Next up is the legendary Milwaukee mile and the promise of more wheel-to-wheel action at a less frenetic and dangerous pace. Five wide racing will not be on the cards this weekend but multiple grooves on the wide turns will give drivers plenty of scope to race.
Honda on the rise?
Fontana saw Honda bag their first legitimate win against Chevrolet this season. With the aero packages stripped back, the Honda configuration was more competitive. Paul Tracy suggested weeks ago that Honda’s engine was as strong as Chevys and that teams were limited by the aero. Fontana seemed to bare that out so Milwaukee could see normal service resumed as we revert to road course set ups. But with the psychological boost from Fontana still fresh I think the likes of Rahal, Andretti, Sato and Justin Wilson could be in the mix.
In the latter stages at Fontana Ryan Hunter-Reay showed signs of getting on terms with his Andretti Autosports machine. The excuse of Honda’s inferior package is unraveling for RHR as team mates and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing make solid progress. Ryan knows what it takes to win in Wisconsin and a strong showing this weekend will set him up for a good run to the season finale. That is the best he can hope for now and would represent a good springboard in to 2016, and a great way to forget about 2015.
Strategy time for Montoya
Few would argue that the 2015 championship is now Juan Montoya’s to lose. Consequently how he approaches the remaining five races, starting in Wisconsin, is pivotal.
A 46-point gap to Will Power is not comfortable enough to run conservatively and at any rate it is not Montoya’s style. For any racer, even one as confident and self-assured as Montoya, the closer a championship title comes, the greater the risk versus reward anxiety plays on their mind. The caliber of racer challenging Montoya ensures a DNF for the two-time Indy 500 winner could swing the point standings against him very quickly. Keeping the finishes coming is therefore imperative.
On the other side of the Penske garage Will Power’s title defence is starting to unravel. Taken out in the wild race at Fontana despite being in with a shout of victory, the Australian needs to start outscoring Montoya. Power with his mind focused and his foot down is nearly untouchable. However as we have seen countless times before, once the doubts creep in his ability to execute takes a dip. A good result on Sunday is a must
Fontana was a new low in terms of attendance. The most thrilling and dangerous race in several years was played out to a paltry crowd. A healthy attendance at the mile is therefore critical.
The team at Milwaukee are always working hard to promote their race and deserve a good attendance on that basis alone. Beyond that a poor attendance after Fontana will be a worry for the series. Yes there are external factors messing with oval attendances but at a time when their is a general discord on the decreasing oval presence on the schedule, fans just do not appear interested in the ones already there. It will be hard to make a case for more ovals if no one wants to watch the existing ones.