With this Father’s Day weekend event, we’re now past the halfway point in the marathon June run of IndyCar races. Here, the More Front Wing crew offer our first impressions of today’s Milwaukee IndyFest.
It wasn’t the greatest IndyCar race of the year nor the greatest IndyCar race ever in Milwaukee, but it was certainly entertaining enough. There was plenty of drama accompanied by a number of butt-clenching moments. It’s a shame that some lapped cars couldn’t play nice toward the end as the finish might have been more thrilling, but it’s hard to argue that Ryan Hunter-Reay was undeserving (or surprising) as a winner. Andretti Autosport just has this place figured out, and it looks like everyone else is now officially playing catch-up.
I wish that more people had called out other drivers in the post-race interviews because there was plenty of justifiable calling out to do, but such is life in IndyCar. I also wish that race control had a bit more tendency to wave off restarts because the drivers seem to have come to the conclusion that they can get away with whatever they like — there have been many horrendously disorganized ones in recent races, and it’s time for Beaux Barfield to rein things back in and rule with a bit more of an iron fist in that regard, in my opinion.
A final thought, and I don’t mean to harp on the television situation — but I do have to wonder how we’d all be feeling about this race had it been shown on ABC. Just sayin’.
Thank goodness we’re not in Texas anymore. Everything that was crappy about Texas was alleviated today at Milwaukee, from the on-track action to the race broadcast.
The on-track action was fantastic as it seemed drivers moved up and down the leaderboard throughout the entire race. Once again, Marco Andretti started out strong, but bad luck via electrical gremlins cut his day short. Throughout the rest of the rest, Helio Castroneves, Will Power, Takuma Sato, and Ed Carpenter looked very strong as if they might finish atop the podium. Sato in particular looked strongest for most of this race, but a late ill-timed caution period caught him out and shuffled him too far back in the field to mount a serious late-race challenge. Ultimately, Ryan Hunter-Reay wound up in victory lane as he did last year in a victory that catapulted him on to the season championship. With RHR now sitting a scant 16 markers behind Helio for the points lead and 34 points ahead of teammate Marco Andretti, the thus-far close points battle may very soon become a two-man race to the finale.
The biggest takeaway I got from this race was the quality of the broadcast. As we pointed out on the MFW podcast this week, all of the behind-the-scenes personnel were the same this week as they were last week at Texas. However, the experience of watching the race could not have been more different. It’s painfully obvious watching these two races back-to-back that the difference is the booth talent presenting the race. Leigh Diffey, Townsend Bell, and (in this case) David Hobbs just treated the race like it was something special and worth getting excited about. Additionally, the information from pit lane that was passed along to the viewers was vastly surperior to what we experienced last week. All in all, it’s what a race broadcast should be.
The race: Not completely thrilling.
The competitors: Not surprising that Andretti drivers were so strong — that family knows this track so well.
The winner: Ryan Hunter-Reay had a stout race and his team made terrific pit stops for him.
The event: Thrilled that this race seems to be stronger and well-attended again this year.
The next event: Looking forward to Iowa and hopefully a wee bit more excitement on the track.
That was a nice breath of fresh air. Were you paying attention, ABC? It was great to hear excitement and passion in the booth this week. And it will be another great Father’s Day tomorrow for Michael Andretti. It looked like it was going to be his son to make it happen this year, given his dominance on Friday and the first part of the race. He was strong the first 60 laps, but it was the last 60 laps that Hunter-Reay dominated.
It was a great day for Team Penske in the championship battle. With Marco’s troubles, both drivers landed on the podium today, which was Will’s first of the season (that is not a typo). It was a heck of a drive for Helio to finish 2nd after starting in 17th position. The Ganassi guys quietly had a decent day, with Dixon in 6th and Dario in 8th after starting on the last row. In fact, seven of the top eight finishers were from the Andretti, Penske, and Ganassi teams. That is usually considered a “normal weekend,” but it’s not the way this season has gone.
We have now completed 9 of the 19 events for 2013, and the championship is still wide open. Remember that next weekend’s heat races at Iowa will be streamed live on IndyCar.com and commentary will be provided by IndyCar Radio.
Watching from Turn 4 at the Mile today, I have to say this was an immensely enjoyable race. Not only Ryan Hunter-Reay, but Helio Castroneves, Will Power, and EJ Viso put on a great show for the fans. This is not a track that is kind on even minor mistakes — a look at how many cars finished on the lead lap will tell you that.
For RHR, he’s now won at Milwaukee three times, but more importantly he’s clearly back in mid-season championship form. If he keeps this up, Helio is going to have a real fight on his hands for the title.
Paul and I spoke on this week’s podcast about the possibility of a Ryan Hunter-Reay romp this weekend, and the race definitely ended up playing out that way. Going into Iowa, I think RHR is the favorite to retain the IndyCar title as long as lady luck shines on him as far as parts are concerned. Outside of a couple of failures, I think RHR has been the most consistent driver this year speed-wise.
I thought today was a good, clean oval race, and their were multiple cars with the outright pace to win. The Andretti Autosport cars were stout as expected, and Takuma Sato and AJ Foyt Racing continue to impress. If not for an ill-timed caution, Taku could have easily found himself in victory lane.
Will Buxton and David Hobbs were great additions to the NBC Sports Network crew, and I thought the TV broadcast was really good today. It’s amazing how much difference an energetic and informative booth crew can make. I hope they make more appearances this year.
It will be interesting to monitor social media in the coming days as back-markers will likely be a big source of conversation. More than one driver seemed legitimately upset with the way lap traffic raced them today.