On a bright and shiny Father’s Day in the mid-west town of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, it was Dario Franchitti who held his nerve when others around him lost theirs to hold on to win the Milwaukee 225 today and take a share in the series points lead.
Our IndyCar correspondent Matt Lennon takes a look at the action from the Milwaukee Mile oval circuit…
At the green, Franchitti led away from pole. He had only made it around Turn 2 before the first caution was out. Ryan Hunter-Reay, driving another bright green Go-Daddy.com machine, identical to team-mate Danica Patrick, lost the rear of his car, likely an error on cold tyres and backed into the wall, narrowly avoiding Ryan Briscoe, who had to take evasive action to avoid joining the fracas.
At the restart (or more appropriately, the real start) on Lap 8, Franchitti powered away quickly to open up a healthy lead, with Helio Castroneves, Scott Dixon and the three KV entries of Tony Kanaan, Takuma Sato and EJ Viso close behind.
Way back in the field, Simona De Silvestro quietly pulled into the pits and retirement, as her car was nowhere near the pace. Upon pulling off her helmet, Simona appeared rattled following two sizeable accidents in the last month and a less competitive second season so far in the top flight.
Will Power was running a long way down in 16th place. Had the race finished like that with Dario winning, Power’s 21-point advantage would have turned into an 18-point deficit.
Following a scrape with the wall by Ana Beatriz which brought out the caution, the first round of pit-stops took place. Most leaders made it in and out in the same order, except for Scott Dixon, who entered his pit stall crooked. By the time his crew had righted him and delivered service, Dixon was well down the order and facing an uphill battle from there.
At the restart on Lap 80, Alex Lloyd spun exiting Turn 2, collecting Sebastian Saavedra in the process. Both were out, and the caution continued until Lap 93.
On Lap 116, Franchitti’s tyres were starting to fade, and Kanaan saw his opportunity and dove up the inside of Turn 1 for the lead. As the two diced for the lead, JR Hildebrand was being lapped and got too high attempting to get out of their way, reliving his Turn 4 crash from Indianapolis, minus the pressure of leading, which ended his day.
After the next round of pit-stops and the restart, Franchitti took the lead back from Kanaan, only to lose it again to him on Lap 154.
Following a now-customary crash for Viso on Lap 164, the leaders made their final pit-stops, with Helio Castroneves making the jump into the lead through quick pit work, ahead of Franchitti and Kanaan. Behind them was James Hinchcliffe. The rookie Newman Haas driver had kept his nose clean all day and following a quick pit stop, leapt into 4th for the restart, which duly came on Lap 175.
Castroneves, while leading, was shown to have a partially deflated left rear tyre, and while it wasn’t too detrimental to his speed, the call was there to be made – leave him out and risk and puncture and possibly a crash, or bring him in and sacrifice the lead. He didn’t have to wait long. Tony Kanaan spun exiting Turn 4 and crashed, ending a potentially very promising day for KV Racing. Castroneves took the chance to pit, however as most of the field had also pitted recently, they didn’t need to do so again, and Castroneves dropped down the order.
At what proved to be the final restart on Lap 205, Franchitti led away from Graham Rahal, Oriol Servia and Will Power, who had steadily climbed through the field.
And so it remained for the final 20 laps. Dario took his third win of the year, his 29th overall open-wheel victory, equalling Rick Mears in the all-time win list. With his main championship rival finishing fourth, Dario took an equal lead in the points standings.
Next stop is Iowa Speedway next Saturday night for the first running of this popular event under lights.
2011 Milwauke 224 Final Standings (225 laps):
|1.||Dario Franchitti||Chip Ganassi||225||1:56:43.5877|
|2.||Graham Rahal||Chip Ganassi||225||+ 1.4271|
|3.||Oriol Servià||Newman/Haas Racing||225||+ 2.7703|
|4.||Will Power||Team Penske||225||+ 3.8756|
|5.||Danica Patrick||Andretti Autosport||225||+ 4.2289|
|6.||James Hinchcliffe||Newman/Haas Racing||225||+ 5.2021|
|7.||Scott Dixon||Chip Ganassi||225||+ 5.7803|
|8.||Takuma Sato||KV Racing Technology Lotus||225||+ 6.1011|
|9.||Hélio Castroneves||Team Penske||225||+ 6.3643|
|10.||Justin Wilson||Dreyer & Reinbold Racing||225||+ 6.8905|
|11.||Ryan Briscoe||Team Penske||225||+ 8.2475|
|12.||Mike Conway||Andretti Autosport||225||+ 8.9469|
|13.||Marco Andretti||Andretti Autosport||225||+ 9.8659|
|14.||Charlie Kimball||Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi||224||1 lap behind|
|15.||James Jakes||Dale Coyne Racing||223||2 laps behind|
|16.||Ed Carpenter||Sarah Fisher Racing||223||2 laps behind|
|17.||Ana Beatriz||Dreyer & Reinbold Racing||222||3 laps behind|
|18.||Alex Tagliani||Sam Schmidt Motorsports||196||29 laps behind|
|DNF.||Tony Kanaan||KV Racing Technology Lotus||194||Contact|
|DNF.||EJ Viso||KV Racing Technology Lotus||163||Accident|
|DNF.||JR Hildebrand||Panther Racing||120||Contact|
|DNF.||Alex Lloyd||Dale Coyne Racing||79||Contact|
|DNF.||Sebastian Saavedra||Conquest Racing||78||Contact|
|DNF.||Vitor Meira||AJ Foyt Enterprises||69||Mechanical|
|DNF.||Simona de Silvestro||HVM Racing||11||Withdrew|
|DNF.||Ryan Hunter-Reay||Andretti Autosport||0||Accident|
[Images via IndyCar Media]