Scott Dixon didn't lead the majority of laps around the treacherous Milwaukee Mile, but led the right ones en route to winning his second IndyCar Series event of the season. Scott Dixon, Target Chip Ganassi Racing. Photo by Andy ...
Scott Dixon didn't lead the majority of laps around the treacherous Milwaukee Mile, but led the right ones en route to winning his second IndyCar Series event of the season.
The New Zealander drove from fourth on the grid and made a late-race pass of Ryan Briscoe to take the point on lap 201, which he did not relinquish for the rest of the day. Dixon dove to the inside of Briscoe and Tomas Scheckter, a lapped car, on the back straight for the winning move.
Traffic played a major role in what was the fastest race at the Mile under IRL IndyCar sanction, and the third fastest in the track's 105-year year racing history. Dixon completed the 225 laps in 1 hour, 38 minutes and 43.9552 seconds at an average speed of 138.784 mph. Only two cautions for 22 laps slowed the green flag pace.
"I was trying to get the flow of traffic the whole day," Dixon said. "We had many runs on (Ryan) Briscoe, and he kind of blocked a lot and that was kind of frustrating early on, but he definitely got caught up there with (Tomas) Scheckter trying to take him on the bottom, and I got a great run on the high side and it just lined up perfect."
Dixon, who failed to finish better than 15th in either of the first two races, now leads the series points standings by four (161-157) over both Briscoe and Dario Franchitti, who were the top three on the race track.
Briscoe led twice for 132 laps, all between laps 26 and 200. He acknowledged despite losing the battle in traffic it was still a good fight and a good day for points, with two extra points gained for leading the most laps and one more for pole position.
"Certainly I wanted to win, but it was a great race," Briscoe said. "Scott (Dixon) was just a little bit better than me at the end there. He was there all day long and took the opportunity to pass me when I got slowed up."
Franchitti also led for a brief 19-lap period from laps 135-153. He got ahead of both Dixon and Briscoe on a round of green-flag pit stops while driving yet another special paint scheme (his fourth in five races), a lime green with TOM TOM sponsorship.
He lost the spots to the front two in traffic and was unable to get them back, however he still scored his second podium finish of the season.
"The hard thing was lapped cars," Franchitti said. "It was traffic, it was timing your passes right. My guys did a great job and got me out in the lead on the green flag (pit) stop. Then I just mistimed a pass, someone took my air off and that was it - back to third again."
Completing the top five were Graham Rahal in fourth and Danica Patrick fifth. It's young Rahal's best ever result on an oval, eclipsing a seventh at Kansas, with Patrick scoring her fourth consecutive top-five finish, her best ever four-race stretch.
"I think we absolutely had the car to challenge the best today," said Rahal, who started second and recorded his first top-five finish since his win at St. Petersburg last season. "We had a killer vibration at the end that hurt us a little bit, but we caught those guys - of course they were in traffic some."
Patrick may be in a contract year but she has been consistent this season and also earned her fourth straight top-ten finish at Milwaukee.
"I knew I wasn't over-hustling the car at the beginning, and I could see some other cars were definitely pushing it," she said.
Raphael Matos recorded his best IndyCar finish for Luczo Dragon Racing in sixth, delivering on his pace and promise from earlier this season with a good result. Marco Andretti, Hideki Mutoh, Mario Moraes and Dan Wheldon rounded out the top ten.
Helio Castroneves rebounded from 20th on the grid to 11th, a spot shy of the top ten. His nemesis Paul Tracy spent more time staying out of the way fighting an ill-handling race car for A.J. Foyt and never truly had an opportunity to "bust out the chrome horn," as the last car running in 17th, six laps down.
Only seven cars finished on the lead lap but despite the traffic, accidents were not a problem. The only car who hit the wall was rookie Mike Conway in his Dreyer & Reinbold Racing on lap 57.
Other retirees were the ailing Tony Kanaan who fell victim to a pit fire and E.J. Viso, whose abysmal luck continues. Kanaan was perturbed about losing ground in the championship, while Viso still has yet to see a checkered flag in five races.
Behind the top three, Patrick is fourth in the series standings with Castroneves fifth. The series packs up and heads to Texas next week, running Saturday night under the lights.