Will Power drove a dominant race Sunday on the Milwaukee Mile to win the ABC Supply Wisconsin 250 IndyCar race over his teammate Juan Montoya and Ganassi's Tony Kanaan.
Power now has a 39 point lead over Helio Castroneves with just two races remaining and it was his first short track oval win.
Scott Dixon was 4th and Josef Newgarden rounded out the top-5.
Happy is Chevrolet, who swept the top 4 – and 5 of the top 6 – positions on the day
Arguably, flat track racing is an acquired taste. For the fan, it lacks the side by side thrill of the big banks. For the driver, it shows skill and setup – and exposes any shortcomings in either department. Today's race was a classical track position race, since – with only a couple of exceptions – on track passing was at a premium. The track never developed a second racing groove, and tire grip fell like the proverbial marble off of a table at the end of lap 4.
One of the exceptions was Ryan Hunter-Reay. Like Dixon at Mid-Ohio (another place where on-track passing is said to be at a premium) he sliced through the field. Starting 19th due to a missed setup in qualification, he was up to 11th by lap 20. By lap 100 he was 5th, the lone Andretti bright spot for most of the day. However, around lap 166 he started feeling something going wrong, and on lap 168 he slowed and went to the pits. "The CV joint popped out or something," he surmised. Then he continued, "This is probably our Championship hopes going up in smoke right now." Hunter-Reay finished 21st on the day.
The other exception to the No Passing Rule was when a car was on new tires.
The strategy, of course, was to get new tires on as early and often as possible. The downside, of course, was that a caution or an extra pit stop (due to lack of caution laps) would catch you out. Driver after driver came in when they were set to be lapped, only to unlap themselves in the first few laps after a pit stop when they were 10-12 mph faster than the leader.
That is, for only a few laps – after 4-5 laps the tires were worn out, and it was back to line-dance racing.
So that set the stage for the race – start up front, manage the tires, and you should do well. Start in back – unless you’re used to dominating this track – and you stayed in back. In fact, through the first 100 laps, the only major moves were made by the afore-mentioned Hunter-Reay, and the hapless Takuma Sato. Sato managed to spin his tires on the opening lap, dropped about 10 spots, and never was a factor in the race, finishing 15th.
And so the race went, lap after lap, under green flag, including pit stops, through the first half of the race, until Carlos Munoz hit the wall on lap 130. Not a hard hit, but enough to damage the right-rear suspension, ending his day. Munoz finished 22nd, the worst of the Andretti team mates, but by no means the only one suffering on the day. “I went to the marbles and once you’re in the marbles it’s impossible to go back and I just hit the wall…
"It’s a race to forget," said Munoz.
The green flag flew on lap 141 with Will Power still in the lead, followed by Josef Newgarden, and Marco Andretti. None of those cars pitted under caution – Marco had pitted around 20 laps earlier — and by lap 144 Marco slid to 7th position. Teams then planned for a “one more stop" strategy, except for Newgarden whose stop at lap 183 made it clear he would need two more stops. Power pitted on lap 188, which gave him enough fuel provided he conserve fuel, with the balance pitting before lap 200. During the stops the lead passed to Juan Pablo Montoya for a bit, but when the dust settled Will Power had re-assumed the lead from JPM.
And so it continued for the balance of the race, with the exception of Josef Newgarden. The hoped-for caution laps never materialized, and he was forced to pit on lap 237. He rallied back to take 5th, the best Honda in the show.
On a track when talent is showcased he turned even more heads – which is a good thing since, as of today, he has yet to re-sign with his team. JPM tried to chase down Power, but the combination of worn tires and lapped traffic (only 7 cars ended up on the lead lap) thwarted the effort. Power won by 2.8 seconds over JPM. followed by Ganassi team mates Kanaan and Dixon.
Since Power won both the Pole as well as the race, and Castroneves – who fought an evil-handling race car all day long – finished 11th – point lead has grown to 39 points over Castroneves heading into the last two races of the year. And, as Power pointed out in post-race interviews, he's now confident about the road course at Sonoma, and is defending champion on the big oval at Fontana.
It was a disastrous weekend for Andretti Autosport. On top of the speed charts in practice, they missed the setup for qualification. Hunter-Reay started 19th, Marco 9th, Hinchcliffe 13th and Munoz 20th. Worse yet, today Marco finished 13th, Hinchcliffe finished 19th, Hunter-Reay 21st and Munoz 22nd. The lone bright spot was that DHL resigned as the sponsor for Hunter-Reay, which meant that Hunter-Reay extended his stay with the team.
