Perhaps the racing gods owed him one. Had last weekend's Indianapolis 500 been called after the first rain delay, then Tony Kanaan would have been crowned champion of IndyCar racing's most prestigious event. It wasn't and a series of pitfalls ...
Perhaps the racing gods owed him one. Had last weekend's Indianapolis 500 been called after the first rain delay, then Tony Kanaan would have been crowned champion of IndyCar racing's most prestigious event. It wasn't and a series of pitfalls dropped him to 12th, with teammate and close friend Dario Franchitti picking up the spoils.
"Sometimes it's not always the best car that wins the race. We could say that many times," commented Kanaan. "I just hung there all day. It was a difficult race."
Today's race in Milwaukee looked to belong to TK's countryman and longtime friend Helio Castroneves. But when a bizarre rear wing failure struck the pole sitter and dominant force around the Milwaukee Mile, it was left to Kanaan to capitalize and take home the win, his second straight at the circuit.
"I didn't hit my marks and I made my guys waste precious time, but when I make mistakes, they make up for them. When they make mistakes, I make up for them. That's what makes this team so strong. I definitely had to race this race, apart from the last five laps. Before that I had to be on the charge," Kanaan said. "Next is Texas. I'm excited to go there."
After leading 126 laps from pole position, Castroneves' Penske Dallara snapped loose out of turn four when his rear wing collapsed. It happened suddenly leaving Helio a passenger as the car snapped and crashed into the inside wall. Though he has always qualified well at this racetrack, luck has always come and bit Castroneves in some way during the race as this was his fourth consecutive finish of 12th or worse in Milwaukee.
Just prior to the race, Castroneves noted it was just misfortune that has cost him here, and preached the message of patience around the treacherous 1-mile oval. But he wasn't as jovial afterwards, obviously distraught that something so obscure could catch him out again. "This place here is unbelievable," he quipped over the radio.
"This (failure) happened to Buddy Rice before, either last year or another year, but that's no reason for it to happen to us," said his race strategist Tim Cindric. "He's certainly disappointed; he always qualifies well here but the place has never been good to him."
Immediately following the accident, Kanaan restarted from the lead only to see another caution wave as Marco Andretti crashed in turn two. The accident eliminated Marco before the checkered flag for the fifth time in six races this season, all on ovals.
With only ten laps remaining once the race restarted for the final time, Kanaan got a great jump on Sam Hornish Jr. As if it wasn't strange enough to see one obscure thing happen to Penske, another bit Hornish a lap after the restart when his rear wing became askew. He pitted and lost a lap, eventually winding up a frustrated 9th.
"Today was a tough day for all of Team Penske. We struggled with some car handling problems early in the race, but we were lucky enough to still be at the front late in the race," Hornish explained. "Then, less than 20 laps from the end of the race, something went wrong with our rear wing. This is the same problem that Helio had. It's pretty strange that this happened to either one of us, let alone both of us. It's the kind of thing that almost never happens. It's pretty frustrating since we both had a chance to win the race. We'll go back and check the cars over thoroughly to figure out what broke and try to rebound in Texas next weekend."
Franchitti had passed Dan Wheldon on the restart for 3rd and that became 2nd when Hornish fell out. They were too far back to make any headway on Kanaan and settled for those positions; the five remaining cars on the lead lap were Scott Dixon, Vitor Meira, Scott Sharp, Ed Carpenter and Danica Patrick.
"It was hard to get positions on the restart with the heavy traffic, but when we got caught back up, my car was very good. It was very quick on its own and we worked very hard at each stop to make it better," said Franchitti. "By the end, the car was quite good. To finish second to Tony is great. He drove a fantastic race to come back from where he did and I am really proud of the team to get a 1-2 today."
Patrick put in a second successive excellent drive only to have a finish not reflective of her performance. After anticipating rainfall on Saturday, her team chose not to make a mock qualifying run and paid for it, running a race setup and starting 17th. By lap 88 she had clawed her way to 6th, passed Franchitti for 5th on the front straight and was trying to make another pass, on Wheldon for 4th, before the Briton appear to have chopped down on her into turn one.
Patrick saved the car and corrected it on the pit exit but broke an upper steering arm, losing a lap and dropping to 14th. "I'd like to break check Wheldon, and just wreck him right now," she was overheard saying on the radio. She recovered to her final finishing spot after getting back on the lead lap via pit strategy.
Wheldon ended third for the day and simply stated: "It was a calculated gamble not to take tires on the final stop. It is impossible to know, but it was a chance we decided to take. We were so close it would only be a guess to say we would have been better."
This result boosts Franchitti to the lead of the championship for the first time in his IndyCar Series career, ahead of Wheldon by three, Dixon by five and Kanaan by 20. Knowing how crucial points are after losing by just two markers last season, Castroneves is now 5th and 33 points out, and will once again need misfortune to strike his opponents if he is to capture his first championship.
Today's race is part of a brutal stretch in the schedule; IndyCar goes to Texas next Saturday night and after a week off, will race five consecutive weekends.