Under-fire Aussie Ryan Briscoe silenced his critics with a hard-fought victory over Indy500 champion Scott Dixon at a traffic-strewn Milwaukee Mile.
Dixon dominated the ABC Supply/A.J. Foyt 225 after the early challenge of Marco Andretti had faded but Team Penske’s Briscoe, who had dropped as low as 14th in the early stages, struck as the field began to contemplate its final round of pit stops.
Briscoe was the first to come in and regained the lead after everyone else had followed suit. He then fought off sustained and determined pressure from Target Chip Ganassi’s Dixon until a late crash brought out the safety car and the race finished under caution.
The victory, Briscoe’s first, is a welcome boost for the Australian after his controversial collision with Danica Patrick in the Indy500 and a series of disappointing performances in his debut season.
Pre-race attention had focused on Andretti and Graham Rahal, who qualified on the front row together 16 years after their fathers had done the same in a New Hampshire CART race. But if both youngsters will remember qualifying, they also will both want to forget the race.
Rahal slipped back in the early laps but recovered as the race went on and was running third on lap 129 when he hit the wall, exiting the race as the second retirement – an improvement on the Indy500, where he was the first.
Andretti led the early part of the race but suffered handling problems that dropped him to midfield. Then, with just a handful of laps to go, he lost the car while racing Ed Carpenter and triggered a four-car accident that launched Vitor Meira into the air and almost took out the leader Briscoe.
Following Briscoe and Dixon, the next few places were traded for most of the race between Helio Castroneves, Dan Wheldon and Tony Kanaan. In the end it was Kanaan, the only Andretti Green driver to mount a sustained challenge on a subdued day for the team, who took third with Wheldon and Castroneves rounding out the top five.
Wheldon, who raced with a special helmet designed in a hospital competition by nine-year-old cancer sufferer Sophie Banker, said a too-conservative race set-up had hampered his performance.
The Milwaukee Mile is a circuit where several of the ex-Champ Car teams had some experience and their drivers performed strongly. Oriol Servia and Justin Wilson came through the field to take sixth and seventh despite a first lap incident where Servia was forced into the pitlane with a damaged nose and Wilson lost ground while taking evasive action.
The Newman Haas Lanigan driver said: “It was really hectic. On the first lap I passed a few cars but then someone shot past me into the pits and I had to get out of the way and dropped to last.”
He made up ground until he was in the top 10, but was then forced into an extra stop because he was running short of fuel while the pitlane was closed for a caution period: “That really cost us – but otherwise it’s been a good day.”
Darren Manning, driving for race sponsors AJ Foyt and the ABC Supply Company, had an anonymous afternoon, keeping out of trouble and finishing 13th.
Dixon now leads the championship by 28 points from Castroneves. Wheldon is third and Kanaan fourth, then Patrick, Andretti and Servia in a close contest for fifth to seventh.
Where they finished
|1||Ryan Briscoe||Penske||225 laps|
|2||Scott Dixon||Ganassi||+ 0.0487|
|3||Tony Kanaan||Andretti Green||+ 1.8413|
|4||Dan Wheldon||Ganassi||+ 2.9314|
|5||Helio Castroneves||Penske||+ 4.6704|
|6||Oriol Servia||KV||+ 14.2217|
|7||Justin Wilson||Newman/Haas/Lanigan||+ 1 lap|
|8||EJ Viso||HVM||+ 1 lap|
|9||Danica Patrick||Andretti Green||+ 1 lap|
|10||Buddy Rice||Dreyer & Reinbold||+ 1 lap|
|11||Townsend Bell||Dreyer & Reinbold||+ 1 lap|
|12||Hideki Mutoh||Andretti Green||+ 1 lap|
|13||Darren Manning||Foyt||+ 2 laps|
|14||Will Power||KV||+ 2 laps|
|15||Ryan Hunter-Reay||Rahal Letterman||+ 2 laps|
|16||Enrique Bernoldi||Conquest||+ 3 laps|
|17||AJ Foyt IV||Vision||+ 3 laps|
|18||Bruno Junqueira||Dale Coyne||+ 3 laps|
|19||John Andretti||Roth||+ 3 laps|
|20||Ed Carpenter||Vision||+ 4 laps|
|21||Marco Andretti||Andretti Green||+ 4 laps|
|22||Vitor Meira||Panther||+ 5 laps|
|23||Mario Moraes||Dale Coyne||+ 7 laps|
|24||Jaime Camara||Conquest||+ 7 laps|
|25||Graham Rahal||Newman/Haas/Lanigan||+ 96 laps|
|26||Mario Dominguez||Pacific Coast||+118 laps|