There was just over an hour of on track activity for IndyCar today, as they returned to the oldest race track in the world, the Milwaukee Mile. Josef Newgarden was the fastest in today’s practice, followed by Simon Pagenaud, Takuma Sato, Graham Rahal, and Tony Kanaan. Newgarden’s best lap was 21.5415 seconds, at 169.626 mph. There were a total of 1,425 laps turned by 24 drivers on Saturday.
The top 14 cars in practice were separated by less than a half second. Juan Montoya was 15th in today’s practice, but the championship leader takes a 46 point lead into tomorrow’s race. Six drivers are within 100 points of Montoya, and the season-ending race at Sonoma will pay double points.
With a busy day planned tomorrow, many teams were working on different setups. Sage Karam noted that his team will be focusing on finding speed tomorrow. The Rookie driver is looking to remain perfect at Milwaukee. He’s won here in Pro Mazda in 2011, then again in Indy Lights in 2013.
Tomorrow’s schedule will be action packed from start to finish. There will be a 45-minute practice session beginning at 10:15 AM ET, followed by qualifying which is set to start at 1:30 PM ET. Coverage for the race will begin at 5 PM ET on NBC Sports Network.
Below are highlights from today’s action, courtesy of IndyCar.
Will Power: “Milwaukee could not be coming at a better time for the Verizon Chevy team. We need a race to really jumpstart the rest of our season and Milwaukee did that for us last year. The win there kind of cemented our spot as the championship frontrunner, even though we still had to take care of business the rest of the year. When you have a race like we did last year at Milwaukee, it can’t help but give you supreme confidence heading into this year’s event. I had a great feeling about that race at the start of 2014 – it was one that I circled on the calendar – and I feel the same this year. It really comes down to qualifying at Milwaukee because passing can be difficult there. If we can win another Verizon P1 Pole Award, I’m confident we can keep our Verizon Chevy at the front of the field and contend for another Milwaukee win. If we do, hopefully we keep (Juan Pablo) Montoya and (Tony) Kanaan away from the cream puffs (given to the podium finishers). I don’t need them stuffed in my ears again!”
Juan Montoya: “I have never been more upset with a second-place finish than I was last year at Milwaukee. We had such a good car that it was a shame that we couldn’t win the race, but Will (Power) was just that dominant that day. If I have a Verizon Chevrolet that is even close to how good that car was, I will feel really good about our chances this weekend. I enjoy racing at Milwaukee a lot. It’s a different feel than anywhere else we go because it’s a fairgrounds track. It’s just a cool place with a lot of history. I’m glad I have been able to win there at least once in my career (2000). Unfortunately, last year there wasn’t a lot of passing and, as a result, Will was able to lead so many laps. I’m very anxious to see what the new aero package and downforce levels do to the racing when we get back.”
Helio Castroneves: “I’m proud of everyone on this Hitachi Chevy team for how consistent we have been this year. We are still in the hunt for the championship as the season is winding down and that’s all you can ask for as a driver. With the way Juan Pablo (Montoya) and Will (Power) are running right now, we are going to need to get a win here over the next couple of races to put us in the best position for the title. We saw last year how the win at Milwaukee jumpstarted Will’s push toward his championship. On the flip side, we didn’t have a very good race last year at The Mile. The handling on the No. 3 Chevy just wasn’t where we needed it to be, but I’m confident that the team will bring a car this weekend that will run up front. Milwaukee has been such an important track for the Verizon IndyCar Series for a long time and I would love to win there. We’ve been close with a lot of Verizon P1 (pole) Awards. This weekend would be an ideal time to get that first Milwaukee win.”
Ryan Briscoe: “It’s always great to race at The Milwaukee Mile. It’s where I got my first Indy car win and it’s also my ‘home’ race. My wife, Nicole, is from Wisconsin so I always have a ton of family at the race. It makes for an extra fun weekend. We’re aiming to get the No. 5 Arrow Electronics car up front again like we did in Fontana, but with a much different finish.”
Sage Karam: “I feel more confident than ever heading in to the race in Milwaukee this weekend. We got a great result of fifth under our belt at Auto Club Speedway in the last race. It was a career best for me in the series and it felt good. We’ve been in a position to run at the front a few times this season and to get it done was a big relief. I know what this team is capable of and I’ve had some success at Milwaukee in the ladder series, so I can’t wait to get back at it.”
Scott Dixon: “Milwaukee might be the only place that is older than the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Nothing has really changed over those hundred-plus years it’s been in existence. It has a lot of character and the track is definitely the toughest short track we go to – maybe even one of the toughest tracks that we’ve ever been to as a series, in my opinion. I was fortunate enough to win there in 2009 and had some great battles there with some podiums. But I’ve also had some dreadful days there, crashing two cars in four laps once in practice and qualifying and then going home before the race. I’ve had many highs and lows there, but as a city with the fans it’s definitely one of the top spots on the schedule.”
Tony Kanaan: “I think it was a good thing we had a weekend off after such an intense race in Fontana to regroup and put our focus back into the remainder of the season, especially Milwaukee. Over the years, I’ve had some strong finishes in Milwaukee and NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing has a lot of momentum coming off the last few races. This year’s race weekend schedule will be challenging with us practicing, qualifying and racing all in the same day. We’ll need to be on top of our game to make sure we have a good finish, hopefully another win, on the historic short track.”
Sebastien Bourdais: Milwaukee is one oval that I am pretty familiar with. I raced there several times in Champ Car and had a couple of good results, including a pole and a win in 2006. It is a different kind of oval because it doesn’t have the high banking like most of the ovals we race on, so it drives a little more like a road course. We have worked hard all year and have made progress with the setup up every oval race. Chevy has also given us good, reliable power and a strong aero package. There aren’t a lot of races left, so if we are going to have a chance to finish in the top five in the championship, the Hydroxycut-KVSH Racing team will have to have a good result in Milwaukee.”
