Dario Franchitti is back in the right seat.
A year after a failed attempt in NASCAR's Sprint Cup series, the flying Scotsman continues to impress in open-wheel competition. On Sunday, he won the Honda Indy on the streets of Toronto to vault past Target Chip Ganassi teammate Scott Dixon for the IndyCar Series points lead.
The margin is tenuous _ just three points between the drivers who have won the previous two titles and have 30 series wins between them.
Franchitti relishes the challenge.
"I don't think there's a better thing than to be fighting for the championship with your teammate," Franchitti said after his 11th series victory. "It's cool. You're in the same equipment. One week Scott is going to be better than me, I'm going to be better than him, and we'll go from there."
Both have three victories this season, two more than Penske's Ryan Briscoe, who remains just 13 points behind Franchitti mainly because he's finished second five times in six races.
"I'm trying to win. Don't worry," Briscoe said Sunday after recovering from a first-lap collision and rallying to the runner-up spot yet again. "I think in the last two races I've gained 13 points. It's not going all bad, by far. I'm doing my best. Hopefully, we'll get some."
Franchitti easily held off Briscoe and Penske's Will Power on a late restart for the victory, his second at Toronto.
"It's 10 years since my first one here and it feels good," said Franchitti, who won a Champ Car race at Toronto's Exhibition Place 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 as he continued the dominance of the top two teams. 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 four drivers found early trouble.
Power, who started on the front row in just his fourth race of the season, Briscoe, Wilson and Graham Rahal were involved in collisions on the first lap, allowing Tagliani to slide 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. "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 set him back 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."