Toronto...

Ryan Hunter-Reay sprays champagne after victory during the IZOD INDYCAR Series Honda Indy Toronto on July 8, 2012 in Toronto, Canada. (Nick Laham/Getty Images/AFP)

DEAN MCNULTY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:46 AM ET

TORONTO - One by one the top drivers were swallowed up by the treacherous 2.824 kilometre Exhibition Place temporary street course at the Honda Indy Toronto on Sunday.

When the smoke cleared, Ryan Hunter-Reay had won his third IZOD IndyCar Series race in a row in the No. 28 Andretti Autosport Chevrolet.

But not before defending race winner and pole sitter Dario Franchitti fudged a pit stop, then crashed his No. 10 Target Ganassi Racing Honda in Turn 3.

With 29 laps to go, two-time Toronto winner Will Power lost his front wing, cutting the front tire on his No. 12 Penske Racing Chevrolet while he was leading the race.

And home-town favourite James Hinchcliffe lost the engine on his No. 27 Andretti Chevrolet on Lap 25, ending his chance to become only the second Canadian to win in Toronto.

Scott Dixon -- third in points coming into the race -- lasted only eight laps when the engine on his No. 9 TGR Honda blew up.

It was sort of fitting then that the race should end under caution with a pile up of cars in Turn 1 and Turn 3.

So while Hunter-Reay certainly was a deserving winner, there were extenuating circumstances.

After all, who would have expected Mike Conway, who was third in the No. 14 A.J. Foyt Honda, and Charlie Kimball, who was second in the No. 83 Ganassi Racing Honda, to be on the podium when the race finished.

Neither driver is near to being a household name.

Tony Kanaan was fourth in the No. 11 KV Racing Technology Chevrolet, with Oriol Servia rounding out the top five in he No. 22 Panther/DRR Chevrolet.

On the positive side, Hunter-Reay gave team owner Michael Andretti his eighth win at Toronto -- the first seven coming as a driver.

Hunter-Reay had wandered around North American open wheel racing for more than a few seasons in search of full-time employment before being picked up by Andretti and on Sunday, he said he appreciated this opportunity.

"I struggled to find a home really," he said. "I've been saying it in some interviews today that this is a team sport in every way, as much as football, soccer, anything.

"And to find continuity, to find a home, to work with the guys around you for two, three years in a row makes a massive difference."

The win also puts Hunter-Reay at the top of the IndyCar championship leaderboard with just five races to go in the 2012 season.

But he said he doesn't want to count his chickens just yet.

"I'm not getting ahead of myself," Hunter-Reay said. "The whole thing could change next weekend and we could be struggling.

"Will Power said something before the season that he goes into every year feeling like he could possibly never win another race again. That's how I felt after the last win thinking 'Man, we really have to dig deep here to get another one of these.'"

His team owner thinks that there will be lots more in the future.

"I think he's going to be a real factor in the championship," Michael Andretti said. "He doesn't have a weakness when he's driving.

"As a team owner, to have a driver like that, that's something we liked about Ryan, that we could be competitive on all types of tracks. We're looking forward to the next five races. I don't think there's a weak track left for him."

It was Andretti's first win in Toronto as a team owner after winning a record seven races as a driver.

"It's always different as an owner and a driver," he said. "As a driver there's more of that self-satisfaction. As an owner it's a great feeling, too.

"But it's great. I do hope there's more than six more race wins as an owner to come, because hopefully I can be an owner a lot longer than I was a driver."

The top Canadian Sunday was Montreal's Alex Tagliani, who finished 10th -- after starting 16th -- in the No. 98 Barracuda/Bryan Herta Racing Honda.

FINISH LINES

Roger Penske said Sunday that his NASCAR Sprint Cup driver A.J. Allmendinger's failed drug test was "a disappointment" but said the team will wait for a second test to be performed this week before taking any action. ... Hunter-Reay's win and Kimball's second place marked the first time since 2006 that American drivers finished 1-2 in a race.


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