18 June 2012
Hunter-Reay charges to Milwaukee win
The initial attempt at a restart had been thwarted by an unusually slow Justin Wilson, and while he was up to speed for the next try at a green flag the cause for his initial sluggishness became graphically clear on lap 94 when smoke and flame burst from the back of the #18 Dale Coyne Racing car.
"It was a disappointing end to the day," said the Englishman. "We had a great race car and we were making good progress during that first stint, picking guys off one by one. Then we got caught out with that yellow and after that we were trying to come back through
"On that last restart I lost second gear, which is why I dropped to the back," he explained. "We found third gear eventually, but having to use that for the restart made it tough. I was still able to pass guys, so I'm just disappointed that we're out of the race."
Unfortunately his compatriot and team mate James Jakes would have little better luck: he got taken out of the race just minutes later when Takuma Sato spun on the low line and crashed into Jakes, putting them both into the SAFER barrier.
"I just think Takuma got low on the inside and was loose and I was caught on the outside, and he just came straight in the side of me," he said. "You can see it there on the TV. Maybe his banzai moves are a little bit too much at times."
Sato refuted that 'banzai' comment and pointed out that he had been racing for a top position while Jakes was already a lap down at the time the accident happened.
"After the restart I was side-by side a couple of times and one stage it was with James Jakes, who was a lap down," explained the Japanese former F1 driver, now with Rahal Letterman Lannigan. "We were side-by side from Turn 4 and on the main straight into Turn 1 I was on the inside and was kind of boxed in. I tried to hang on but the track was so slippery on the extreme inside. The car started sliding and we ran out of space."
Helio Castroneves had taken the lead under the previous Wilson-sparked caution by staying out while others pitted under yellow, and he led again into the next waved-off restart on lap 102 and the successful one next time around on lap 103, the Penske team clearly intent on making a long-run fuel-conservation strategy work for him. It looked like his main challengers were set to be Ryan Hunter-Reay and Ganassi's Scott Dixon.
Dixon had been one of the big movers so far in the race, slicing through the field to get as high as third place having started from 21st position following a lacklustre qualifying and a ten-place grid penalty for an engine change. Just when it seemed that everything was coming together for the Kiwi came news that he'd been handed a drive-thru penalty for jumping the restart, putting him right back down again.
Dixon uttered the usual protestations of innocence, and the TV replays showed him doing ... precisely nothing wrong. Everyone scratched their heads. Then the tape was wound back another minute to that waved-off restart (aborted by Castroneves going too early) and yes, arguably that showed Dixon moving too soon, but then only because Viso had been slow to react and slowed up everyone else. In any case, the green flag had never been shown that time so Dixon could hardly be penalised for a restart that never happened.
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