The loss of the Milwaukee Mile as Indycar’s traditional post-Indy 500 race has always rankled with me. Another bit of US open-wheel heritage lost in the divorce. Yet it’s position as the penultimate oval of the season could start to give it back some significance this weekend.
Aside from the potential for a record breaking eleventh winner of the season, this unique oval is going to be a stern test for the championship contenders. With no other oval like it on the calendar and banking that makes it more akin to a four turn road course, it is a potential banana skin. Which is exactly the opposite of what those chasing Will Power and Helio Castroneves need.
Even with the double points finale at Fontana, the likes of Hunter-Reay and Pagenaud are out of time to ‘chip away’ at the Penske points lead. Both need to win and hope Penske get the late season ‘yips’ that have affected them in recent years. History favours RHR over Pagenaud with the last two wins at the mile. A glance over results in general suggest drivers from road racing backgrounds tend to excel. So expect Kannan and Dixon – fresh from braking his losing steak – plus all 3 Penske cars, Sebastien Bourdais and Justin Wilson to figure for the win.
At the other end of the spectrum there are many drivers who need some big performances, starting this weekend, to secure their IndyCar futures. Rumours persist that James Hinchcliffe’s place at Andretti Autosport is shaky at best. Charlie Kimball has not taken the next step in his development after his breakout win last season (and Chip Ganassi doesn’t run race cars just for the fun of it). Equally the likes of Andretti, Rahal and Sato need to finish strong to make up for relatively disappointing seasons.
An exciting weekend at the Milwaukee Mile is definitely in prospect.