Thursday, July 9, 2015

Track Walk: Milwaukee 2015

IndyCar returns to Milwaukee for a 250-miler
The antepenultimate oval of the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series season is the Milwaukee Mile for the second of three consecutive oval races. Two weeks ago, Graham Rahal won at Fontana, breaking a record 124-race winless streak. It was Honda's third win of 2015. His father Bobby never won at Milwaukee in 18 starts but he did finish runner-up on the mile on three occasions. This will be the 113th IndyCar race to take place at the Milwaukee Mile and first to be run in July since 2006 when Champ Car ran there in June and the IRL ran in July.

Time: Coverage begins at 5:00 p.m. ET on Sunday July 12th. Green flag at 5:35 p.m. ET.
TV Channel: NBCSN.
Announcers: Leigh Diffey, David Hobbs, Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy will all be in the booth with Kevin Lee, Jon Beekhuis, Kate Hargitt and Robin Miller working the pit lane.

Championship Picture
With five races remaining, Juan Pablo Montoya has led the championship since the first checkered flag fell at St. Petersburg and the Colombian has expanded his lead to 46 points over Will Power. Montoya is the only driver so far to crack 400 points as he sits on 407 points. Scott Dixon is three points behind Power in third. The top three in the championship all have a victory at Milwaukee. Montoya won in 2000, Power last year and Dixon in 2009. Graham Rahal has not won at Milwaukee but he did finish second there in 2011. Rahal's victory at Fontana vaulted him to fourth in the championship, trailing Montoya by 73 points. Hélio Castroneves rounds out the top five in the championship, four points behind Rahal. 

Marco Andretti is sixth in the championship, 99 points behind Montoya. Two of Andretti's four career pole positions have come at Milwaukee, including his first career pole in 2008. However, both times Andretti started on pole at Milwaukee ended in a retirement. Sébastien Bourdais makes it four Milwaukee winners in the top seven of the championship as he sits on 290 points. Tony Kanaan has won back-to-back races at Milwaukee in 2006-07 and he sits eighth in the championship, five points back of Bourdais. Josef Newgarden is ninth in the championship on 277 points. He finished fifth at Milwaukee last year and picked up fastest lap along the way. Simon Pagenaud bookends the top ten for Team Penske, 151 points behind Montoya.

Charlie Kimball is eight points outside the top ten. Carlos Muñoz is twelve points behind Kimball. Takuma Sato has 213 points and is three points ahead of three-time Milwaukee winner Ryan Hunter-Reay. Hunter-Reay leads all active driver in Milwaukee victories. James Jakes rounds out the top fifteen with 190 points. Gabby Chaves is the top rookie on 178 points with his predecessor at Bryan Herta Autosport, Jack Hawksworth, trailing him by seven points.

Twenty-two drivers remain championship eligible. The remaining drivers with a chance at the title are Luca Filippi, Stefano Coletti, James Hinchcliffe, Sage Karam and Tristan Vautier. 

The Grid Got A Little Taller
While most races have seen at least one driver change from the previous race, all twenty-three drivers who were entered for Fontana will be at Milwaukee. Ryan Briscoe will continue in the #5 Arrow Electronics/Lucas Oil Honda. Sage Karam is in the #8 Comfort Revolution/Big Machine Records Chevrolet. Pippa Mann and Tristan Vautier return in the #18 and #19 Dale Coyne Racing Hondas respectively and Ed Carpenter will be behind the wheel of the #20 Fuzzy's Ultra Premium Vodka Chevrolet.

However, there will be an addition to the IndyCar grid for Milwaukee and for the remainder of the season. Justin Wilson will drive the #25 Andretti Autosport Honda for the final five races of the 2015 season. The Sheffield-native has made two starts this season and he finished 24th in the Grand Prix of Indianapolis and 21st in the Indianapolis 500. Wilson will be making his tenth Milwaukee start. His best Milwaukee finish is second, which came in 2006. He has two top five and five top tens in his previous nine starts.

Indy Lights Returns
After a month off, Indy Lights is back in action at Milwaukee. The series has four race weekends, six races remaining in 2015 with a third of the remaining races on ovals.

Jack Harvey leads the championship with 242 points, 11 clear of Spencer Pigot. Pigot swept the Toronto weekend with Harvey finishing second in both races. Harvey finished fifth in his first Milwaukee start last year and Pigot won last year's Pro Mazda race at Milwaukee. Twenty-four points back of Harvey is Ed Jones, who had a tire failure end his first oval start at Indianapolis back in May. RC Enerson is 76 points behind his Schmidt Peterson teammate Harvey. Kyle Kaiser rounds out the top five, 101 points back of Harvey.

