Paul Tracy had an easy drive to his fourth Champ Car victory on the historic Milwaukee Mile this afternoon, snagging the lead from polesitter Jimmy Vasser after the first of three caution periods ended on lap 18 and romping away to a 3.370 margin over prot?g? A.J. Allmendinger.
Driving the #3 Indeck/Forsythe Championship Racing Lola/Ford-Cosworth/Bridgestone machine Tracy smoothly and confidently moved to second from his fifth place starting spot at the start and kept up a stellar pace en route to this win in the Time Warner Cable Road Runner 225 presented by US Bank.
"I drove at the limit all day long and really couldn't take it easy," Tracy explained. "I knew after the first turn just how much grip the car had and, while I wasn't the fastest car all afternoon, it was pretty good for the most part," he smiled slyly.
"I couldn't get away from A.J. but an air pressure change on the final stop took away all the push from the car and make it really neutral."
Allmendinger appeared to be better at the far end of the track but used his brakes each time into the first corner while in traffic, rendering the 2004 Roshfrans Rookie of the Year unable to catch the veteran with his #10 Red Bull/RuSPORT Lola. Suffering from a migraine headache on Friday night, Allmendinger had little sleep but it didn't seem to bother the sophomore driver.
Oriol Servia was third in his relief drive of the #2 PacifiCare Lola in place of injured Bruno Junqueira and called this the "easiest race of my life." The Catalonian earned his sixth career Champ Car podium and first since Denver in 2003. "I'm very satisfied, but I would have liked for a longer weekend to get to know the car better," Servia said.
"We improved the car for the race and I had a great car under me all afternoon. My future," Servia confirmed, "looks bright but I don't know what the plans are for Newman/Haas Racing yet."
Briton Justin Wilson battled to stay in fourth after falling off the pace in the late going with his #9 SanDisk/RuSPORT Lola, stating his Lola "was right there for much of the race. I got really held up by slower lapped traffic so it was very frustrating," he sighed.
Vasser took fifth with his #12 Gulfstream Lola, this quintet comprising the sole drivers remaining on the lead lap after 221 laps of hard racing. The veteran and 1996 champ realized that "Paul was in a different world today. We had a good race going at the start but he is king of the restarts and I just didn't want to get into it with him that early in the going.
"It was a little warmer today than we expected," Vasser continued, "and I had a setup that was better suited to a little cooler weather. We just missed by a little getting the right amount of downforce for the conditions."
Bourdais took sixth in the #1 McDonald's Lola after having to do a late race drive-through for speeding in the pits. "The car was better than any I have had here before but the brakes were completely absent throughout the race. I had to pump the pedal coming into the pits but forgot on the last stop and crossed the line at 55mph," he explained.
Mario Dominguez' #7 Indeck/Forsythe Championship Racing Lola served as a blocker for Tracy after the second caution, keeping the balance of the field at bay despite countless blue, move-over flags. He finished seventh after starting tenth.
Rookie Ronnie Bremer secured eighth place in his first Champ Car oval drive in the #55 HVM Lola and called the race "a good experience. We salvaged a decent result and I built up my confidence." Timo Glock brought the #8 DHL Global Mail Lola home ninth and Alex Tagliani rounded out the top ten in the #15 Aussie Vineyards Lola.
Tagliani "really struggled after the first 25 laps of our 60-lap stints and the first stint was probably the worst," the veteran noted. "The car was very nervous and I was constantly fighting it, especially in traffic. At the end of the day we came away with a top ten finish, more points and a straight race car" so he's not about to complain.
Cristiano da Matta battled a "very loose" #21 Bell Micro Lola for much of the race, taking 11th at the checkers. Nelson Philippe's #34 Wellbox Lola earned 12th place as the sophomore driver battled a car "hard to drive in traffic." He also had radio problems during the race.
Marcus Marshall took 13th in his first oval race, bringing the #5 Aussie Vineyards Lola to the flags five laps behind the leaders. The Australian "started to get into it at the end and really enjoyed the race." The final finisher, Ricardo Sperafico in the #19 American Medical Response Lola was ten laps back at the close.
Of 17 starters, only three dropped out by the close, all due to contact.
When the track initially went green for a very tidy start, Vasser led them away but Tracy moved up almost at once to second, taking advantage of much of his push-to-pass power.
On the sixth lap, Ryan Hunter-Reay's #31 Briggs and Stratton Lola snapped around at the exit to turn 2 and last year's Milwaukee winner became the first driver out of the race. Complaining of neck pain, Hunter-Reay was taken to Froedert Hospital where CT scans turned out negative. The Floridian had no injuries and was being released later in the afternoon according to Champ Car sources.
It took six laps to remove Hunter-Reay safely from his car and more to clean the track. When they went green once more on the 19th lap Tracy put an immediate move on Vasser and secured the lead he kept for 192 of 221 laps. Only pit stops would shuffle the order of play.
The second of three caution flags flew on lap 128 when rookie Andrew Ranger hit the fourth turn wall while trying to avoid Dominguez, who had waded into the marbles.
The #27 Mi-Jack/Conquest Lola snapped loose on the French-Canadian and he was a passenger. "My car was very fast all day," and indeed Ranger had moved into the top ten from 13th grid slot, benefiting from good pit work. He was running seventh when the incident occurred.
The field went green on lap 138 and it was on that restart that Dominguez began to serve as a buffer for Tracy, albeit a lap in arrears.
Bjorn Wirdheim was the third driver to impact the hard Milwaukee walls when he "came into dirty air and lost all grip" with his #4 HVM Lola on the 175th lap. "I bent the rear suspension so our day was done. At least I know what to expect next time here and I am going to be prepared for Las Vegas (in September)."
Allmendinger finally got by Dominguez on lap 165 and teammate Wilson followed five laps later. The conga line continued unabated with most drivers staying in touch until the final caution for debris on lap 210.
By the green flags flew for the final time on lap 216, the race had already been declared a timed event and ended with a white flag on lap 220 and checkered flags one tour later.
The Champ Car World Series now begins its busy summer swing, taking one weekend off and then beginning the busy part of the year with the G.I. Joe's 200 at Portland International Raceway on June 19th, followed a week later by the seminal contest on Cleveland's Burke Lakefront Airport presented by US Bank.