Saavedra’s special win


By Dave Lewandowski –
Saturday, July 11, 2009

TORONTO — Sebastian Saavedra doesn’t pull the Colombian flag from his pocket and proudly swung it around his head like a lasso after each of his victories. But this one was special.

Saavedra, the pole sitter for the Grand Prix of Toronto, lassoed his second victory of the season to jump from fourth to second in the Firestone Indy Lights championship chase. Saavedra’s fifth top-five finish went a long way to exonerate 15th- and 18th-place finishes (after starting third and second, respectively) in the past two races.

In part, that’s a reason for displaying the yellow flag.

“It’s been a heritage thing for me since go-karting,” Saavedra said. “It’s always been in my pocket. It’s not always something to take it out. It’s something I feel proud of, of my country. Today I had the chance and I didn’t doubt it. I wanted to show everyone how proud I am.”

Click it: Grand Prix of Toronto box score

Saavedra passed JR Hildebrand in Turn 1 on Lap 18 of 50 and went on to a 5.8630-second victory over his AFS Racing/Andretti Green Racing teammate in the caution-free race on the 1.755-mile, 11-turn circuit.

All cars started on Firestone wet tires and most pitted for slicks within the first five laps as the 1.755-mile, 11-turn circuit continued to dry after a late-morning thunderstorm.

“The team has improved the car since we arrived,” Saavedra said. “We’ve done a great job in the team to try to be the best. It was a completely different deal today when the rain came. We were completely blind. We didn’t know what way to go. We didn’t know if we were going to go dry. But I think we did a great job thinking on what was going to happen.”

Hildebrand and Saavedra pitted simultaneously on Lap 7, with Hildebrand’s No. 26 ARPRO car getting back on the track first.

“We definitely salvaged a good finish out of that,” said Hildebrand, who recorded his sixth podium finish of the season and increased his points lead to 51. “I really owe it to the boys in the pits. I hit the wall early and bent the rear suspension pretty badly, like five or six laps into the race so I was just hanging on for most of the race. I thought maybe I could stick with Sebastian because I was sort of keeping up with him for most of the middle segment and the thing just started going haywire on me through the fast stuff. So after I almost wrecked the car a couple of times I just backed off and I thought we’d get it to the finish. It was good for the boys and we’ll see what we’ve got in a couple of weeks in Edmonton.”

James Hinchcliffe, a Toronto native, finished third — for the fourth time this season – in the No. 7 Hinchtown/Sam Schmidt Motorsports car, and Stefan Wilson finished a season-high fourth in the No. 19 Walker Racing car.

“I was quick in the wet and soon as it started to dry out we pitted for slicks at just the right time and it was the right choice and we were really quick straight away when we exited the pits and were probably the fastest car on the track,” Wilson said. “Towards the end the car started to go off and I had a few problems inside the cockpit so by the last 10 laps there was no way I was going to catch (Hinchcliffe) so I just preserved and kept my fourth place.”

James Davison, who got shuffled toward the rear of the field during the pit stop exchange, charged through the field to finish fifth in the No. 21 People*s Liberation car for Vision Racing. It was his third top 5 in the past four races. Mario Romancini advanced five positions to finish sixth in the No. 5 Revita/Win Brazil/Allied Andersen Racing car – his seventh top 10 of the season – but dropped one spot in the standings.

“I’ve never driven so hard in my life to get through the field and secure a top five so I have to be happy with my drive,” said Davison, who started on the inside of Row 2. “A bit disappointed with the result considering we had the speed to win today, but people know we’re quick and our time will come.”

Wade Cunningham, driving the No. 11 Lucas Oil/Sam Schmidt Motorsports car, finished seventh and Gustavo Yacaman was eighth in the No. 44 Crepes & Waffles/Tuvacol/Sam Schmidt Motorports car.

Daniel Herrington, who started 18th because the No. 18 LeBleu/Bryan Herta Autosport car failed post-qualifying technical inspection, steadily progressed to finish ninth. Andrew Prendeville finished 10th in the No. 2 Team Moore Racing car.

Richard Philippe, driving the No. 37 Team PBIR car, inherited the lead on the early tire change pit stops to lead his first lap this season.

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