Another year, another Milwaukee race. I have fond memories of this place — I was here for the first time when it was the "reunification" race years ago, with many former CCWS teams literally unpacking their cars for the first time. I was here when Simona hit the wall, suffering a concussion, which — combined with her injuries suffered at Indy in the weeks before — was the last we saw of the bright talent she had before that point.
Wisconsin is a magical place too — a land of friendly but quirky people, of plentiful bratwurst and abundant gourmet mac n cheese.
But let us confess that this is also another "building" year for the event. Michael Andretti's people, by all accounts, gave it a good try this year. By all accounts, Indy has made a cut-rate deal to keep this venue in place.
And, arguably, this venue is the reason why we don't go back to Road America, a significant sacrifice for all concerned. (Yes, there are other reasons.) And yet again, we see a crowd that is… disappointing.
The Milwaukee race has seen challenges, not just since the dual race years (both IRL and CCWS) but for a couple of decades beyond that. One wonders if, in spite of a lot of love and hard work, this can ever be a strong event ever again. Except for Indy, open wheel fans have lost their love affair with ovals – all are poorly attended. NASCAR owns the ovals now.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 11 Mistic KVSH Racing Chevrolet): "It was a bit of a tough race for the Mistic E-Cigs – KVSH Racing team. We showed some pace sometimes and sometimes we struggled both on and off the track. We will learn from it. We just have to go back to school and make it better. Overall it was a pretty solid race."
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet): "The Hitachi car was consistent. The guys did a great job in the pits; it was very difficult to get close to someone. We did struggle with handling today. Once we tried a little bit hard, and we got up in the marbles. It was just one of those days. Good job to the Verizon car – Will (Power) ended up winning the race, and Juan Pablo (Montoya) second, so Team Penske was strong with that. Hey, there are still more races to go and I will be there, ready to go. We are not giving up at all. There are two races to go with the big one at Fontana paying double points. Still a lot of racing left."
MIKHAIL ALESHIN (No. 7 SMP Racing Honda): "I lost a lot of spots, and I gained a lot of spots today. I never seem to make it easy! I struggled a lot with balance at the start of the race. As we went through different stints we made adjustments and the track came to us. The drivers who were good at the start weren't necessarily the best at the end. I was able to attack on track in the final two stints, making a lot of different passes. I'm very happy to finish eighth, even though there are always areas for improvement. Schmidt Peterson Motorsports did a great job today, though, and I think this is a good finish for our first time together in Milwaukee."
SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 77 Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports Honda): "When people talk about ovals, they tell you it's all about momentum and timing. But until you really get it for yourself, those are just words. In sports car racing you learn all about fighting against other types of cars that are slower than you in different corners. Learning how to navigate around those cars is all about timing and momentum too. Today I made the connection between the two. It was a big step forward for me personally as a driver on ovals."
"Schmidt Peterson Motorsports did a great job this weekend. We decided to go a different direction in terms of engineering setup. We were more aggressive, and it worked out really well. The crew was awesome in the pits too. Seventh isn't a stellar result, but today it feels good after starting 16th."
"Coming into this weekend, I thought Milwaukee was going to be the hardest of the final three races for us. We gained some points on Helio (Castroneves) and Ryan (Hunter-Reay), so I'm really looking forward to the next two races."
SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA (No. 17 Automatic Fire Sprinklers KV AFS Chevrolet): "It was a very long race. We were expecting the Automatic Fire Sprinklers – KV AFS Racing car to be the same as it has been all week, which is with a lot of understeer. Unfortunately the first stint of the race really sent us backwards. The crew was able to do a great first stop, which made the car better and give me more pace, but unfortunately it was too late by then and I just needed to stay out of trouble. We will move on and focus on the last two races and get back to where we deserve to be."
WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): "The handling was awesome; we hardly made any adjustments over the whole race. Full credit to the team for giving me such a great car. These are my favorite tracks these days. I really enjoy the ovals – it's great fun. I hope we put a good show on for the fans. But, man, I just love races like that. Texas would have been the same (for us) but I got a penalty. It's just a great way to start these last few races. The team's done such a good job, everybody at Verizon Team Penske is doing such a great job, we're a well-oiled machine right now with all three cars.
(Does he like his chances in the championship) If we have a couple more days like this of course it's going to be a great finish. We're going to keep our head down, don't think of points, and execute."
