MILWAUKEE, Wisconsin — American Ryan Hunter-Reay won the Milwaukee IndyFest Saturday, capturing his sixth career IndyCar victory and second triumph at the Milwaukee Mile oval.
Hunter-Reay passed Brazil’s Helio Castroneves for the lead with 83 laps remaining, kept his edge after the final series of pit stops and sped away from runner-up Tony Kanaan of Brazil on a final restart with 24 laps remaining.
“The car was awesome,” Hunter-Reay said. “I’m happy. We couldn’t have planned it any better.”
Hunter-Reay, whose first Milwaukee victory came in a 2004 Champ-Car event, had not won since last year at New Hampshire.
“That was one of the most physical races I have ever driven. I was just hanging onto it the whole time,” Hunter-Reay said. “You are just always on edge, staying on top of it, saving the tires. We cut it close a couple times.”
Pole-sitter Dario Franchitti of Scotland crashed out with 32 laps remaining, dimming his hopes to repeat his season points crown and setting up the restart which Hunter-Reay timed perfectly to seize command for good.
“We lost some speed during the race and I didn’t have enough for the guys in front,” Kanaan said. “I tried on the restart but I saw how bad Ryan wanted it and I thought ‘Well, we’ll take second place.’”
Australian Will Power kept the season points lead with 274 but Canada’s James Hinchcliffe moved into second, 31 points adrift, with a third-place finish over 225 laps at Milwaukee.
New Zealand’s Scott Dixon was third in points on 239 followed by Hunter-Reay on 233 and Castroneves on 231.
Franchitti, who finished 19th, jumped to the early lead with front-row neighbor Hunter-Reay just behind him until a caution period during pit stops at lap 64 allowed Venezuela’s E.J. Viso to move in front. Castroneves stayed out when most of the field pitted at lap 95 to take the lead and kept it even after Japan’s Takuma Sato crashed out for the fourth race in a row on lap 109, taking out England’s James Jakes as well.
“Maybe his ‘Banzai’ moves are a little too much at times,” Jakes said.
It was the seventh early exit in eight races for Sato, who finished 20th.
Castroneves led until his car wobbled in the third turn and Hunter-Reay passed him. Castroneves pitted early in hopes of holding off rivals to the end but after the leaders refueled, Hunter-Reay reclaimed the lead to stay.
Drivers move to Iowa next weekend for the ninth event in what is now a 15-race season after a planned August race in China was dropped. — AFP