Franchitti holds off Penske cars for win

TORONTO -- Dario Franchitti had nearly forgotten what it was like to win on the streets of Toronto. After a decade, he refreshed his memory.

Franchitti won the Honda Indy on Sunday over the tricky street course at Exhibition Place, easily holding off Penske drivers Ryan Briscoe and Will Power on a late restart for his third triumph of the IndyCar Series season.

"It's 10 years since my first one here and it feels good," said Franchitti, who won a Champ Car race in 1999. "I guess we timed it right with strategy."

It was the first race in Toronto for the series. Starting from the pole, Franchitti was both lucky and good in regaining the series lead by two points over Target Chip Ganassi teammate Scott Dixon.

Franchitti is seeking his second series championship in three years after racing last season in NASCAR's Sprint Cup series. Penske and Ganassi drivers have won 16 of 18 races dating to last season.

"I spent a lot of years chasing the Target cars here and finishing behind," Franchitti said. "I have to thank Chip. He gave me the opportunity to come back here."

Dixon was fourth, followed by Justin Wilson of Dale Coyne Racing, who won a week ago at Watkins Glen, and Danica Patrick.

Canadian drivers Paul Tracy and Alex Tagliani, seeking full-time rides, acquitted themselves well before late accidents spoiled their days. Tracy collided with Helio Castroneves with 20 laps remaining in the 85-lap race and both cars, running in the top three at the time, had to retire.

Tagliani, who led twice for 21 laps, was involved in a three-car collision with 10 laps left and finished ninth.

Franchitti easily took the lead at the start and led the first 23 laps as chaos erupted behind him on the tricky 11-turn, 1.75-mile course. It is bumpy and treacherous because its patched sections of concrete become slicker and slicker with each lap, and three drivers found early trouble.

Power, who started on the front row in just his fourth race of the season, Briscoe and Graham Rahal were involved in collisions on the first lap, allowing Tagliani to slide from fifth to second. Briscoe, Power and Rahal all pitted for tires, and Rahal replaced the nose of his No. 02 Newman/Haas/Lanigan Honda.

"It was unfortunate somebody cut my rear tire down," Briscoe said after rallying for his fifth second-place finish in six races to remain third in points. "I guess probably not entirely unexpected, with where I was starting and the nature of the track. That really set us back."

Franchitti's first pit stop was slow when a tire changer stripped a rear lug nut, dropping him deep in the field. But he gradually worked his way back into contention, patiently biding his time lap after lap in fifth behind Mario Moraes, who was racing in Toronto for the first time.

"Everybody makes mistakes, and everybody gets caught up in other people's problems," Franchitti said. "It's about risk. How much risk do you want to take? I didn't want to take that risk [of trying to pass]."

Franchitti caught the big break he needed when he was allowed to pit under caution on Lap 58 because he was already committed to the stop. He also was allowed to resume his spot on the grid just ahead of Tracy, who had already made his final stop.

"I had beaten Paul to the blend lights," Franchitti said. "That definitely helped."

Tagliani then gave up the lead to pit during the caution, giving the top spot to Castroneves, but with fresher tires Franchitti quickly moved back to the lead.

"He just looked like he was struggling," Franchitti said of Castroneves. "He looked like he didn't have any grip."

Tracy, known for his aggressive style and racing for only the fourth time this season, challenged Castroneves for second entering curve 4 on Lap 66, diving hard to the inside on the dogleg left turn. Their front wheels rubbed as they sailed through, but before the 40-year-old Tracy could complete the pass Castroneves swerved right, sending Tracy hard into the concrete barrier.

"I guess that's why they call me the Thrill," Tracy said.

The crash set off a chorus of boos from the partisan Canadian crowd, a rarity for the popular Brazilian driver.

"When P.T. wrecked, he gave me a get-on-with-it signal," Franchitti said of his former teammate in Champ Car. "That was nice to see. You never like to see P.T. in that position. I was hoping we would have finished 1-2 because we did that 10 years ago."

Tagliani, seeking a good finish in only his fifth race of the year, caused the final caution with 10 laps left when he dove hard inside of Tomas Scheckter and Moraes in turn 3, and Franchitti easily pulled away on the restart on Lap 78.