DIXON'S PENALTY CALL – One part of the reason the Penske/Ganassi juggernaut came unglued in Milwaukee was a penalty assessed to Ganassi's Scott Dixon, who was ruled to have jumped a restart on lap 103.
The crux of the issue was that while there was some agreement – after initial confusion – Dixon had committed a violation, the fact the restart was waved off should have served to nullify the penalty. It took until the next restart some 20 laps later before the penalty was announced, and the infraction had actually occurred on the aborted restart.
Dixon's luck with officiating has been less than stellar this year. It's easy to forget, but at Long Beach, his car was pulled off the track when it was stopped prior to Turn 8, and was never towed back to the pits. Between that and Milwaukee, Dixon and team could certainly feel shorted.
The penalty assessed was a mistake as admitted by IndyCar president of competition Beaux Barfield. He addressed the assembled media after the race to explain the situation, and did so in great detail. He admitted the mistake could make him and his fellow officials in race control rather “gun-shy” going forward.
Last year, Barnhart had told AUTOSPORT's Mark Glendenning and I in Baltimore that, “Officials can be right 98 percent of the time, but the 2 percent they're not, they'll get called on it.” I think this is a case where it's an instance that the mistake was made, admitted, and worthy of “getting called on it.” I just hope it doesn't damage Dixon's championship chances for the remainder of the season. At least at this point, Dixon has eight races to make up the difference – rather than a penalty occurring at a later stage in the year.
ABC'S GOODS AND BADS – ABC had a few more highlights with its Milwaukee broadcast although there were the usual moments of frustration. The main one, of course, was a second straight shuttling off to ESPNEWS after rain delayed the start, although Milwaukee ABC affiliate WISN stayed with the race through the duration.
When the race actually got going after ABC filled the hour-and-a-half delay with various interviews (hitting both Dale Coyne drivers, Josef Newgarden and Katherine Legge showed how far back in the field they got) and packages, at least in Milwaukee, ABC did not show a commercial until after the first 69 laps at the first caution flag. Considering ABC has been widely panned for having too many ad breaks, it was a refreshing change.
ABC also did well to capture Justin Wilson's outside pass of Simon Pagenaud in real time on lap 58. While it may seem pointless to give credit for something which should be expected, often times a move like that gets missed live and is shown on replay.
Invariably there were missteps – the biggest one to me was the positioning of the running order bar across the top of the screen. The picture to the right is about an accurate depiction. At most tracks this makes little difference, but at Milwaukee, with the way the camera angle showed the front straight below the bar, you could see far more empty seats than fans – a greater majority sits in the 300 and 400 sections of the grandstands, which are higher up.
GETTING THE SPEED SENSATION BACK – From a pure visual perspective, the new Dallara DW12 looked better on track at Milwaukee than the prior Dallara IR03, and sounded better, but it didn't look particularly fast. Considering this track has seen speeds averaging well north of 170mph in the past, with the all-time mark a full 185.500 set by Patrick Carpentier in another turbocharged Champ Car in 1998, the cars at no point seemed like the rocketships they should be around the track.
“I still think there's too much downforce here,” Will Power opined after qualifying. “We had a good start taking it off at Texas. I definitely think we need the road course horsepower and to take some more downforce off.”
Similarly, Wilson said his car felt good in practice, but still felt relatively “slow.” That was before his explosive blow-up before the 100-lap mark...
Race speeds averaged in the 150mph range, with the fastest lap a 159.293 by Hunter-Reay on lap 205. Franchitti's pole speed was only 168.737 over two laps.
OTHER TIDBITS – Tony Kanaan may not want to return to the yellow and green livery which he ran in the first two races. He entered Long Beach last in points; in the five races he's driven a blue car (either GEICO/Mouser Electronics, No. 11, LEFT, or just Mouser) since, he's finished 11th or better with four top-six finishes.
The top Honda runner at Milwaukee, Alex Tagliani has now also improved his finishing position in each of the four races he's driven back with the manufacturer, and climbed from 26th to 19th in points.
Marco Andretti has completed the first half of the season without a top-10 finish, and Takuma Sato now has four consecutive DNFs since being a lap away from possibly winning the Indianapolis 500. They both need a turnaround to start this weekend at Iowa. Both had success there last year, with Sato recording his first career pole and Andretti his first win in five years.
Helio Castroneves, Ed Carpenter and Simon Pagenaud have made it to the finish in each of the first eight races. Carpenter posted his best result of the season Saturday at Milwaukee, an eighth place from 22nd on the grid for his first-year team. Considering there's been a handful of races where Carpenter has run better than he's finished (Brazil, Indianapolis, Texas come to mind), this was a just result.
IndyCar's marathon stretch of five races in five weekends, after the month of May, concludes this Saturday night in Iowa.