It was almost a perfect day for Michael Andretti: as promoter of this year's Milwaukee IndyFest, he got to put on a show that was both better presented and better attended than previous years, and got to announce that the contract was already signed to do it all over again in 2013. And as team owner, he got to put two of his drivers onto the podium at the end of the race itself.
The one thing that didn't go according to plan was the weather, which started pouring down shortly before midday and left teams, drivers and media milling around under tents in the infield waiting for the rain to stop and the one-mile oval to get dried off so that they could go racing. It wasn't anywhere in the league of the embarrassment of Detroit Belle Isle's mid-race delay for track rebuilding work, but it was a delay that everyone could have done without.
When everyone finally got summoned to their cars and the green flag came out 90 minutes behind schedule to get things underway, they were facing a very different track form the one that they had left after Friday qualifying, now that all the rubber that had been laid down had been washed off.
"The rain delay through us for a bit of a loop," admitted James Hinchcliffe after the race. "That first ten was a bit stale, there was no two grooves. We had to take some time to build that, but after that first stop it went good ol' fashioned Milwaukee. It was great short track racing, cars were falling off, guys were having to drive it."
The best place to be in such circumstances is out in the clear air at the front, and Dario Franchitti duly used his out-of-nowhere pole position to take the lead for the first run of the 225 mile race, with fellow front-row man Ryan Hunter-Reay slotting into second.
It was a routine opening stint, with only Josef Newgarden deviating from standard operating procedure by coming into the Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing pits on lap 24. He was penalised for driving over an air hose that one of the pit crew was too slow to pull clear, but it didn't matter anyway: the early stop was due to fuel pressure alarms, and the glitch wasn't going away, forcing him to park on lap 48.
The rest of the field continued through to pit stops that began around lap 60, but were then interrupted by Simona de Silvestro spinning and crashing on lap 67 while racing with Tony Kanaan and Oriel Servia.
"I just made a mistake," she admitted. "TK passed me and Oriol tried to tuck behind him, and I just got in the marbles. It's just unfortunate. Sometimes you make mistakes; that's what happens."
Helio Castroneves had briefly led under the caution but was among those to come in for a pit stop, so when the restart came on lap 79 it was EJ Viso in the lead alongside his KV Racing Technology team mate Rubens Barrichello, the two having been among those to stay out.