First Indianapolis, then Milwaukee… or it should be that way. It absolutely pains me that this race is not in its rightful place on the schedule; talk about date equity. However in other news, WE ARE COMING TO MILWAUKEE!! This event absolutely has no other option other than to be a landslide success. With so many links to the history of American open wheel racing slowly eroding from our landscape, this is one that is as nearly as important as IMS itself. (Ed: Blasphemy!) Milwaukee is the birthplace of oval track racing and has The Speedway beat by five years; this is the oldest operating race track in the world. If you can, please come to the Historic Milwaukee Mile this weekend and take in some high-tech racing at a track that has been around for longer than all but a handful of the world’s population.
Five Things to Watch
Aero – Our short oval aero configuration will be very similar to what we saw on the road and street courses with a few minor options for teams to use or not use; big wings for big downforce on a track with almost no banking. Even with only an eyelash over nine degrees in the turns, this aero package should make for squirming race cars and tired drivers by the end of it. I am very excited to see the full field in heavy downforce trim race around an oval. I know it’s not the most efficient way to push the car into the track, but there is something about open wheel racecars sporting massive wings. It’s just the way it should be, there’s just something about billboards and snowplows.
The High Line – Last week in Texas we saw drivers utilizing the second racing groove with pretty good success. This week, with the added downforce and lower banking we could see some outside passes once the tires start to wear and the track gets rubbered in. We have seen multiple outside passes successfully completed on the street and road courses this year, so with a similar aero package we could be in for some Scheckter-esque action. During a full fuel and tire stint the preferred line could be this very high line for a higher percentage of the run. As the tires wear the line naturally moves up the race track, and as the race goes on it becomes easier to find grip a lane and a half from the white line. This only means one thing… TK taking the checkers first is a LOCK.
Horsepower? – The quoted boost for short ovals is 140 KPa, or the same levels we saw during qualifying in Indianapolis. Best guess is this gives drivers 570 to 590 horsepower to play with. This isn’t quite the definition of the fire-breathing monster that should be racing at Milwaukee and the point-turn-squirt style of cornering won’t work well this year. If the drivers can get that high line working, they could hold on to a few more revs mid corner and carry that speed down the straight. Although we all would like more power, the high downforce coupled with the paltry horsepower could make for yet another weekend of racing for the ages.
Bump and Run – We have seen the wonky bumper save more than a few drivers from finding the wall, but we have yet to see heavy side to side contact. I want to see how well those spiffy horns protruding off of the side pods work. We know the bumpers, wings and noses are pretty stout when used as passing aids, and I’m sure the sidepods will be more than tested to their limit this weekend. To my untrained eye, the road/street front wing looks to be stouter than the oval wing and I’m sure we will find out how much abuse it can really take. It’s odd to talk about so much racing contact and indycar racing in the same sentence, but the wimpy engine means you have to be rough and the DW12 lets you. For now, I’m ok with this style, however I don’t think this is what indycar racing is at its core.
Championship – And now we find ourselves on the eve of contesting round eight of the championship; halfway already. Will Power still managed to extend his lead with an eight place finish last week because the contenders were asleep at the wheel. But all is not lost, we still have a few ovals for the field to catch him; not to mention if he could pull away by 100 points from P10 in seven races then the opposition can just as easily pull back those 100 points in the remaining nine rounds. But the contenders need to be there! Even if Will Power gives up enough points to lose the championship, his contenders will throw away any chance they have to catch him. We still have no decisive second place in the championship, but Power and Dixon are both strapped with a ten position penalty so this could be everyone else’s chance to make some ground up.
Pole – Alex Tagliani – Tags in the man and BHA may have hit on something for the ovals. Two in a row?
Winner – Tony Kanaan – No other way to win at Milwaukee other than hanging it all out on the high side
Epic Performer – James Hinchcliffe – Hinch has only finished outside of the top six once this year after hitting a pot hole in Detroit and crashing out. That kind of consistency is what wins championships; I don’t see any trace of a sophomore slump for the Canadian.
Biggest Loser – Ed Carpenter – Evolve or become extinct. I wrote these same words about Franchitti at the start of the season regarding the road courses. If Ed doesn’t change his attitude about the ovals he may be in real trouble. Hopefully this oval expert can put himself back together.
Indycars at Milwaukee just feels right. There is something about watching machines that are probably entirely too fast to be racing around a small one mile bullring… race around a small one mile bullring. It seems sort of fitting that the two most storied facilities we visit; where we have our richest history, are also two completely different types of beasts. Sao Paulo to Indy to Detroit to Texas to Milwaukee; our drivers really can do everything. I will actually be attending this one live in the flesh and I’ll be dragging my brother with me; two more butts in the seats. If your on the fence about coming, just do it! It will be nothing short of an amazing weekend.