01 June 2009

They Should Have Called It The Speedy 225

To put the pace of the ABC Supply A.J. Foyt 225 in perspective, let it be known that I was at the Indianapolis Indians' game, working in the press box. The Indians game started at 2:03 p.m. ET, while Race #6 of the IndyCar season began at approximately 3:30 p.m. ET. However, the 225-mile race was over by the time the Indians game wrapped up at 5:37.

Completed in just 1 hour, 38 minutes and change, the A.J. Foyt 225 was the quickest in the race's history, averaging 138.784 miles per hour. With just 22 laps of cautions, those in attendance saw plenty of green flag racing an exciting action up front. And with Scott Dixon's win, they witnessed a new leader at the top of the IndyCar Series points standings.

Dixon ran away with the race after passing leader Ryan Briscoe on lap 200. He cruised to victory, beating Briscoe to the checkered flags by 2.1257 seconds, not too shabby considering that Briscoe led 154 of the 225 laps on the day. Still, Briscoe, the 2008 winner of the A.J. Foyt 225, stayed in the championship hunt, where he just 4 points from Dixon.

Two drivers took significant hits to their championship aspirations: Tony Kanaan and Helio Castroneves. Kanaan, my pick to win at Milwaukee, pulled off an impressive start to the race, ducking under Briscoe to nab first place on the opening lap. Driving with bruised ribs, Kanaan led the opening 25 laps before slowing back into the middle of the field.

After the first round of pit stops, Kanaan seemed to find his pace again, but under green flag stops around lap 127, Kanaan was forced back into the pits at lap 132, with smoke coming out from under his engine cover, an apparent fire forcing him to be lifted from the car. Still, Kanaan managed to deliver a solid quote, via his twitter page:
Dificult day for us. On fire but not the the right way to be on fire.
With a 27th at Indianapolis and a 19th in Milwaukee, the points leader entering Indy now sits seventh, 39 points behind Dixon and 17 behind teammate Danica Patrick for fourth. Without another run of finishes similar to or better that his first three (fifth, third, third), Kanaan will seemingly miss out on the championship chase.

As for Castroneves, he started last after crashing during qualifications. Saddled with a conservative setup, the three-time Indy champion fell a lap down midway through the race, eventually placing 11th, three laps off the pace. Still, the news isn't all bad for Castroneves, as he gets to appear on the Late Show with David Letterman Monday night.

So, what did we learn from Milwaukee? The cream is starting to rise to the top of the IndyCar Series, once again. The top three drivers (Dixon, Briscoe, Franchitti) are separated by 4 points, while the top seven drivers are withing 40 points of each other.

Should make for a fun summer and another entertaining show at Texas next week.

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