Two points behind Kaiser is Scott Anderson. Juan Piedrahita is coming off his best career finish in Indy Lights after finishing fourth in Toronto 2. The Colombian sits on 135 points. Ethan Ringel has 133 points and finished second in the Freedom 100, his first career ovals race, after starting on pole position, however his next best finish this season is sixth. Shelby Blackstock is coming off his best weekend of 2015 after finishing fourth and sixth at Toronto and the Andretti Autosport driver has 129 points. Max Chilton rounds out the top ten in the championship with 126 points, despite missing the Toronto round due to competing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Félix Serrallés sits a point back of Chilton.

Six of the last seven Milwaukee Indy Lights races have been won from pole position including the last five. All seven of those races have been won from the front row. The worst starting position for a Milwaukee Indy Lights winner is seventh, Derek Higgins in 1998 and Jeff Simmons in 2005.

The Indy Lights race is scheduled for 3:00 p.m. ET Sunday.

Fast Facts
This will be the sixth IndyCar race to take place on July 12th. Last year, Ryan Hunter-Reay won at Iowa on July 12th after making a late charge to the front after changing tires under the final caution period while the leaders stayed out.

Chevrolet has won 17 consecutive pole positions and three consecutive Milwaukee races and has swept the top four in all three of those races.

The Honda to score a top five at Milwaukee in the DW12-era was Josef Newgarden last year when he finished fifth.

Twelve times has the Milwaukee winner started outside the top ten. The most recent Milwaukee winner to come from outside the top ten was Ryan Briscoe in 2008, who won from 11th. The furthest back a Milwaukee winner has come from is 25th, when Mike Mosley won in 1981 as a promoter's option. Since Mosley's victory in 1981, the only other Milwaukee race to be won from outside the top ten was Al Unser, Jr. in 1994 when he won from 11th.

The average starting position for a Milwaukee winner is 4.464.

In the last 40 Milwaukee races, the average amount of lead changes is 6.35. In that time frame, only four races have featured a double-figure amount of lead changes. The most recent race to feature a double-figure amount of lead changes was in 2013 when 11 occurred as Ryan Hunter-Reay took victory.

In the ten IRL/IndyCar-sanctioned Milwaukee races, five races have had five lead changes occur (2005, 2008-09, 2011-12), four races have had eight lead changes occur (2004, 2006-06, 2014) and then there was the 2013 race that saw 11 lead changes occur.

Here is how the 13 drivers in the 250 starts club did in their 250th start:
Mario Andretti- Laguna Seca 1984. Finished 2nd, started on pole.
A.J. Foyt- Ontario 1977. Won the race from 6th on the grid.
Al Unser, Jr.- Mid-Ohio 1998. Finished 6th, started 7th.
Al Unser- Michigan 1982. Finished 4th, started 12th.
Michael Andretti- Fontana 1999. Finished 21st after an oil fire, started 6th.
Johnny Rutherford- Pocono 1982. Finished 12th after an accident, started 3rd.
Hélio Castroneves- Texas 2012. Finished 7th, started 15th.
Tony Kanaan- Milwaukee 2012. Finished 2nd, started 6th.
Paul Tracy- Surfers Paradise 2006. Finished 4th, started 3rd.
Bobby Rahal- Nazareth 1998. Finished 6th, started 9th.
Dario Franchitti- Long Beach 2013. Finished 4th, started on pole.
Gordon Johncock- Road America 1984. Finished 9th, started 12th.
Bobby Unser- Atlanta 1981. Finished 13th, started 2nd.

Possible Milestones:
Should Scott Dixon take the green flag, he will make his 250th IndyCar start, the 14th driver to reach that milestone.

Tony Kanaan needs to lead 141 laps to reach the 4,000 laps led milestone.

Will Power needs to lead 136 laps to reach the 3,000 laps led milestone.

Ryan Briscoe needs to lead 58 laps to become the twenty-seventh driver to join the 1,500 laps led club.

Marco Andretti needs to lead 14 laps to join the 1,000 laps led club.

Ed Carpenter needs to lead 96 laps to reach the 400 laps led milestone.

Graham Rahal needs to lead 9 laps to reach the 200 laps led milestone.

Charlie Kimball needs to lead 5 laps to reach the 100 laps led milestone.

Hélio Castroneves is one second place finish away from passing Bobby Rahal for second all-time in second place finishes. Rahal and Castroneves are tied with 37 runner-up finishes.

Scott Dixon becomes the first driver to win three races in 2015. Andretti puts two cars in the top ten. There will be at least one green flag period of over 100 laps. A driver in the top five of the championship will not finish in the top half of the field. A driver with three or fewer top ten finishes this season will score a top ten finish. The pole-sitter will lead less than half the race. Penske will not sweep the front row. Sleeper: Ryan Briscoe.