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA (No. 2 PPG Team Penske Chevrolet): "Our PPG Chevy today was really, really good. I think Team Penske is doing a really good job. We had a really good car yesterday and we made a couple of changes. It was just a little bit harder to drive today. Overall, I'm mad I came in second, so that's a good thing."
(Is this a new Juan Montoya we're seeing?) "I think just experience really helped. Today I'm actually really, really disappointed we came in second."
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 27 United Fiber & Data Honda): "One to forget, for sure. We had a decent car early. The guys were good on the first round of stops. On the second stop, we had something happen with one of the guns and lost a couple laps having to come in twice to get that fixed. It kind of went from bad to worse after that. We battled some kind of problem, not quite sure what it was yet, but the balance just completely went away. It just went loose. I was running everything I had on the car to try and battle understeer, and I was still really hanging on to the thing. It wasn't like that in the beginning; we were running with guys like (Scott) Dixon, (Josef) Newgarden and they made it to the top five. It's unfortunate – a bit of a missed opportunity and we have to get to the bottom of why."
MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 25 Snapple Honda): "Today went from bad to worse. We made our way to the front and were going to hang in there for a top five or top six, but we had a long pit stop there towards the end. Looks like something went wrong with getting the fuel in the car and that took us out of the lead pack."
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): "I could feel it running rough the lap before that, so it wasn't a clean suspension break. It was something with the right rear, the CV joint popped out or something. Every time I would go back to power it would squat big time. It was undrivable. We had a great start. The yellow kind of got us but what are you going to do? I love this place. It wasn't exactly the balance we wanted and this is probably our Championship hopes going up in smoke right now. Just signed a three-year deal with Andretti Autosport and DHL so, very happy about that. I wish I could have gotten them a win today. I wish we as a team could be out there celebrating the DHL in Victory Circle."
(Is that the first thing that went through your mind, there goes the Championship?) "Yes, for sure. The Championship started going through my mind when we got that yellow. I thought it was going to be pretty hard from there. It just wasn't meant to be at the moment. It is what it is. That's racing."
CARLOS MUNOZ (No. 34 Cinsay AndrettiTV.com HVM Honda): "I went to the marbles and once you're in the marbles it's impossible to go back and I just hit the wall. It's a shame. The truth is we haven't been, this weekend, in the front and we have to think about next week, Sonoma. It's a race to forget. I will learn from this. I will learn from everything for next year."
JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 67 Direct Supply/Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Honda): "It's really hard to pass around here. It's just a very difficult track to make something happen. I was trying so hard to save fuel, leaning out as much as I could and I was lifting and even then it was hard for Kanaan to get around me and he was one of the strongest guys today. It's just a tough place. It's very dependent on aero so when you get behind someone with the same mechanical grip and you're limited by aero it's kind of what you got. I thought we had a really good car today relative to the cars around us. We took a gamble and it didn't work out for us, but I'm happy we got back in the top 5, because I think we deserve that."
On run at the end after final pit stop:
"We had to stop for fuel and we weren't planning on it. I was thinking we were going to run in third place til the end. It turned out we had to stop and that put us all the way a lap down and in 11th place so we had to take tires, and that was the advantage was getting the tires on and trying to smoke as many people as we could. I can't even believe we made it back up to fifth. That's awesome that we didn't lose as much as I thought we would."
TAKUMA SATO (No. 14 ABC Supply A.J. Foyt Racing Honda): "Such a disappointing race. At the start I lost the back end, the rear stepped out [nearly spun out]. I lost positions and the track was so slippery in the beginning it was difficult to gain them back. After the middle stint, the car started working well and we had the pace. But we were a lap down so the cars I passed weren't for position. It was a tough race."
GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 National Guard Honda): "We were sliding around out there for sure. We didn't have the best test here and we knew we were going to have to learn a lot. The National Guard guys did a great job in the pits today. We gained a lot of spots in the pits but lost them on track. We've just got to keep working hard. I was worried a little bit about this event coming into it and in qualifying we kind of had a spot of brightness. We've got Sonoma next weekend so we're going to go home and reboot."
RYAN BRISCOE (No. 8 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet): "It's been such an up and down weekend for NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing. We started out strong in the first practice and then really struggled in the second practice. We came back from that and qualifying went well and actually most of the race was pretty solid. The tires were just falling off so fast and running in traffic here is always a major challenge. The crew did a great job getting me in and out on the stops, but we just weren't able to get past a few of those guys there at the end. It's still a top-10 finish, so we'll just take the positive from that going into Sonoma."
CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 83 NovoLog FlexPen Chevrolet): "That was another fighting day for the Novo Nordisk crew. The car was really good in clean air and we definitely put up a good fight. As a group maybe we weren't as good in traffic and here at the historic Milwaukee Mile it's so easy to get caught up behind guys that are a second or two off the pace. That's just short track racing for you. Overall as a team I feel good moving forward from here and we have two more opportunities coming up to get that first win."
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet): "I hope we put on a good show for the fans today. The Target team was strong and the car was good all day. We got caught in slower traffic and we pit out of sequence to try and make some time, but in the end it didn't work out."
TONY KANAAN (No. 10 Huggies Chevrolet): "Good run. Not what we wanted; I thought we had a car to win the race. I think we missed a little bit on the set up. I've got to thank Target and Huggies and Chevrolet. I want to thank the fans for coming. I hope you guys enjoyed this race. I love Milwaukee. I love this race track. It was a fun race. Obviously, we're still looking for that first win so third place is not bad. Not bad for the Championship. Let's go to Sonoma now."
JUSTIN WILSON (No. 19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda): "I really like racing on this track. When you've got something good with your car, it's so much fun. But today wasn't like that, it was really tough. I knew from the moment I looked at the wheel going into Turn-1 on the first lap that it was going to be a handful. We kept trying to make it better throughout the race, but at the same time I knew it was not something we could change just with tire pressure and wing adjustments. That wasn't going to fix it. It was just really loose on entry and exit and tight in the middle, so it was kind of the worst of every world. It was just a long day. We will try and learn, but that was frustrating."
ED CARPENTER (No. 20 Fuzzy's Vodka/Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet): "Track position is everything here at Milwaukee. The Fuzzy's Chevy felt good in the first stint but we might have stayed on the older tires too long. At least compared to the leaders. And we ended up way too fall back when we came out of the pits. The crew guys did some great pit stops today and we were able to fight back to a top 10. I thought we had a top five car today. It was very difficult to pass and the track changed a lot from Saturday with wind. So Turn 3 and 4 were difficult today. We will just take ninth and move onto Sonoma and Fontana now."
|2||2||Juan Pablo Montoya||250||2.7949||2.7949||4||4||3||Chevy||488|
|8||7||Mikhail Aleshin||249||1 LAPS||1.6968||4||0||15||Honda||338|
|9||20||Ed Carpenter||249||1 LAPS||0.8497||4||3||7||Chevy||191|
|10||98||Jack Hawksworth||249||1 LAPS||1.7105||4||0||17||Honda||321|
|11||3||Helio Castroneves||249||1 LAPS||1.5694||4||0||8||Chevy||563|
|12||11||Sebastien Bourdais||249||1 LAPS||0.8118||4||0||18||Chevy||418|
|13||25||Marco Andretti||249||1 LAPS||5.7499||3||0||9||Honda||400|
|14||15||Graham Rahal||249||1 LAPS||5.2017||4||0||14||Honda||312|
|15||14||Takuma Sato||248||2 LAPS||16.0904||4||0||10||Honda||261|
|16||83||Charlie Kimball||248||2 LAPS||9.2273||4||0||6||Chevy||357|
|17||19||Justin Wilson||248||2 LAPS||3.4182||4||0||12||Honda||339|
|18||17||Sebastian Saavedra||246||4 LAPS||2 LAPS||4||0||21||Chevy||251|
|19||27||James Hinchcliffe||244||6 LAPS||1 LAPS||6||0||13||Honda||377|
|20||18||Carlos Huertas||243||7 LAPS||1 LAPS||4||0||22||Honda||288|
|21||28||Ryan Hunter-Reay||168||1 LAPS||1.5988||4||0||19||Honda||494|
|22||34||Carlos Munoz||130||1 LAPS||32.5521||3||0||20||Honda||424|
Winner's average speed: 145.243
Time of Race: 1:44:49.4611
Margin of victory: 2.7949 seconds
Cautions: 1 for 9 laps
Lead changes: 8 among 4 drivers
Power 1 – 57
Montoya 58 – 59
Carpenter 60 – 62
Power 63 – 121
Kanaan 122 – 132
Power 133 – 187
Kanaan 188 – 190
Montoya 191 – 192
Power 193 – 250
Point Standings: Power 602, Castroneves 563, Pagenaud 510, Hunter-Reay 494, Montoya 488, Dixon 472, Kanaan 425, Munoz 424, Bourdais 418, Andretti 400