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HIGHLY COMPETITVE INDY CAR SERIES HEADS TO MILWAUKEE
June 11th 2013 -
By:  Mark W. Theisen WEST BEND, WISCONSIN June 9, 2013:   The 2013 IZOD Indy Car Series has been wide open with 7 different race winners in the 8 races contested thus far and the beneficiary of such excitement are Wisconsin race fans as the Milwaukee Mile plays host to the next round, a 250 mile race as part of the Milwaukee IndyFest this coming Friday and Saturday at Wisconsin State Fair Park Speedway in West Allis.

     Dario Franchitti, Scott Dixon, Will Power, Ed Carpenter, Marco Andretti and Justin Wilson all winners in 2012 are amazingly absent from this years roster of winners and that can only bode well for increasing the impressive and diverse list of winners this year proving what I have said all along, anyone on any day can win in the series because of the closeness of competition that has emerged the past year and half.

    Since Tony Kanaan’s hugely popular win in the Indianapolis 500 on May 26th.  Mike Conway, Simon Pagenaud and Helio Castroneves have added their names to the list of race winners this year and with only James Hinchcliffe as a two time winner the chances of seeing someone new in victory lane at Milwaukee are excellent.

     Conway driving for Dale Coyne Racing won the opening round of the Dual In Detroit on Saturday June 1st as the series presented it’s first of three racing weekends in 2013 that feature two distinct races at the same track on different days and judging by the popularity of the entire weekend these type of events may become a permanent part of the schedule following their initial offerings this year.

     Conway, who has become a road and street course specialist this year, led on three different occasions in the first Dual for a total of 47 laps with Ryan Hunter-Reay finishing second and Wilson third.  The race was slowed by just 14 laps of caution as pit strategy and track position played a significant role in the final outcome of the race.  Conway, Hunter-Reay and Wilson were the only leaders of the event.

     Qualifying was determined the usual way for the opening Dual with the fastest speed over two sessions awarded the pole and it was Hunter-Reay winning that distinction.  It was the first IZOD Indy Car Series pole position win for both Conway and his Dale Coyne Racing Team.

     Qualifying for the pole for the second Dual was a 30 minute session with the field divided into two groups based on practice speeds on Friday with each group getting 12 minutes.  No blocking was allowed and the fastest of both sessions would win the pole and it was Conway who continued his torrid weekend pace setting up the possibility of winning a $50,000 bonus for sweeping both events in the same weekend.

     Unlike Saturday’s event Sunday’s was wrought with 6 caution flags for a total 22 laps being lost to the caution and it was Pagenaud coming out a winner, his first in the series edging James Jakes and Conway.  Unable to win the second event the $50,000 bonus now rolls over to $100,000 for the next double weekend coming in Toronto, Canada in July,  It could build to $150,00 if no one collects then for the final double in Houston, Texas in September.

     No stranger to victory at Texas Motor Speedway Castroneves gave his car owner, Roger Penske, his eighth win at the track in convincing and dominating fashion.
     In perhaps the first real runaway win of the season Castroneves led the final 132 laps of the race to become the first four-time winner of the Firestone 550, 228 laps or 342 miles on the 1.5 mile track in a race that went caution free the final 107 laps setting up a battle of the fittest, both in terms of car set-up, tire management, fuel management and just all out strategy and with it’s previous seven wins at the track the race fell into the hands of Penske.

     Power won the pole position for the race but did not lead until lap 54 in the second of two Penske cars entered in the race.  Andretti, jumping from his number two starting berth sprang to the lead and was in front for the first 53 laps.  He was in front again when Castroneves came shooting by on lap 97 and was never headed as his Dallara Chevrolet was perfect with the pit and track strategy to match finishing a comfortable 4.6919 seconds ahead of Hunter-Reay with Kanaan taking third to round out the podium.

     With his consistency throughout the first 8 races Castroneves now takes a 22 point lead in the standings on to Milwaukee with Hunter-Reay 27 behind followed by Kanaan at 64 and Takuma Sato at 65 points behind.  Series championships are won on consistency and that is the formula that Castroneves has preached since the season opener in Florida in March and he is right on in his belief that with a constant effort the wins will also come and on a hot Texas night he proved them right.

     Hunter-Reay driving for Andretti Autosports is the defending Milwaukee IndyFest champion in a race that is organized and promoted by a division of Andretti Autosports, Andretti Sports Marketing.

     Taking the race over literally at the last moment in 2012 in order to save Milwaukee as a host to the IZOD Indy Car Series the Andretti group organized a highly successful weekend that not only featured exciting racing but also promoted the weekend as a true family experience with something to do for every age group from child to adult with a large and diversified menu of food to satisfy anyone’s appetite.

     Now with a year under their belt and building on the pluses from last year and eliminating any minuses the group is ready to present their 2013 version that kicks off in downtown Milwaukee on Thursday night, June 13th, at the Hilton Milwaukee City Center.  The event, free to the public, will feature live music, food trucks, a car show and driver appearances in addition to a pit stop challenge and a House of Harley Davidson street parade all staged to "whet” one’s appetite for the race weekend itself.

     On Thursday Indy Lights and Pro Mazda Championship will be on the track at the Mile but those events are not currently open to the public.

     Gates open at 7:30 A.M. on Friday with the Family Fun Zone and Coors Light Music and Beer Garden open as a respite from Indy Lights, Pro Mazda and IZOD Indy Car practice and qualifying staged at various times during the day.  The Pro Mazda race is set for 6:00 P.M. with a concert by the MarchFourth marching band set to concludes the day.

     Saturday’s 250 mile race is set for 3:00 P.M. but get to the track early to soak up all the different amenities that are offered in addition to Indy Lights race at 1:00 P.M.

     Another concert by MarchFourth follows the race in the infield arena.

     The Milwaukee IndyFest weekend was a success last year and word has spread coupled with the excitement generated on the track by the Indy Car series thus far in 2013 makes this a must see event for all Wisconsin race fans.

     Tickets are still available:  www.milwaukeeindyfest.com or call 414-266-7100.

In other series notes: 
  
     Panther Racing has dismissed JR Hildebrand as its driver of the National Guard entry after his early exit from this year’s Indy 500.  Ryan Briscoe drove the car at Detroit and Oriol Servia was in the car at Texas yesterday with the plan for him to be at Milwaukee as well but with Briscoe a former winner on the Mile that might change.

     In his first outline of the future of Indy Car, Derrick Walker, president of competition, issued a long-term strategy outline on June 2nd that moves the highly anticipated introduction of the Aero configuration enhancements to the full season of 2015.  It had been hoped that the "kits” may have been available for the 500 next year, 2014, but it is his belief that is still too soon to bring them on board and more development time is needed.

    In the meantime Dallara and the series will devote their efforts to reduce the surface area of the underbody of the current chassis to reduce the potential for lift in preparation for the addition of the aero configurations in 2015.

     Engine development will continue between Chevrolet and Honda with hopes of gaining another supplier in the near future.

See YA at Milwaukee!!!