The Frontstretch: Milwaukee IndyFest Breakdown: The Land Of The Andrettis by Toni Montgomery -- Monday June 17, 2013

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Milwaukee IndyFest Breakdown: The Land Of The Andrettis

Toni Montgomery · Monday June 17, 2013


In A Nutshell: Michael Andretti is race promoter for the Milwaukee IndyFest, in large part because of the importance of the Milwaukee Mile to Andretti and his racing family. Between himself and dad Mario, they have nine wins at the track as drivers. Adding to the total, Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay won last year’s event, pushing them to double digits. This Sunday, it looked like the Andretti contingent would have it well in hand again this year, although Marco sprang out to the early lead. Oh, but curse that Andretti luck. It sidelined Marco with an electrical issue after a dominating opening run.

Ryan Hunter-Reay took control late in the race at Milwaukee, cruising to a repeat victory at the one-mile oval for Andretti Autosport.

A.J. Foyt Racing and Takuma Sato took over from there, looking to prove their success this season is not a fluke, but some hiccups in handling followed by a poorly timed yellow shuffled Sato back in the order. Once again, Andretti Autosport reasserted itself, this time in the form of Hunter-Reay, who’d lurked near the front all day and finally took charge with 52 laps remaining. Once he got out there, it was all over, as the Penske Racing entries of points leader Helio Castroneves and Will Power couldn’t run him down. They settled for second and third, with RHR’s teammates E.J. Viso and James Hinchcliffe rounding out the top-5 finishers.

Key Moment: Ryan Hunter-Reay passed a previously dominating Takuma Sato with 52 laps remaining. Sato had a close call with a slide up the racetrack, simply just hanging on until he could bring the car to the attention of his team for service. In fact, he pitted two laps later as soon as his pit window opened for fresh tires and handling adjustments. If the race stayed green, Sato was done pitting but Hunter-Reay and others still needed to stop one more time, meaning it could have cycled back through to Sato in front. The other cars did pit, in the end… but with the benefit of a caution on lap 218. That worked against Sato and shuffled him back in the field, meaning Hunter-Reay didn’t end up having to deal with perhaps the one guy who had a car that could beat him.

Highlight Reel

  • This is, perhaps astoundingly, Will Power’s first podium of the year. But did anyone tell Will this was an oval?
  • There are no team orders in IndyCar, we’re told. After Sunday, I’m inclined to believe it. The Andretti Autosport cars went three wide with Marco, RHR, and Hinchcliffe on the start. Marco prevailed, leaving his teammates to fall in line, but that could have been a disaster. In the closing laps, Will Power caught up to teammate Helio Castroneves and made a move to the inside that was greeted with a chop, one that nearly put Power in the grass. OK, wait. Team Penske does have one team order. Don’t wreck each other… and that was a close one.

Will Power on the podium? On an oval? He couldn’t believe it, either.

  • Lead NBC Sports Network announcer Leigh Diffey kept referring to the cautions as “full-course cautions.” It’s a one-mile oval. Is there any other kind of caution? Although it might be interesting to see a local yellow on a one-mile oval.
  • The funniest moment of the broadcast, and leave it to Townsend Bell, was when Takuma Sato was leading and he noted that Sato was “slicing up the field like a sushi chef.” I’m not sure where that falls in the political correctness scale, but I don’t really care because I know Bell meant no harm and I thought it was funny.
  • As might be expected on a one-mile oval, traffic, traffic, traffic was the rule of the day. Only eight of 19 cars running at the finish were on the lead lap, so this event was built around patience as much as anything; race leaders found themselves almost constantly contending with lapped traffic.
  • Scott Dixon is not having anything remotely resembling a good year; however, give him some credit. He once again had a car that was not terribly competitive, but Dixon and his Target Chip Ganassi Racing team thrashed at it, hung in there and came home sixth. He continues to hang in there in the championship standings as well in fifth.
  • Helio Castroneves remains the points leader, with a margin of 16 over new second-place man and most recent series race winner Ryan Hunter-Reay. Marco Andretti slipped to third, 50 points back, followed by Takuma Sato and the aforementioned Scott Dixon rounding out the top five.
  • Racers are racers are racers, and all honor a fallen comrade. The cars of the IZOD IndyCar Series drivers carried a special LefTurn decal at Milwaukee in honor of Jason Leffler. Leffler really was one of them, too. He came up through the USAC Sprint Car Series, where he won one Silver Crown and three Midget championships. USAC was once the main route to the Indy 500, a race Leffler did compete in once (2000), one of three IndyCar starts he made.
  • What is going on with Simona de Silvestro? I hate throwing anyone under the bus but with the move to KV Racing Technology, folks were expecting big things. It seemed like a great atmosphere for Simona to shine and show what she could really do with decent equipment. Instead, it’s been a tough year for her. She’s 18th in points compared with teammate Tony Kanaan, who sits sixth and only four drivers that have run all the races are behind her. It’s disappointing.

