By: Spencer Neff
July 11, 2019 | 11:10 AM
This weekend, the NTT IndyCar Series makes its lone visit outside the U.S. With Sunday’s 85-lap Honda Indy Toronto, it will also mark the last race of the season held on a temporary street circuit.
Dating back to 1986, the 1.786-mile, 11-turn circuit at Exhibition Place has become one of IndyCar’s most iconic venues. Ahead of this weekend’s race in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, we’ll take a look back at the 1998 Molson Indy Toronto.
After a dominating start to the race, things fell apart quickly for one driver, allowing a fellow competitor to hold off the track’s most successful driver for a historic win.
Zanardi tops Andretti to grab fourth straight victory
More than halfway through his sophomore campaign, Team Kool Green’s Dario Franchitti still sought his first win.
In the 11th round of the 1998 CART FedEx Championship Series, Franchitti earned his second pole position of the season. For the first time in 13 races at Exhibition Place, a driver won consecutive poles, as Franchitti started first as he did in 1997.
Alongside Franchitti, points leader Alex Zanardi missed out on his first pole of 1998. A win would make Zanardi the first driver to score four straight race wins since Al Unser Jr. in 1990.
From the start of the 95-lap race, Franchitti was able to distance himself from Zanardi. On Lap 26, Alex Barron collided with Michel Jourdain Jr. in Turn 3. Although several cars were involved in the incident, only Barron’s day ended during the sequence.
Unfortunately for Zanardi, he dropped from second to fifth while trying to avoid the melee. Patrick Carpentier and Mark Blundell spinning soon after the Lap 31 restart and the yellow was brought out to retrieve Blundell’s car, ending his bid to repeat his 1997 victory.
After the second restart, Hogan Racing’s JJ Lehto crashed out of the race as well.On Lap 62, rookie standings leader Tony Kansan’s day ended as the fuel hose twisted on his pit stop and ignited a fire on his Reynard-Honda.
Once the final round of pit stops was complete, Franchitti inherited the lead again on Lap 69. 11 laps later, Franchitti’s race concluded in disastrous fashion. In Turn 1, his Reynard suffered a brake failure. Although most of the leaders got by, teammate Paul Tracy made slight contact.
After dominating much of the race, Franchitti’s chance at his first win and the $270,000 bonus purse from Marlboro for winning from pole went away. By narrowly escaping the leader’s stalled car, Andretti took over the race lead as he looked for his sixth win at Toronto.
With 11 laps to go, the race restarted as Zanardi set his sights on passing Andretti. Eight laps later, the CHip Ganassi Racing driver executed an aggressive pass on Andretti in Turn 3 for the lead. From there, he never looked back and crossed the line 1.921 seconds ahead of Andretti.
Despite a faltering gearbox, Vasser was able to join his teammate Zanardi on the podium. Twelve years after winning the inaugural race, Bobby Rahal finished fourth in his final appearance at the track. In fifth, Bryan Herta finished just behind his car owner/teammate.
The 1998 Molson Indy Toronto continued an impressive streak for Zanardi and his Target Chip Ganassi Racing team. Including Zanardi’s record-tying streak, the team had won six races in a row.
With the victory, Zanardi’s points lead ballooned to 69 points over Vasser. A week later, Forsythe Racing’s Greg Moore outran the duo in the US 500 at Michigan International Speedway to briefly curtail the dominance. Later that summer, Franchitti earned his first career victory at Road America.
A year later, Franchitti found redemption at Exhibition Place. Although he started second, he won in a wire-to-wire victory. In 2009, the veteran driver won again on the street course, this time driving for Chip Ganassi Racing.
Note: Thank you as always to everyone who participated in our poll on Twitter to select this week’s IndyCar Flashback.
There will continue to be a poll on our Twitter page (@Open_Wheels) to determine the race profiled for IndyCar Flashback prior to each race weekend. Keep an eye out each race week for the poll to cast your vote.
Header Image By Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images