What to watch for: IndyCar at Milwaukee

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– This is “Big Three” country: As noted earlier this week, all Indy Racing League/INDYCAR-sanctioned races at the Milwaukee Mile have been won by drivers from the stables of Team Penske, Andretti Autosport and Target Chip Ganassi Racing. All four Andretti pilots (including pole sitter Marco Andretti) and Penske’s Will Power have locked out the Top 5 starting positions for today’s grid, but don’t count out TCGR’s Scott Dixon (starting 11th), who was roaring to the front last year at Milwaukee until a mistaken restart penalty ruined his race. His teammate, Dario Franchitti, has also been traditionally stout here, too (two wins, five podiums in IRL/IndyCar competition).

– Damn this traffic jam: It’s a fact of life on short ovals like Milwaukee (as well as next week’s track, the 7/8-mile Iowa Speedway) – you’re gonna deal with lapped traffic on a regular basis. Leaders must dispose of back-markers quickly lest they get caught behind them and allow their pursuers to catch up; a car that’s capable of performing well around others will be important to have this afternoon.

– Keep your eye on Kanaan: If you’re doing the fantasy racing thing (and you’re smart about it), then you’ve likely already put the Indianapolis 500 champ on your team this weekend for Milwaukee. Tony Kanaan has two wins at the Mile (2006, 2007) and was runner-up last year to Ryan Hunter-Reay. In his last eight starts at the Mile, he’s finished no worse than fourth in six of them. Don’t be surprised if he’s the guy that leads the group outside of those aforementioned “Big Three” squads.

– More people in the stands?: Michael Andretti and his group worked their butts off to keep racing alive at the Mile, and they were rewarded last season with a solid turnout estimated at 25,000. This year, they’re hoping for a bigger crowd that can help continue their efforts to cement the Mile’s place on the schedule. We’ll see if the race fans in Milwaukee come through and help their own cause; the Mile is an open-wheel cornerstone that’s held in high regard by longtime followers of the sport. It’d be nice to see it on the docket for years to come.

IZOD IndyCar Series – Milwaukee IndyFest
Starting Grid

Row 1
25-Marco Andretti
27-James Hinchcliffe

Row 2
12-Will Power
1-Ryan Hunter-Reay

Row 3
5-E.J. Viso
6-Sebastian Saavedra

Row 4
11-Tony Kanaan
67-Josef Newgarden

Row 5
77-Simon Pagenaud
55-Tristan Vautier

Row 6
9-Scott Dixon
16-James Jakes

Row 7
19-Justin Wilson
7-Sebastien Bourdais

Row 8
14-Takuma Sato
98-Alex Tagliani

Row 9
3-Helio Castroneves
4-Ryan Briscoe

Row 10
18-Ana Beatriz
20-Ed Carpenter

Row 11
83-Charlie Kimball
78-Simona de Silvestro

Row 12
10-Dario Franchitti (penalized, engine)
15-Graham Rahal (penalized, engine)

Watch today’s Milwaukee IndyFest online and on your mobile device.

Neuville wins Rally Australia; Ogier takes FIA WRC title

Sebastien Ogier. Photo: Getty Images
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COFFS HARBOUR, Australia (AP) Belgium’s Thierry Neuville won Rally Australia by 22.5 seconds on Sunday as torrential rain added drama to the last day of the last race of the World Rally Championship season.

Neuville entered the final day with an almost 20 second advantage after inheriting the rally lead Saturday when his Hyundai teammate, defending champion Andreas Mikkelsen crashed and was forced to retire for the day.

His lead was halved by Jari-Matti Latvala early Sunday as monsoon-like rain made conditions treacherous on muddy forest stages on the New South Wales coast. The rain stopped on the short Wedding Bells stage where Neuville was almost 5 seconds quicker than his rivals, stretching his lead to 14.7 seconds entering the last stage.

COFFS HARBOUR, AUSTRALIA – NOVEMBER 17: Thierry Neuville of Belgium and Nicolas Gilsoul of Belgium compete in their Hyundai Motorsport WRT Hyundai i20 coupe WRC during Day One of the WRC Australia on November 17, 2017 in COFFS HARBOUR, Australia. (Photo by Massimo Bettiol/Getty Images)

That stage was full of incident. The driver’s door on Neuville’s Hyundai i20 coupe swung open in the middle of the stage and Neuville had to slam it closed as he approached a corner.

Latvala’s Toyota then crashed seconds from the end of the stage, allowing Estonia’s Ott Tanak, in a Ford, to take second place overall and New Zealalnd’s Haydon Paddon, in a Hyundai, to sneak into third.

Sebastian Ogier was fourth after winning the final, power stage but the Frenchman had already clinched his fifth world title before Rally Australia began. Neuville’s win was his fourth of the season, two more than Ogier, and was enough to give him second place in world drivers’ standings for the third time in five years.

Ogier owed his drivers’ title to his consistency: he retired only once and finished no worse than fifth all season.

Neuville admitted the last day was touch and go as the rain made some stages perilous, forcing the cancellation of the second to last stage.

“That was a hell of a ride,” Neuville said. “Really, really tricky conditions.

“I kept the car on the road but it was close sometimes. I knew I could make a difference but I had to be clever. You lose grip, you lose control and the car doesn’t respond to your input.”