Notable Driver: Takuma Sato. With a win already to his name this year and several strong outings, it’s not his performance in that sense that deserves attention. Instead, it’s what he did, or maybe more correctly didn’t do, when things weren’t going his way in Milwaukee. Sato was dominating and making it look easy, but suddenly had a slide up the track into the loose stuff and a close call with the wall. He didn’t panic or overcorrect, though, instead gathering it up and continuing on as best he could until bringing the car to the attention of his team. The unfortunate timing of the caution before the rest of the leaders would pit shuffled him back in the order, ruining a good chance at a win. But again, he didn’t overdrive it, simply getting the best he could get out of a bad luck scenario. That is huge for a driver whose frequent crashes can be attributed, much of the time to overdriving his car to the point of recklessness.

Honorable mention in this category goes to E.J. Viso. The two drivers are frequently mentioned side by side when discussing who is most likely to chew up race cars. Viso also led a few times, bringing his ride home a solid fourth without putting the car in harm’s way.

Quotes and Tweets:

Sunday’s victory moved Hunter-Reay, last year’s champion up to second in the IndyCar standings for 2013.

“The team did just awesome today. We had varying levels of grip through the whole race, different levels of balance, and we just stuck with it. In the end, we knew what we had to do to win. What a race it was. It was a lot of fun.” Race winner Ryan Hunter-Reay

“It’s just a huge win for us, for sure. Last year, this win kickstarted Ryan’s year; hopefully, it’s going to do it again. He did a great job and to win our race, the one that we promoted, is just awesome.” Team owner Michael Andretti

“That was close (with Helio). I wanted to race him very cleanly because he’s leading the championship. I was like ‘Man, I don’t want to take you out.’ Still a good result for Team Penske. Helio (Castroneves) continues to get good points, and it’s cool to get the No. 12 Verizon car up on the podium. We’ve just got to keep chipping away and in the meantime, I’m going to help out Helio as much as I can. If I can beat him, I will and make some hay on the championship.” Will Power

“The car was loose from the start and then, it just took off. We made contact with the wall. The guys changed the rear wing and we went back out, but I don’t know if it was damage from the crash or what — it really wasn’t drivable after that. I feel bad for my Nuclear Clean Air Energy sponsors that we had such a short race, but we just weren’t ever able to get the car fixed right.” Simona de Silvestro, finished 24th

“The plan is to race as many events in IndyCar as we can this year with Panther, so we’ll get them next time.” Ryan Briscoe, finished 15th

“There was such a sudden loss of the rear grip towards the end of the race and I got high and lost track position. We thought there was an issue, so we decided to pit as soon as our pit window opened and then try to charge back with fresh tires. We were confident we could do it. But then the yellow came out and that was very bad timing for us because it put us behind those who hadn’t pitted yet. They were able to pit and get ahead of us, which is why we lined up in 7th. Then, they had fresher tires, too so it was really tough to pass them back. I thought we could have brought a smile to A.J. and we nearly did. It was still a great race, but it was so disappointing in the end.” Takuma Sato, finished 7th

“It’s unfortunate… We came here for a win and had a car to do it. We fell back after a delay in the pits and then had an electrical issue – I didn’t have any idea of what happened at the time. The voltage went straight down and I lost all kinds of power; I couldn’t shift, the clutch didn’t work. We came back for all the points we could.” Marco Andretti, finished 20th

What’s Next: Round and round they go! It’s off to Iowa Speedway next weekend for the Iowa Corn Indy 250. It might be another oval, but Iowa is a different animal yet again from the high-banked Texas Motor Speedway or the flat Milwaukee Mile. Iowa is a short track, at only 7/8ths of a mile, but it has a bit more banking than Milwaukee, with 12-to-14 degrees in the corner. This one will be a Sunday afternoon race, with television coverage at 2:30 PM on ABC. Radio coverage is available on the IMS Radio Network and on Sirius XM channel 211.

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06/17/2013 07:06 AM

Fun race to watch; Milwaukee IndyFest is a great event, lots for spectators to do and watch. As Toni mentioned the first lap was crazy fun to watch, especially since everyone kept things under control. Congrats to Michael Andretti for a great result, both as a car owner and promoter. I’ll definitely be back.

06/17/2013 10:54 AM

Thought the race was fairly good. IIRC the rule for moving the lapped cars out is 20 laps but it would have been nice if all the lead lap cars were together on the last restart. I don’t know if it would have made a difference in the outcome but it would have been nice to see all the leaders together after being strung out most of the afternoon.