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Ryan Hunter-Reay Wins Milwaukee IndyFest 225


Ryan Hunter-Reay - Anne Proffit photo

Ryan Hunter-Reay - Anne Proffit photo

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Ryan Hunter-Reay has a thing about The Milwaukee Mile. It's the site of his first Champ Car victory in 2004, where he led all 250 laps in a walkaway win.

RHR didn't have it quite that easy Saturday afternoon in his No. 28 Andretti Autosport DHL/Sun Drop Citrus Soda Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone IZOD IndyCar Series race car, but he did lead the most laps, 83, and beat Chevy-powered Tony Kanaan (No. 11 KV Racing Technology GEICO/Mouser Electronics entry by a huge gap of 5.1029 seconds.

James Hinchcliffe gave promoter Michael Andretti two cars on the podium when he finished third in the No. 27 GoDaddy.com Chevy for his second Indy car podium.

In earning his sixth Indy car victory, the 31-year-old Fort Lauderdale, FL resident took his third victory with Andretti Autosport and is the most successful American driver on the circuit.

This victory gives Michael Andretti five wins at The Mile as a driver and four as team owner!

"What a race," said RHR. "I know we would all have liked to see a little more passing, but from this car it was so busy, just trying to hang on to it. Hanging on to those last few restarts were too much--I don't need that! Milwaukee and INDYCAR go hand in hand--this is the oldest racing facility in the country and we just won!"

Oriol Servia came from 20th to finish fourth in the Panther/Dreyer & Reinbold Chevy, again putting on a great display of passing most of the field, while Kanaan's KV teammate EJ Viso (No. 5 CITGO), who led 27 laps finished fifth. Helio Castroneves' No. 3 Penske Truck Rental Chevy was sixth, while Alex Tagliani was the best Honda finisher in the Team Barracuda/BHA entry in seventh place. Ed Carpenter (Chevy), Graham Rahal (Honda) and rookie Rubens Barrichello (Chevy)  completed the top ten finishers.

There was plenty of attrition among the 25 entries (18 finished) and the race started a bit late after showers blew through the Milwaukee area around noontime. Polesitter Dario Franchitti, trying to a second straight win led the field for the first 63 laps, pitting just before the first caution on lap 67 for sole Lotus driver Simona de Silvestro's smack of the Turn 4 wall. Green flew again on lap 94 with Viso in the lead, but Castroneves then took over as caution flew again on lap 94 when Texas winner Justin Wilson hit the Turn 1 wall.

Castroneves would continue to lead through the third caution, for two separate incidents, the first between Takuma Sato and James Jakes (both driving Honda-powered Indy cars) in the second turn, while JR Hildebrand's Chevy stalled in the third turn. This caution lasted from laps 108-121. Hunter-Reay took over the lead on the 142nd lap and never relinquished it, even as the fourth caution came on lap 182 for moisture and the fifth when Franchitti smacked the Turn 3 wall on the 194th lap.

There was one grievous error by INDYCAR race control on the 124th lap, issuing an erroneous penalty to Scott Dixon for jumping the start on lap 103 and using the wrong race scoring system to pursue that penalty. INDYCAR president of competition Beaux Barfield admitted the error post-race (a lot of good that does championship contender Dixon): "When we did our complete download after the race, the clock on our replay machine was 36 seconds off from the official time of the race," Barfield told RACER.com.

"Thirty-six seconds happened to match up perfectly to the lap before, based on these circumstances. Technology got us and I take full responsibility for it being the wrong call. Certainly I have my issues going for it. It was the perfect storm with what we were seeing on the video," he said.

Even though he finished 12th and was never a factor in this race, Will Power (No. 12 Verizon Chevy) retains first place in the championship with 274 points, while Hinchcliffe is back in second with 243 points. Dixon is third with 239 (and just think what would have happened without the penalty as he'd been running in the top 10 and finished 11th), Hunter-Reay is fourth (233) and Castroneves is fifth (231).

The Indy cars have another Saturday oval date upcoming next weekend with their annual trip to Iowa Speedway's  0.875-mile bullring. Chevrolet has strengthened its lead in the manufacturers' race over Honda by taking first through sixth places at this Milwaukee IndyFest 225 and its first win since Sao Paulo (a street course) in April!
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