IRL: Round 5 – Milwaukee Mile – May 31

Like NASCAR this weekend, IRL was also racing on a one mile oval today – the classic Milwaukee Mile event. But this doesn’t have the banking of Dover International, and the race itself was straightforward and uneventful. Yes, even a little processional.

Still recovering from his rib injuries sustained at last week’s Indy 500, Tony Kanaan nonetheless had a great start and went from third to lead the first 26 laps at Milwaukee, but then started to fade and was overtaken by Ryan Briscoe. Kanaan was struggling with handling and fell away from the leaders, leaving Briscoe to fend off Scott Dixon for the lead.

Mike Conway was the first accident of the day, drifting wide on lap 55 and picking up rubber marbles that affected handling and ended up with him in the wall. It allowed everyone to pit under yellow, but it proved a bad experience for Helio Castroneves who – starting form the back – had almost gone a lap down before the caution and now had a stall in the pits to frustrate him further.

At lap 100, Briscoe continued to lead ahead of Dixon, Dario Franchitti and Graham Rahal; Briscoe had just lapped Ryan Hunter-Reay leaving 13 cars on the lead lap, the last of which was Briscoe’s own team mate Castroneves, again in danger of going a lap down – which finally happened just a few laps later. After the fairy tale of the Indy 500, reality was biting for Helio this week.

The next round of pit stops commenced under green from lap 126. Franchitti got the best of the stops and ended up in the lead, catapulting over Briscoe and Dixon. But the stop was a less happy one for Tony Kanaan, who came in to find his engine smoking and on fire. He had to be pulled out of the car as the fire extinguishers went to work, and he looked utterly drained. It was probably a mercy that his race only went half distance.

Franchitti’s lead lasted until lap 154 when, encountering the lapped traffic of Robert Doornbos, he was overtaken on the inside line by Briscoe who wanted to reclaim the top spot. Franchitti’s team mate Dixon was close behind as well.

A yellow came out shortly thereafter for debris, and with under 65 laps to go to the end this meant all cars could pit now and make it to the end. This time everyone pretty much held station coming off pit road: Briscoe still leading from Dixon, Franchitti and Rahal.

As they reached the 200 lap mark, however, Briscoe got caught up behind the lapped traffic of Tomas Scheckter and Dixon seized the opportunity to dive underneath him for the lead for the first time today.

With the leaders so constant all afternoon, perhaps the most eyecatching drive was from Marco Andretti who dropped to the back early in the race and then fought his was up diligently through the entire field to run as high as 5th before dropping back slightly to finish 7th with some late handling problems, the last car remaining on the lead lap by the end. His Andretti Green Racing team mate Danica Patrick also had a good day, overcoming some early tyre vibration problems to end up 5th, the highest finisher among the AGR runners and the fourth time in five races she’s finished in the top five – showing growing consistency, too.

EJ Viso was the final retirement of the afternoon on lap 175 after glancing off the wall and crawling back to the pits.

Race results

Pos  Driver             Team                  Gaps
 1.  Scott Dixon        Ganassi               225 laps
 2.  Ryan Briscoe       Penske               + 2.1257s
 3.  Dario Franchitti   Ganassi              + 2.2644s
 4.  Graham Rahal       Newman/Haas/Lanigan  + 2.6744s
 5.  Danica Patrick     Andretti Green       + 5.9824s
 6.  Raphael Matos      Luczo Dragon         +15.8877s
 7.  Marco Andretti     Andretti Green       +17.9448s
 8.  Hideki Mutoh       Andretti Green       +   1 lap
 9.  Mario Moraes       KV                   +   1 lap
10.  Dan Wheldon        Panther              +   1 lap
11.  Helio Castroneves  Penske               +  3 laps
12.  Ryan Hunter-Reay   Vision               +  3 laps
13.  Tomas Scheckter    Dreyer & Reinbold    +  3 laps
14.  Robert Doornbos    Newman/Haas/Lanigan  +  5 laps
15.  Justin Wilson      Coyne                +  6 laps
16.  Ed Carpenter       Vision               +  6 laps
17.  Paul Tracy         Foyt                 +  6 laps

Retirements:

     EJ Viso            HVM                  175 laps
     Tony Kanaan        Andretti Green       132 laps
     Mike Conway        Dreyer & Reinbold    55 laps
     Stanton Barrett    3G

Championship standings

The result gives Scott Dixon the championship lead for the first time in 2009 following a bad start with accidents in both St Petersburg and Long Beach. But Ryan Briscoe and Dario Franchitti are both just 4pts back – it’s tight at the top!

Pos Driver  Points
1   Scott Dixon        161
2   Ryan Briscoe       157
3   Dario Franchitti   157
4   Danica Patrick     139
5   Helio Castroneves  136
6   Dan Wheldon        126
7   Tony Kanaan        122
8   Graham Rahal       114
9   Marco Andretti     109
10  Ryan Hunter-Reay   102
11  Will Power          99
12  Hideki Mutoh        95
13  Justin Wilson       92
14  Raphael Matos       88
15  Robert Doornbos     85
16  Ed Carpenter        84
17  Mário Moraes        75
18  Vitor Meira         62
19  Ernesto Viso        61
20  Mike Conway         60
21  Alex Tagliani       59
22  Stanton Barrett     50
23  Darren Manning      38
24  Paul Tracy          35
25  Tomas Scheckter     35
26  Townsend Bell       32
27  Sarah Fisher        30
28  Milka Duno          26
29  Alex Lloyd          17
30  Scott Sharp         16
31  A.J. Foyt IV        14
32  John Andretti       12
33  Nelson Philippe     10
34  Oriol Servia        10
35  Davey Hamilton      10
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