20 June 2011
'Hard work' gives Franchitti Milwaukee win
The caution gave everyone a chance to pit under yellow, although a front left tyre gun problem cost Oriol Servia lot of positions and pushed him back to 12th place. Franchitti also clipped one of the tyres left right out at the edge of Will Power's pit box, something that can trigger a penalty, but IndyCar seemed to be looking the other way and Dario got away with it this time.
As a result Kanaan and Franchitti still led at the restart, and for the first time Will Power was showing signs of life and moving into the outskirts of the top ten, where he would engage in a brief but thrilling wheel-to-wheel battle for position with Scott Dixon who was still languishing in the midfield after his earlier pit stop incident with Sato.
History repeated itself at the restart, with Dario's pace back to his best at least temporarily and he reclaimed the lead on lap 135; he retained it for nearly twenty laps before his tyres faded on him again and Kanaan took back the position on lap 154. On this evidence, the eventual winner was going to be decided by how close to the end the final caution or tyre change of the afternoon turned out to be.
Caution number five came out on lap 165 when EJ Viso threw away all that early strong running by spinning the #59 into the wall at turn 4 after banging wheels with Ed Carpenter.
"I was passing the lap car and I got high and went into the marbles and it sent me into the wall," said Viso. "I feel bad for the mechanics and my crew because they put this car together for me ... I really think I had a good car, maybe not as fast as the leaders but we had a car to finish in the top five."
With sixty laps left to run, everyone was now well inside the window to make it to the end with one final pit stop, and so everyone duly took the opportunity to come in. Penske's pit crew did an astonishing job to return Helio Castroneves to the track in the lead ahead of Franchitti and Kanaan.
Dario was hoping to get one of his turbo-boosted starts and reclaim the lead at this critical juncture, but he was frustrated when Charlie Kimball emerged from his wave-around through the pit lane right in front of the leaders, combined with some serious blocking from the #3 that Franchitti took serious objection to: "It was Helio's usual blocking crap," he said afterwards, admitting that he was "still so spittin' mad from what Helio did on that restart."
Dario had to pull back and it gave Kanaan the opportunity to ease past him and demote the #10 to third place. Suddenly, the win that had been a mere formality for Dario was looking out of reach after all. But instead, just when it looked like we were set for a close three-way battle for the race win, we were about to lose two of the players from contention.
First came reports from the Penske pits that telemetry was showing that the #3 had a tyre going down: minutes later and no data was needed, the left rear was visibly flat even while Castroneves remained seemingly unaware of the problems and still circulated at speeds of up to 160mph on it. It demonstrated just how relatively unimportant the left-rear is on an anti-clockwise oval that he was able to carry on as long as he was, but the risk of a dangerous blow-out was growing by the second.
And then the crash came - but it wasn't Castroneves. It was, astonishingly, Tony Kanaan who went into the wall at turn 4 instead
Click on relevant pic to enlarge
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