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.

Toro Rosso at crossroads after Kvyat’s point, Hartley’s strong debut

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In a weekend with something to prove at Circuit of The Americas, Daniil Kvyat rose to the occasion with what he called “his best race of the season for sure” at the United States Grand Prix.

But it may not be enough for the Russian to have saved his seat at Scuderia Toro Rosso for the three final races this year.

Meanwhile, New Zealander Brendon Hartley capped off his roller-coaster debut weekend in Formula 1 with a solid 13th place finish after starting from the rear of the grid, learning as the race went on and bringing home his Toro Rosso chassis to the flag.

Toro Rosso faces a dilemma of three drivers available but only two seats to fill for the final three Grands Prix, with the Mexican Grand Prix coming up just next week.

Frenchman Pierre Gasly will be back after missing Austin due to his Super Formula commitments at Suzuka in Japan, but ultimately that went for naught as the races were canceled due to a typhoon.

Kvyat qualified 12th, was promoted to 11th by way of grid penalties and ended 10th, scoring a point for only the third race this year and first time since coming ninth in the Spanish Grand Prix back in May.

It was a weekend where he would have been expected to outdo Hartley, and did so, but not by a massive margin. And he was already coming in with a track time disadvantage, losing out in FP1 as Indonesian Formula 2 driver Sean Gelael ran in his chassis.

As it was, he rated his weekend performance highly and didn’t do his chances of staying in the car any harm.

Speaking to NBCSN after the race, Kvyat said, “Yeah, it was a perfect race. I did everything well. Brought the points home. It was close with (Felipe) Massa.

“We had some energy release issues on the engine. But it was a massive weekend. It was great. I really enjoyed myself. It was a good job by the team to keep it together with very limited running.

Hartley built up confidence throughout the weekend as he learned the car, the Pirelli tires and how an F1 race races versus an endurance race that he’d been used to doing for several years.

Having coming into the weekend with no expectations and just taking the race session-by-session, he felt good at the end of it.

“There’s so many little things to reflect on,” he told NBCSN. “I’ll put the eyes at rest and process it all. I did the standing start and it wasn’t the best… it’s been a long time.

“But yeah, (you’re learning) in terms of following in traffic, what 20 laps on these tires means, how much you can push it. I’m pretty satisfied. The pace was pretty strong. I made the mistake of getting passed by (Lance) Stroll. I couldn’t pass him back. Lots of challenges. I hope I can get another shot at it.

“Up until this moment… I didn’t want to know. I just wanted to do the job. I’m really relaxed. Now there might be some conversations.”

Toro Rosso figures to reveal its Mexican Grand Prix driver lineup early this week.