Race Weekend Central

IndyCar Race Recap: 2012 Milwaukee IndyFest Presented by XYQ

In a Nutshell: Ryan Hunter-Reay gave team owner Michael Andretti a win in his own race in Milwaukee. Andretti’s company Andretti Sports Marketing was the promoter of the race. Hunter-Reay was strong from the beginning, starting the race in second and staying in the top five pretty much all day before taking the lead for the first time on lap 142.

He never gave up the top spot after that. Tony Kanaan came home second followed by James Hinchcliffe, Oriol Servia and EJ Viso.

Key Moment: Helio Castroneves went with an alternate strategy and stayed on track to gain the lead when pretty much everyone else pitted under caution on lap 97. Hunter-Reay patiently ran him down and passed him when Castroneves’s older tires started to wear out. Once in the lead, Hunter-Reay flexed his muscle and held off all challengers for the final 84 laps.

Highlight Reel

  • Six drivers had to give up 10 spots on the starting grid as penalty for unapproved engine changes. Will Power lost an engine in practice at Milwaukee. Scott Dixon, Justin Wilson and Mike Conway had to make changes after engine problems in a test session at Iowa Speedway. Takuma Sato and Josef Newgarden incurred the penalty for engine changes at Texas.
  • The start of the race was delayed by about an hour and a half due to rain. The delay was actually short given that heavy rain was falling when the broadcast started half an hour before the 1:30 p.m. ET start.
  • This week it was Ryan Briscoe‘s turn to have the inexplicably evil racecar. Dario Franchitti had it in Texas last week. Briscoe went backward from his 20th place starting spot, got lapped by lap 25, and pitted for new tires one lap later. It didn’t help and under the first caution, the team changed out the entire rear assembly on the car. Nothing appeared broken on the rear wing but Briscoe was out of other adjustments and the team was searching for ideas. He struggled home in 14th.
  • From hero to zero just that fast. Last week’s winner Justin Wilson grenaded an engine on lap 95. Grenaded is not an exaggeration. There was so much smoke, Wilson looked like a crop duster spraying for mosquitos. By the time he got it stopped there were flames to go with the smoke. Wilson got out of the car unharmed.
  • Do fluids drop out of blown IndyCar engines as they do in NASCAR? Sato spun on lap 109 and got into James Jakes, carrying both cars into the wall. At the same time JR Hildebrand came to a stop with an apparent engine problem. The broadcast crew, viewing replays, determined these were two separate incidents. Yet when a replay from Hildebrand’s in car camera looking back at the engine problem was shown, it was noted that just after the engine let go, Sato and Jakes can be seen wrecking behind him. In his post-race comments, Sato says “I tried to hang on but the track was so slippery on the extreme inside. The car started sliding and we ran out of space.” Does that seem more like a related incident to anyone else?
  • No one would have blamed Dixon if he’d decided to shoot race control a double bird a la Power. Dixon received a drive through penalty for jumping the restart after Sato’s crash. On the initial restart attempt, cars stacked up when some didn’t go and Dixon did dive to the inside and pass, however that restart was waved off, the cars were lined back up and a second successful attempt at restarting was made next time around. On that restart, Dixon did nothing questionable. So the only answer seemed to be that he was called for the pass on the first restart attempt. The thing is, since it was waved off, that restart never happened so how do you penalize a guy for jumping a restart that didn’t happen? According to IZOD IndyCar Series race director Beaux Barfield after the race, “Due to a glitch in technology, there was a discrepancy between the official race clock and the clock on the replay machine. Therefore the review of the jumped start was one lap off, leading race control to make the call on the wrong lap. We have informed the Ganassi team of this error and race control is taking every step necessary to address it going forward. The race control team will be meeting first thing Monday morning to review the issue and explore remedies in advance of the race at Iowa.” That doesn’t do Dixon a whole lot of good now. He finished 11th.
  • Castroneves ended up in a “damned if you do and damned if you don’t” situation late in the race due to his team’s strategy. Castroneves made his final pit stop under green on lap 154. The rest of the teams stopped under green between laps 168 and 173. When the caution flew with 42 laps remaining, Castroneves had cycled up to third. The question was to pit or not. If he stays out, he has the fuel but much older tires and is likely to fade back to finish around sixth or seventh. If he stops, he restarts as the 13th and last car on the lead lap and may only be able to drive back up to sixth or seventh. He opted to stay out and finished sixth.
  • Defending champion Franchitti continues to have a rough season. Something apparently broke in the No. 10 car, sending Franchitti into the wall with 32 laps remaining.

Notable Driver: Rubens Barrichello. Barrichello never raced on an oval before his move to the IZOD IndyCar Series this year and certainly never ran on one as short as the Milwaukee Mile before this week. Still, he stayed on the lead lap all day and ran as high as fourth.

Barrichello did so well he was actually disappointed with his 10th-place result which speaks volumes about his comfort level and adaptability. His run was a bit of a surprise given his inexperience on this type of track and was most definitely impressive.

How Did Our Picks Fare? We did much better this week. Toni Montgomery picked Kanaan, who ran strong and ended the day in second place. Matt Stallknecht chose Hinchcliffe who was right behind Kanaan in third. Like our picks, we were oh so close!

Quotes and Tweets

shame to have finished 10th today…my car was so good. Unfortunately the strategy paid a bigger part then the car today – Rubens Barrichello via Twitter

“I just think Takuma got low on the inside and was loose and I was caught on the outside, and he just came straight in the side of me. I haven’t seen a proper replay yet, but there you go, you can see it there on the TV. Maybe his Bonzai moves are a little bit too much at times.” – James Jakes

“First of all, thank you to all of the fans for coming out, filling a great number of seats in here. I know we would all have liked to see a little more passing, but from the car it was so busy, just trying to hang on to it. The script is perfect. This is an Andretti Sports Marketing event. [Team owner] Michael [Andretti] loves the sport and does a lot for it. Milwaukee and INDYCAR go hand-in-hand. This is the oldest racing facility in the country and we just won. It’s awesome.” – Ryan Hunter-Reay

“It’s Milwaukee, man. That’s why we love coming here, it’s always a good show. And you know the rain delay through us for a bit of a loop. That first 10 was a bit stale, there was no two grooves. We had to take some time to build that, but after that first stop it went good ol’ fashioned Milwaukee. It was great short-track racing, cars were falling off, guys were having to drive it.” – James Hinchcliffe

“I really don’t know what happened on the restart where we got penalized. I think the one they waved off was the one we got out of line when EJ Viso was trying to restart at 20 mph. I was in first gear and when it went green, I went. I don’t know what the issue was but I’m really looking forward to the explanation from INDYCAR. It’s a shame for the Target team and that punishment is pretty harsh.” – Scott Dixon

“We took a gamble today with the pit strategy in the No. 3 Penske Truck Rental car. The car was running really well and we thought we could be aggressive with our plan. We definitely had a car that could win the race today but I am still happy with our result. I will take sixth place and look to do better next week at Iowa.” – Helio Castroneves

What’s Next: The oval swing of the IZOD IndyCar Series wraps up in Iowa next weekend for the Iowa Corn Indy 250. After that the drivers and teams get a well-deserved weekend off before heading north of the border for stops in Toronto and Edmonton and a return to turning right and left. The Iowa Corn Indy 250 can be seen on NBC Sports Network at 10 p.m. ET or heard on Sirius/XM channel 94.

About the author

The Frontstretch Staff is made up of a group of talented men and women spread out all over the United States and Canada. Residing in 15 states throughout the country, plus Ontario, and widely ranging in age, the staff showcases a wide variety of diverse opinions that will keep you coming back for more week in and week out.

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