Milwaukee IndyFest 225 - Day 2

Milwaukee’s been the “Big three” domain since 2004

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We’ll get the historical disclaimer out of the way first: INDYCAR (then IRL) first raced at The Milwaukee Mile in 2004, but the track’s history itself is substantially longer. After all, it is the oldest continually operating speedway in North America, after opening in 1903.

Drivers in this year’s Milwaukee IndyFest have history at the track dating back to 1996 – Tony Kanaan and Helio Castroneves made their first starts at the legendary one-mile oval in the Indy Lights race there that year. Dario Franchitti made his Milwaukee debut in the CART race there in 1997.

But in IRL, then INDYCAR-sanctioned races, only teams from the IZOD IndyCar Series’ generally accepted “Big three” teams – Andretti Autosport, Team Penske and Target Chip Ganassi Racing – have won races at the Mile.

Champ Car did run concurrently at the track from 2004 to 2006, with wins taken by Ryan Hunter-Reay (his second of his career, first on an oval), Paul Tracy and Sebastien Bourdais in those three seasons. Bourdais’ win for Newman/Haas is the last at Milwaukee outside the Andretti, Penske, and Ganassi stables.

Franchitti took the first IRL-sanctioned win in 2004, a career-rejuvenating first win since a back injury suffered in 2003 cost him the second half of that season. Sam Hornish Jr. won in 2005 for Penske, with Tony Kanaan scoring each of the next two wins for Andretti in 2006 and 2007.

Ryan Briscoe scored his first ever, and Penske’s 300th as an organization, win in 2008. Target Chip Ganassi Racing dominated the next two Milwaukee races (Scott Dixon in 2009, Franchitti in 2011), although 2010 the track was temporarily closed as it went through financial straits.

Things came right for Hunter-Reay last year, scoring his second Milwaukee win in the first race promoted by Andretti Sports Marketing.

This year is a pivotal one for the race as it marks the first time in five years that the same promoter has done the event in consecutive years; a second successive win for “RHR” or one by one of his three Andretti Autosport teammates would look good.

ASM is also batting a perfect two-for-two in races it has promoted, as Hunter-Reay won not only Milwaukee but also Baltimore last year.

You’ll notice Castroneves’ name has been decidedly absent from this piece to this point. Milwaukee’s been something of a bogey track for him, and he has yet to better a runner-up finish set in his rookie season of CART, in 1998!

Castroneves – and the rest of the field outside the “Big three” – will be looking to topple the empire that has thus far reined over Milwaukee in the last decade.

Formula E: Team Aguri confirms da Costa for second season

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Antonio Felix da Costa has been confirmed for a second season with Team Aguri for the 2015-2016 FIA Formula E Championship, which begins later this month in Beijing.

He won once this past year at Buenos Aires and finished eighth in the points despite missing both the season opener and season finale due to clashes with his DTM schedule.

Said the 24-year-old Portuguese driver, “I am really happy to continue with Team Aguri and Formula E for season two. This championship is earning its respect in the world of motorsport and I am honoured to be involved. Regarding the season, I am really looking forward to getting started.”

Team Aguri team principal Mark Preston added, “It is a great pleasure to have Antonio continuing with the team for season two of Formula E. Antonio brought us our maiden win in Buenos Aires and helped to develop the team from scratch, he will continue to build on that success for season two and beyond.”

The team that bares the name of ex-Formula 1 driver and team owner Aguri Suzuki has not yet confirmed its second driver, which is the last outstanding seat to be filled on the Formula E grid.

Amlin, which had partnered with Aguri last year, is now present with the Andretti Formula E team and its drivers, Robin Frijns and Simona de Silvestro.

Hulkenberg leads shorter than normal FP1 in Russia

Nico Hulkenberg
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Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg posted a 1:44.355 lap of the of the Sochi Autodrom to lead a fairly abnormal, and shorter than usual, first free practice for the Russian Grand Prix.

Hulkenberg posted the time to conclude the usual 90-minute session, to pip Nico Rosberg at 1:44.407 on his final lap. The usual 90-minute session was shortened due to a track delay for cleanup of diesel fuel on course.

Sebastian Vettel, Sergio Perez and Daniel Ricciardo completed the top five.

While the clock started on time for the full 90-minute session, track activity was halted for the opening 30 minutes to clean up diesel spillage on the track at Turn 8.

It left teams and drivers with just a 60-minute first free practice to tackle the Sochi Autodrom, but did not push the session later or affect the timetable for the rest of the day. However, with a damp if not entirely wet track, it made things difficult in FP1.

The delay also meant that teams weren’t able to use an extra set of Pirellis handed out at the start of FP1. Supersofts can be used for the first time in FP2.

During the delay, it did offer a chance for sarcasm, and Manor seized the opportunity following a comment from McLaren Honda’s Fernando Alonso noting that even with Mercedes engines next year, Manor wouldn’t move ahead of them.

NBC’s Will Buxton explained the track surface dilemma drivers would face in this session.

With just under one hour to go in the session, Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson was the first to head out on course, leading several others. Ericsson made the first laps of the weekend at the track where he made his final start for Caterham a year ago.

Both Williams drivers went on course on Pirelli’s wet weather tires for their installation laps. Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg tried the intermediates, and Alonso was first on course in slicks.

No official times were registered until there were less than 40 minutes remaining in the session, with Alonso registering a 2:00.736 time, while putting down a bevy of sparks. He quickly lowered the mark to 1:56.327, and 1:53.854 after that. Ericsson was next in at a 1:58.926, although dropped into the 1:54 range not long after.

Alonso’s teammate Jenson Button clocked in at 1:50.920 with just under 20 minutes remaining and for the first time this year, we could say we had a McLaren Honda 1-2 on track, albeit under abnormal circumstances.

The trsck got busy in the final 15 minutes, with Toro Rosso’s Max Verstappen posting a 1:50.870 to lead before Alonso clocked in a 1:49.240.

A 1:47.959 from Williams’ Valtteri Bottas, then a 1:45.987 from Hulkenberg followed in the final 10 minutes as times firmly began to drop. Vettel got down to a 1:45.491 shortly thereafter, and Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton came up two tenths shy of the mark at a 1:45.691.

Ericsson reported a power cut near the end of the session down at Sauber but otherwise there were no issues through the field, other than a handful of spins, including one from Hamilton on his final flier at the second-to-last corner.

FP2 begins from 7 a.m. ET on NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra.