|Ryan Hunter-Reay won the 2013 Milwaukee race with Helio Castroneves and Will Power rounding out the podium.|
Sunday’s ABC Supply Wisconsin 250 will mark the 112th American Open Wheel Racing Championship event at the historic Milwaukee Mile in West Allis, Wisconsin.
Rodger Ward is the all-time leading winner at ‘The Mile’ with an impressive seven victories. Andretti Autosport owner and event promoter Michael Andretti is the second-winningest driver at Milwaukee with five wins. A.J. Foyt, Johnny Rutherford, Gordon Johncock, Tom Sneva, Mario Andretti, Al Unser, Bobby Unser and Paul Tracy all found victory lane at the venerable one-mile layout four times.
This era’s Master of The Mile is 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay, who boasts three wins and one 1 pole in 8 Milwaukee starts. Hunter-Reay is also the two-time defending champion and thus only winner of the race in the current Dallara DW12 chassis.
It should likewise be noted that RHR has probably emerged as this era’s best one-mile oval driver. He, of course, captured last month’s race at Iowa, where he also won in 2012. Hunter-Reay also won the race three years ago at the one-mile oval in Loudon, New Hampshire, meaning RHR has won 5 of the last 6 races on ‘short’ tracks.
Yes, despite his less-than-optimal form in recent weeks, Hunter-Reay enters the weekend as the man to beat in Milwaukee.
|Tony Kanaan celebrating his Milwaukee win in 2007.|
Who else runs well at Milwaukee?
Target Chip Ganassi Racing’s Tony Kanaan is the only other multiple winner in the field having won in 2006 and 2007. Kanaan’s teammates Scott Dixon (2009) and Ryan Briscoe (2008) have also won at The Mile, as have Sebastien Bourdais (2006) and Juan Pablo Montoya (2000). Kanaan, Briscoe, Bourdais and Montoya also have one pole position at The Mile.
Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves has finished second twice, and won pole three times. Justin Wilson and Graham Rahal have each finished second, while Verizon IndyCar Series championship leader Will Power and James Hinchcliffe each have one third-place finish.
What about teams?
Team Penske has the most wins of any current team with seven. Andretti Autosport has won five times, Ganassi four, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing and A.J. Foyt Enterprises twice each. The most recent win for the Foyt team was in 1979.
Does anyone not run well at Milwaukee?
|Milwaukee has not been one of Ed Carpenter's best tracks.|
Texas winner Ed Carpenter has a best finish of 7th in nine Milwaukee starts. Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing’s Josef Newgarden has a best finish of 11th in two starts.
KV AFS Racing’s Sebastian Saavedra has a best finish of 13th in two starts. Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing’s Charlie Kimball has a best finish of 14th in three starts.
Also noteworthy is the record of Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports’ Simon Pagenaud. The Frenchman sits fourth in the series standings, but will need to improve upon the pair of 12th place finishes he has in both of his Milwaukee starts if he plans on mounting a title charge.
|Who will lift this year's Astor Cup begins to take center stage this weekend at Milwaukee.|
What is the storyline coming into the weekend?
The series championship.
Currently, Power boast a four-point edge over teammate Castroneves. Hunter-Reay is 63 points behind Power, with Pagenaud a mere 1 point behind Hunter-Reay. Montoya is 101 back of Power and Dixon 107. While there are others ‘mathematically’ alive, in my opinion the six men mentioned above comprise the list of drivers with a realistic chance of winning.
Now, a strong weekend by Hunter-Reay (history says that’s a distinct possibility) would certainly put some pressure on the Penske duo at the top. But that isn’t the only scenario in play here.
For example, how exactly will Power and Castroneves, both of whom have come painstakingly close but never won a championship, respond over these final three races? Will Team Penske, which has struggled on pit road during the latter part of the season in recent years, be able to exorcise their demons and help either Castroneves or Power finish the deal?
|Could Dixon's Mid-Ohio win be the start of a late season title run?|
And what about 2013 champion Dixon. The Kiwi turned in a stupendous drive two weeks ago at Mid-Ohio. Have Dixon and Ganassi found the momentum necessary to mount a late title charge? Should Dixon follow up the Mid-Ohio performance with a win at Milwaukee, what effect might that have of the psyche of the front two?
What about Pagenaud and Montoya?
With two ovals (one being double points) in the final three races, one would certainly not favor Pagenaud, who has never scored a career podium on an oval. And although Pagenaud has gotten better on ovals, I just don’t see him mounting a charge.
|Brian C. says don't count Juan Pablo Montoya out of the title chase yet.|
Montoya is a bit of a different story.
Granted, his form has dipped since his win at Pocono last month. Also, the fact his two teammates, who have long played the role of bridesmaid are at the top of the standings may not mean the focus of Team Penske is on the Colombian.
If Montoya can essentially ‘hang on’ through Milwaukee and Sonoma, the complexion changes when we get to Fontana. While Castroneves has scored the most points (198) in the Triple Crown races this season, Montoya is second (182). The Colombian has been as good as anyone in the Triple Crown double-points events, and if he doesn’t fall out of contention during the next two weekend, he will be a player at Fontana.
|Tony Kanaan is Brian C.'s pick to win this weekend in Milwaukee.|
What about this weekend? Who wins the thing?
In part, because this has been the championship no one wants to win, I’m going with a non-contender. However, Kanaan has been as good as anyone over the last month, leading a countless laps at Pocono and Iowa before scoring two podiums in Toronto.
Two weeks ago at Mid-Ohio, Kanaan qualified third, but misfortune took him out on the first lap. But he’s always strong on the ovals, he’s run well at Milwaukee in the past, the team is starting to gel, and TK is due.
Yes, Kanaan scores his first win at Ganassi this weekend.
Brian Carroccio is a columnist for AutoRacing1.com. He can be contacted at BrianC@AutoRacing1.com