After team owner Michael Andretti and his marketing group did everything they could to save racing at the historic Milwaukee Mile, one of his drivers, Ryan Hunter-Reay, came through with the first of what would be three consecutive victories that began his run to the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series championship.
Hunter-Reay withstood two late restarts and pulled away to a five-second win over Tony Kanaan, while James Hinchcliffe finished third to put two Andretti Autosport drivers on the podium in last year’s Milwaukee IndyFest.
“We put enough pressure on ourselves to go win,” said Hunter-Reay. “Every race is very important. These points are very precious each and every race. It’s great to get a win here and be back where we belong.”
Nonetheless, the American driver may have caught a break by not having to deal with Scott Dixon in the closing laps. Dixon had been hit with an 10-spot grid penalty for an unapproved engine change, but still managed to charge from 21st starting position to as high as fourth. But his march to the front was stopped cold by a drive-through penalty for jumping a restart on Lap 103.
However, the call wasn’t made until the next restart, creating all sorts of confusion. It was later revealed by INDYCAR race director Beaux Barfield that a timing problem on Race Control’s replay machine had caused him and his team to review video of the wrong restart.
“I have been through issues before to play an incident all the way through to provide the full context, and that was an oversight on my part,” Barfield said. “It was a technical issue and certainly human error. It is painful, nonetheless.”
Dixon was forced to swallow an 11th-place finish after the penalty, robbing him of what had appeared to be a potential shot at a win in the second half of the race. Hinchcliffe, who started alongside Dixon during that particular restart, felt that perhaps Dixon shouldn’t have suffered the penalty.
“I saw it,” the Canadian said. “It was 100% a violation. What I don’t get is we threw the yellow, so he had to go back. He didn’t do it again when it went green, so he didn’t really gain anything…
“Was that a violation of the rule? 100 percent. Do I think the penalty was appropriate, given the circumstances? Maybe not necessarily.”