INDYCAR continues its oval stretch this weekend when they grid cars on the famous Milwaukee Mile for the ninth round of the IZOD IndyCar Series 2013 campaign. Milwaukee, known as the “Mini-Indy”, is a 1-mile oval which contains no banking. The lack of banking creates a driver/engineer exercise unlike any other the IndyCars face on the schedule. The driver must be prepared to drive 250 miles up on the wheel navigating traffic while engineers must work to give their drivers a setup that will allow he or she to attack the track…which is essential to be competitive. Although designed after the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the Milwaukee Mile presents INDYCAR teams and drivers with a vastly different challenge.
FUEL, FUEL, FUEL…
Fuel mileage always plays a huge role in Auto Racing whether it decides a race at the end or if, like in Texas last week, the winning driver is the last to pit each stint of the race giving themselves an advantage and the ability to avoid bad luck yellow flags because they are on a lap of their own. While fuel mileage will certainly play a role in this race, the distance has been increased from 225 miles to 250 miles to discourage immediate fuel conservation and make the show more entertaining from the get go. Look for who can run the longest stints on fuel.
HELIO HAS WORK TO DO
Team Penske driver Helio Castroneves, fresh of his win at Texas, enters the Milwaukee IndyFest as the IZOD IndyCar Series points leader by 21 markers over Marco Andretti. Though Castroneves showed very competitive in practice, a greedy qualifying setup resulted in a very neutral, or loose, qualifying run. The result, Castroneves will lead the bottom third of the grid to the green flag in 18th position. Castroneves’ problem got compounded when Andretti, his championship rival, already closed the gap by one point by winning the Verizon P1 Pole Award and will lead the field to the green flag. Castroneves will need to navigate traffic, stay out of trouble, and make it to the front if he is to retain the points lead leaving heading to Iowa because Marco certainly has the leg up so far this weekend.
Qualifying at the Milwaukee IndyFest looked like an Andretti Autosport parade until Will Power broke into the top-3. Still, Andretti Autosport captured four of the top five starting positions so they are loaded for bear. Starting outside row one is James Hinchcliffe who was absolutely out to lunch in practice but a long shot setup thrown at the car generated speed and grip allowing the Mayor of Hinchtown to complete the Andretti Autosport sweep of the front row. Can they capitalize on their starting positions to win the race?
WHERE’S THE TARGET?
While both Target Chip Ganassi Racing drivers are now in the top-ten in points, we have yet to see any of the dominant runs that we are used to seeing from the team with the Target painted on their sidepods. The team that, at one point, won five consecutive series titles seems to be struggling in every way possible so far this season be it mechanical failures, grip, or horsepower. Scott Dixon led the Ganassi operation with a eleventh place starting position on the grid while Dario Franchitti will start mired back with fellow three time Indianapolis 500 champion Helio Castroneves in nineteenth position. Can Ganassi use strategy and find the setup that will allow their drivers to utilize the ‘sweet spot’ on the DW12 that makes the car go so fast?
WHO IS GONNA WIN IT?
This race was dead to rights two years ago until Michael Andretti personally stuck his neck under the guillotine to revive it. Like Roger Penske revived the Grand Prix of Detroit, Andretti saw value in racing at one of the oldest tracks in North America and created a festival atmosphere around the event to entice all types of fans to come and enjoy the most exciting short track racing any series has to offer. The 2012 race has saved this race for the time being and, with any luck, the attendance needle will move in the positive direction this year and lead to the Milwaukee Mile holding a permanent place on the IZOD IndyCar Series schedule as the series and its management move forward. From Sam Hornish driving like a madman to win after spinning out his teammate to Ryan Briscoe capturing his first career win while avoiding Vitor Meira climbing over the top of Marco Andretti in 2008, the race at the Milwaukee Mile never disappoints. Who wins this race, you ask? All fans of INDYCAR are winners of this race for the simple reason that it is happening!