Takuma Sato: “I like Milwaukee because you really have to ‘drive’ the car. It demands a lot of mechanical grip, as does everywhere, but it is important to have a stable car and good drivability. The driver has to (have) a lot of control with the throttle pedal and the steering wheel because this flat oval doesn’t have banking support. So the car is always very grip limited and it’s easy to slide or snap around.”
Graham Rahal: “Obviously it was good to win in Fontana and get that off my back. It certainly helps just to relieve some pressure and to not have to answer those questions any more, which is nice. It’s been busy and it probably hasn’t really hit me yet exactly what happened at Fontana, but it’s been fun to just get that behind us and move forward. I’m excited for Milwaukee ahead and the chance to put ourselves in a good place in this championship going forward as well. With Courtney’s race (fiancée Courtney Force was runner-up in the NHRA funny car event July 2-5 at Norwalk, Ohio) and everything else, it’s been pretty busy since the win. I haven’t really focused much on the win as much as I have been thinking about going forward and doing well at Milwaukee because this is a big part of our season right now. It’s a big turning point for us as we need to do everything that we can to maximize our points, so really I haven’t thought about it too much. I have just been focused on what’s ahead of us. I have always loved The Milwaukee Mile. It’s a pretty tricky flat track. It has a lot of history in its own right and that’s what makes it special to go there and get to race at that track. I have had up and downs at Milwaukee. The last couple of years have been tough for me there and my first few years were really good to me. With the pressure of the championship putting weight on our shoulders a little bit, this is going to be an even bigger weekend than I’ve ever had there. It’s going to be mainly a one-day event and that’s also pretty tricky, but I’m looking forward to it. Frankly, I’m just thrilled we are going back to such a historic venue. It should be a lot of fun. I think we will be pretty competitive. The aero kit is the biggest question right now and I don’t think we have a great answer as to what that is going to do or bring to us. But for sure I think we should be pretty solid. The team has done an excellent job. Eddie (Jones, race engineer) and I have spent a lot of time focused on what we need to do to improve this one. We recognize the mistakes that we’ve made this season and we recognize the mistakes we made last year as well and what we need to do going forward. Hopefully the team’s performance will be significantly better than it has been in the past there. There is a lot of weight on our shoulders at this point just simply because we have to perform well. We can’t make a mistake. We have to be on top of our game each and every weekend and with the condensed schedule at Milwaukee it’s going to make it even more difficult.”
Ed Carpenter: “I’m very excited to be coming back to Milwaukee for IndyFest. Milwaukee is one of the most fun and challenging tracks on the circuit and it’s always a driver favorite. We had a strong car last year, so I’m even more excited to be coming back with the new Chevy aero kit.”
Simon Pagenaud: “I really love the challenge of racing at Milwaukee. It’s a very tough, flat track that is unlike anywhere else we go all year. You need to have good stability on corner entry and exit because there is no banking to help you out. I’ve had some solid runs there in my few Milwaukee starts. Through history, Milwaukee has meant a lot to our sport over the years. The Penske Truck Rental Chevy team is building fantastic race cars for me. Our goal is to finish the season strong, get a win and continue building our program into one that will be a contender in the Verizon IndyCar Series for many years to come.”
Justin Wilson: “I love racing at Milwaukee, it was my first-ever oval race back in 2004 – just had a lot of fun. I’ve had some great times there, I’ve had some terrible times there. It doesn’t take much to swing the setup from being a race winner to being 10 laps down at the end. It’s very critical and very tough to race at, but one of the most rewarding tracks I’ve ever come across. Hopefully we can hit it just right, have a good strong race weekend and try and build from there.”
Carlos Munoz: “We’re heading to Milwaukee IndyFest this weekend, a short oval. We’ll see how everything is with the aero kits on the short oval track since this is the first of the season. Milwaukee hasn’t been a friend of mine in the past, but I’m looking forward to getting back on track and seeing what we can do this year.”
Marco Andretti: “Milwaukee has a ton of history – both as the oldest track in the U.S. and for my family (which has nine wins at the track). It’s a challenging short oval, but we need to crack the top five in points for the Snapple car. I’m aiming for a third pole there and would love a win at The Mile.”
Ryan Hunter-Reay: “We were just one lap away from a breakthrough result in Fontana, so hopefully we can put it all together this weekend at one of my favorite tracks, The Milwaukee Mile. We’ve had success at this track in the past and it would be a huge achievement to join the short list of four-time winners at the famed 1-mile oval.”
Jack Hawksworth: “I’m really looking forward to the race this weekend. Milwaukee is one of the most unique circuits on the calendar and is the oldest track we visit all season. The flat but fast nature of the circuit means finding the right balance is absolutely critical. Hopefully we can have a good weekend, especially since this is ABC Supply’s home race. I know (ABC Supply) will have upwards of 1,800 guests at the circuit cheering us on and it would be fantastic to reward them with a great finish for both cars.”
Josef Newgarden: “I’m excited to get to Milwaukee. It’s one of the best tracks we go to all year and it’s one of my favorites. It’s really unique as it’s the only flat 1-mile oval we race on. To me, it almost drives more like a road course than an oval. As a guy with a road racing background, I’ve always loved going to that place. This race is also extra special because we have (Milwaukee-based) Direct Supply on the car there. With their headquarters nearby and their support all year long, it’s important for us to put on a good show and enjoy the weekend with them.”
Practice Photos via IndyCar