In a Nutshell: For much of the race on the flat 1-mile track, two-time race-winner Josef Newgarden looked to be running away to victory. Though Ryan Briscoe posed a serious challenge, a terrible pit stop pushed him back in the field and Newgarden maintained the lead. Then, the yellow flags changed things. Two yellow flags in the center of the race changed the strategies for teams and with it, Sebastien Bourdais and his team owner and strategist Jimmy Vasser, chose a bold move. Bourdais took the lead when others pitted and that move proved to be the difference. As the only car on that schema, Bourdais paced the field and held on after a late caution flag to earn his second win of the year.
Key Moment: The key moment came as two moments. When James Jakes brought out the caution flag on lap 114, the field bunched up and brought about a dramatic restart. The adage ‘caution breeds cautions’ came into play as on lap 131, soon after the restart, Briscoe got loose, spun, and collided with Will Power as he tried to pass by on the outside lane. When most of the field pitted after the caution, Bourdais stayed out on tires that were 10 laps old. He then drove away, showing that he had both the skill and the car to beat.
The Highlight/Lowlight Reel
- For the second race in a row, Briscoe seemed to have a car that should reach the podium. Whether it was the poor pit stops or driver error, his race again ended when he wrecked. Briscoe has shown more filling in for James Hinchcliffe than he had his last year at Ganassi, but the poor finishes are problematic. While it would be great to see him continue in the series, one wonders whether or not he will be able.
- After wrecks in the last two races, fate is not smiling on Power to repeat as champion. Though he had been a middling car for the first half of the race, good pit calls had gotten him into the top 10 and he looked like he might move up in the order as things progressed. And then he got snagged by Briscoe. Much like at Auto Club Speedway, Power’s DNF was not of his own making, but the result is another difficult one to take as he had been second in points and now rests in fifth, 70 points behind.
- Helio Castroneves and his crew somehow missed getting to the starting line for qualifying and were relegated to starting last. For a while, Castroneves could make up little ground, but an aggressive pit strategy, of coming early, helped continue to move him up as fresh tires brought a decided advantage. By the time the checkered flag flew, he had earned a surprising second-place finish and moved himself to third in the points standings.
- Graham Rahal followed up his win in Fontana with a podium finish, taking third and demonstrating that his team is not that far from being a championship contender. Whatever changes Rahal-Lanigan-Letterman Racing made in the offseason sure seem to be paying off, as Rahal is having one of his best seasons and is now tied for third in points (though he has a tie-breaker with his victory).
- Juan Pablo Montoya may not have had a stellar day but he enjoyed one of those where he did just enough. Though he suffered through a pit-road speeding penalty, he and his team recovered to take fourth in the race and grow their points margin in the championship (though Power wrecking out certainly helped). With four races to go, Montoya holds a 54-point edge over Scott Dixon.
News: The big question that surrounds the race at Milwaukee is whether or not INDYCAR will be returning to the track next year. With the series in negotiations with Road America, also in Wisconsin, there is debate regarding the ability to sell the public on both. The fact that bringing in crowds at Milwaukee continues to be a problem does not help the matter. This situation is a difficult one, as the racing at the 1-mile track seems decent, but if people aren’t showing up for the races… well that says everything.
Notable Drivers: Ed Carpenter
Ed Carpenter prides himself on his oval racing acumen and has done well at showing that he is at home on those types of tracks. For the early part of the race, Carpenter looked like he had no business being out there and went down at lap. Through shrewd pit stops, however, he gained back his position on the lead lap and after running in the 20s, scored himself a 10th-place finish. With his teammate, Newgarden taking fifth, that’s not a bad day for the upstart Carpenter-Fisher-Hartman Racing organization.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: “I was pushing to the limit, no question [about it]. I knew the Hitachi car would be very good, but the [No.] 11 car (Bourdais) was very fast. That seemed to be the key here. That was a hell of a job by the guys.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: “On these ovals, you can go from hero to zero and back to hero again. I guess that’s my story. Never did I think we could come up through the field and pass everybody. It’s just unbelievable. It’s what these places do to you. When the car is right, it’s so, so special.”
The series rolls into Iowa next weekend for the Iowa Corn 300. Once again, NBCSN will be airing the event, which can be seen at 8:00 p.m. ET on Saturday, July 18th.
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