Dario Franchitti raced off into the lead when the green flag came out at the Milwaukee Mile and looked for a time to be out of reach of the rest of the field, but as tyre wear became an issue he found himself ousted from the lead by first Tony Kanaan and later Helio Castroneves and looked to be up against it to claim the race win.
Instead, a late crash for Kanaan and a puncture for Castroneves essentially handed the race to Dario in the final laps and it proved to be a relatively comfortable win for him over Graham Rahal and Oriol Servia, who got their season-best finishes; Danica Patrick finished in fifth, her first top five of 2011.
"That was a hell of a run today," said Franchitti, who led a total of 161 laps in picking up his third victory of the season and second at the historic Mile. "The first part of the race I thought I had a bit of an advantage on everybody ... Then Tony came marching along and he looked really, really strong, and he gave me a hard time as usual.
"Very tough, as usual here. Tough on your own just balancing the car, but then you get in traffic and it gets really difficult. It's the same for everyone, he continued. "To win here at Milwaukee is always special. It's such hard work and a such a hard race."
While Dario praised his firm friend Kanaan for their on-track hard-but-fair battle, he was angry with Helio Castroneves whom he accused of repeatedly blocking him.
Will Power - who bided his time in the early stages of the race after qualifying in a disappointing 17th place after a "big moment" in qualifying on Saturday - worked his way up steadily to finish in fourth place, which means that the IndyCar championship lead is now tied between Power and Franchitti, after Dario got bonus points for pole position and most laps led in the race (161 of 225.)
"A couple double file restarts were good for me, a couple were bad," said Power, happy to get the #12 as car up the timesheets as he had. "I guess we are equal on points now. Good job by Dario. He came back after Texas to teach us a lesson, so I guess we will have to be quick at Iowa!"
A return to the classic Milwaukee Mile short track meant a return to the classic style of IndyCar racing, which included some scary wheel-to-wheel battles and several crashes.
Ryan Hunter-Reay got loose and hit the wall on the opening lap; Ana Beatriz made a slow-speed glancing impression on the wall on lap 67; Alex Lloyd got loose and spun on lap 80, collecting Sebastian de Saavedra against the wall on the process; JR Hildebrand got onto the marbles in turn 4 and crashed on lap 124 in an uncomfortable reminder of his Indy 500 mistake; and KV Racing Technology team mates EJ Viso and Tony Kanaan both went into the wall in separate accidents on laps 165 and 195 respectively.
Their remaining KV team mate Takuma Sato had an eventful early pit stop where he collided with Scott Dixon and then went on to his his own crew member when he finally made it into the correct pit box. The race also compromised Dixon's afternoon as he was spin into the pit wall by the collision which damaged his front wing, and as a result he finished a disappointing seventh place despite a valiant midrace fightback.
Simona de Silvestro took the green flag after her Saturday qualifying crash, but the car's handling was poor from the start and she parked up on lap 14. AJ Foyt also took the decision to park Vitor Meira after the team failed to get acceptable handling on the #14. Alex Tagliani also struggled with a car well off the race pace in the early stages but continued to circulate on track and ended up 18th and 29 laps down despite still running at the end of the race.Full times and positions