Hunter-Reay dominates at Milwaukee
6 June 2004
As if notching up his first career Champ Car pole wasn't enough at Milwaukee, Ryan Hunter-Reay lead every single one of the 250 laps at the Milwaukee Mile to take a dominant victory.
Under floodlights as the race quickly moved from the evening light into the darkness of night, Twenty-three year old Hunter-Reay was simply unhindered as he doubled his Champ Car win tally in convincing fashion.
Gaston Mazzacane crashed out before the half-way mark bring out the caution whilst a late yellow came out for debris on the track leaving a 50 lap chase to the chequered.
Championship leader entering the race, Sebastian Bourdais, was the first retirement, whilst Paul Tracy also exited the race after looking too far to the outside of team-mate Patrick Carpentier.
The first lap saw Brit Justin Wilson who made the step from oval race debut to oval race first crash as quick as possible as he half spun and made contact with the wall. No other cars were involved, and it was a mere nose injury to his Wilson's Lola. Taking three laps for his nose-job the gritty Brit was soon back in the chase and was to end the race just shy of the top ten. Not bad for an oval debut.
Fifty laps in it was Sebastian Bourdais who collected the wall after some push in his McDonald's backed car. This ended the run of the hitherto championship leader as he retired and ended up the day down in fourth place in the standings.
Just ten laps after Bourdais' au revoir, Paul Tracy opted for the high side of team-mate Patrick Carpentier and a brief romantic moment with the wall ensued for the Champ Car reigning champ.
Come the eighty-mile mark the race's biggest crash saw Gaston Mazzacane on his Dale Coyne Racing debut make an early race exit in an injury-free bodywork-shedding spin. It was a short debut.
After that it was easy running for Hunter-Reay save for two debris clearing yellow periods, ending with 50 and 35 laps to go, or that it what it seemed to be until the last couple of laps.
With two laps remaining Roberto Gonzalez made a quick visit to the pits with a car on fire, which was extinguished quickly, whilst Rodolfo Lavin collected the wall meaning the race ended under yellows.
“It's a shame, we had a really strong car in the race, we had a penalty at the beginning but we went through that and we starting going forward really quick and up into seventh position then two laps to go we had a problem,” explained Lavin afterwards. “I lost the rear end and corrected, then went really, really high and touched the wall, I just couldn't control it.” No matter, Lavin was still classified in ninth place come the chequered flag.
Hunter-Raey's performance marks the first time since Bobby Rahal at Nazareth in 1992 led a Champ Car oval race from start to chequered flag.
"It's great, what a day, geez!" said the race winner as fireworks exploded overhead. "It was such a battle – I mean, with the traffic you couldn't relax for a second, it was unbelievable. The team did a great job though – I owe it all to them.”
So any concerns from inside the cockpit for the race winner? “Just the traffic,” he explains. “Geez, there were some squirly cars out there, it was tough for sure. I just had to keep it all together and stay sharp the entire time."
Coming home in second place after seeing off the early race challenge of his team-mate, was Patrick Carpentier. “I tried really hard,” he explained, “for a while I was behind him [Hunter-Reay] but it was getting a little bit too loose, the whole car was just sliding, just going and going, and I said 'man, there's no way I'm going to catch this guy so I settled for second and at the end I just stayed there and tried to save second place.”
So what of the side by side incident with Paul Tracy? “I went really sideways at the exit there, and I just kept the car in the middle of the track and went in there, and I think I was deeper than Paul thought I would go and he tried to go faster on the outside and he went way too fast – he tried to make it but then he couldn't make it, but that's racing,” reckoned Carpentier to the encounter.
Ultimately, and undeniably, today was Ryan Hunter-Reay's day, and it's unlikely it will be his last Champ Car win.
1. Ryan Hunter-Reay
2. Patrick Carpentier
3. Michel Jourdain Jr
4. Jimmy Vasser
5. AJ Allmendinger
6. Bruno Junqueira
7. Oriol Servia
8. Mario Dominguez
9. Rodolfo Lavin
10. Mario Haberfeld