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1.      Caution-free race tightens up IZOD IndyCar Series championship

2.      Sato's strong showing results in career-best day

3.      Inside the Box Score - Edmonton Indy1. Caution-free race tightens up IZOD IndyCar Series championship: Proponents of green-white-checkered IZOD IndyCar Series events got just that July 22 in the Edmonton Indy - in the form of a caution-free race. On a temporary street circuit no less.The previous full-course caution-free Indy car road/street race was at Portland in 2007 under Champ Car sanction. The last caution-free oval race was in June 2011 at Texas Motor Speedway."It's strange. With all of the marbles we have out there, you'd expect someone to go off or spin or something," said IZOD IndyCar Series championship points leader Ryan Hunter-Reay, who advanced four positions to finish seventh in the 75-lap battle on the 2.24-mile, 13-turn City Centre Airport course. "I was praying for a caution and it didn't come."Others joined the Fort Lauderdale, Fla., resident. But while it was another highly competitive race with some incidental banging of car parts and tires scrapping concrete barriers, nothing prompted the yellow flag to fly and give drivers a shot of overtaking leader Helio Castroneves on a restart.Castroneves emerged the victor by .8367 of a second over Takuma Sato, the hard-luck story of the Indianapolis 500 in May who posted an IZOD IndyCar Series career-best finish. His second win of the season, combined with Team Penske teammate Will Power's third-place finish, vaulted Castroneves to second in the title chase.Hunter-Reay, the pole winner who slid down the starting grid because of a penalty for an unapproved engine change following his victory on the streets of Toronto two weeks earlier, had his margin cut from 35 to 23 points. Power, a championship finalist the past two seasons, is third (26 points back), and Scott Dixon remains in the hunt trailing by 51 points.Four races remain (two road courses, one street course and one exceptionally taxing 500-miler on the 2-mile Auto Club Speedway oval to close out the season), and it appears likely that the finale will decide the series champion for the seventh consecutive year."To me, it's the most competitive field I've ever raced in," said Power, the 2011 and '09 Edmonton Indy winner. "I've never had to search so hard for speed in my life. Man, it's going to be a fight to the very end."The top three are searching for their first IZOD IndyCar Series title, while Dixon is a two-time series champion. Castroneves has three Indianapolis 500 victories, 27 career Indy car wins to tie Johnny Rutherford for 13th on the all-time list and 39 career pole starts among other accolades in his three-decade career covering more than 250 races. An overall major title is one milestone he's yet to nail down.There have been previous opportunities in season-long battles with Team Penske teammates Sam Hornish Jr. and Gil de Ferran, in addition to Dixon and Dario Franchitti. Heading into the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio on Aug. 5, he's in the thick of another."Now we're closer and we're taking the opportunities," said Castroneves, who's driven the Chevrolet-powered No. 3 Team Penske car to nine top-10 finishes in 11 races. "We are always there, maybe playing a little bit quiet and silent, which I like it, because many, many more years were aggressive. Continuing to work in that low profile, and at the end of the day at Fontana, that's the day it counts."2. Sato's strong showing results in career-best day: When Takuma Sato got around the car driven by Alex Tagliani in Turn 5 of Lap 55, there were 20 laps remaining and one driver standing in the way of him and the top step in Victory Circle.He wound up .8367 of a second short - to Team Penske's Helio Castroneves - over the 2.224-mile, 13-turn City Centre Airport circuit"It's OK. We'll take a second place, especially after the Indy 500," said Sato of the May 27 race in which he was in contention for a stunning victory until Turn 1 of the final lap when an attempted pass of race leader Dario Franchitti ended with the No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing car in the SAFER Barrier."Indeed, we had a difficult race and we needed a good result. Today was the day."Second is Sato's best finish in three season of IZOD IndyCar Series competition (previous best was third at Sao Paulo in early May). The 2011 pole sitter for the Edmonton Indy, he led 18 laps but finished 12th. In 2010, he placed ninth on the City Centre Airport circuit.After Castroneves inherited the lead on Lap 53 when teammate Will Power pitted, Sato overtook Tagliani for second place in Turn 5 two laps later. Castroneves led by 1.9380 seconds at the start-finish line of that lap, but the margin slipped under 1 second the remaining 20 laps."We never relaxed, to be honest, especially with Takuma right behind me," Castroneves said.Said Sato, who qualified fourth: "I was pleased about the result, but I was frustrated. We were challenging for the win. It was a little bit disappointing from a pure driver's point of view because we just simply didn't win it. But it's great, still great."I made up a few good places. In the end, yes, Helio and Penske were strong. Shame we couldn't catch him up. Nevertheless, it was a great result."Sato joined Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing early in the year as the veteran Indy car team returned to full-time IZOD IndyCar Series competition for the first time since 2008. With a new driver, lead engineer (Gerry Hughes), car and Honda engine package, 2012 is experimental in a sense. "Takuma did a very good job and the whole team did a good job," team co-owner Bobby Rahal said. "It just shows you that if we can help him in the races, the guy has got the speed. It's just a matter of us collectively understanding the flow of the race. The pit stops were good, he drove well and we're obviously very pleased with the outcome."Added Sato: "Obviously, we always have the motivation and the team has done a great job over the course of the season. We're always progressing. We're looking for the one goal, of course. It's still a long way from second to actually winning the race. It isn't easy at all. But we never give up, so we will push on."3. Inside the Box Score - Edmonton Indy: Numbers to note following the Edmonton Indy, the 11th of 15 events of the 2012 IZOD Indy Car Series season.0 - Laps run under caution. The last caution-free race was at Texas-2 in 2011 and the last caution-free race on a road/street course was Portland in 2007.5 - Consecutive front row starts for Dario Franchitti.7 - Different teams represented in the top 10 positions at Edmonton.14 - Positions gained by Will Power en route to his third-place finish at Edmonton, most of any driver in the field.15 - Different drivers to finish on the podium in the first 11 races of 2012.19 - Different drivers with at least one top-five finish in 2012 after Alex Tagliani scored his first top-five finish of 2012.23 - Points separating Ryan Hunter Reay (362) from Helio Castroneves (339) in the IZOD IndyCar Series point standings.27 - Wins for Helio Castroneves in Indy car competition.49 - Laps led by Alex Tagliani at Edmonton. It was the most laps he's led in an Indy car race since he led 52 laps at Montreal in 2003.88 - Races between pole positions for Ryan Hunter-Reay. Hunter-Reay's last pole at Milwaukee in 2004.192 - Consecutive Indy car starts for Tony Kanaan dating to the 2001 CART race in Portland. Kanaan is second to Jimmy Vasser's 211 straight starts.4,731 - Laps led by Helio Castroneves in his Indy car career - the most among active drivers in the series.***The 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series race continues with the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio on Aug. 5 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. The race will be televised by ABC at 12:30 p.m. (ET) and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network on SiriusXM (XM 94 and Sirius 212). The next Firestone Indy Lights race is the Grand Prix of Trois Rivieres on Aug. 5 on the Streets of Trois Rivieres, Quebec.


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