Six drivers, including top two in points, face grid penalties: There’s additional intrigue lined up for the IndyFest Presented by XYQ this weekend as Will Power and Scott Dixon — 1-2 in the IZOD IndyCar Series championship standings — will incur 10-grid spot penalties for unapproved engine changes.
Four others in the 25-car field will face the same penalty, including Firestone 550winner Justin Wilson.
Power, who has won three races this season, takes a 36-point lead over Dixon into the 225-lap race June 16 (1 p.m. ET on ABC) at the Milwaukee Mile. James Hinchcliffe of Andretti Autosport is third (48 points out) and Helio Castroneves is 53 points arrears of his Team Penske teammate.
“It’s going to be hard to win from back there,” said Power, whose engine in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske car ceased in the afternoon session.
There’s 90 minutes of practice scheduled June 15 at the Milwaukee Mile preceding two-lap cumulative time qualifications (4 p.m. local).
Dixon’s No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car sustained a failure of its Honda engine with a few minutes left in the morning session of a test at the .875-mile Iowa Speedway on June 12. The crew had installed a fresh engine for the test after contact with the Turn 4 SAFER Barrier on Lap 174 of the Firestone 550 at Texas Motor Speedway on June 9 damaged that powerplant.
Dixon, who won at Belle Isle two weeks ago, had his first DNF since the race in Toronto in 2010. In eight previous starts at Milwaukee in Champ Car and the IZOD IndyCar Series, he has finished in the top 10 seven times — including a victory in 2009 from the fourth starting position.
Last year at Milwaukee, Power advanced 13 positions relative to his starting spot to finish fourth. In two other starts on the historic oval (one each in Champ Car and the IZOD IndyCar Series, he has a best finish of 11th in ’06 with RuSport).
Additionally, A.J. Foyt Racing’s No. 14 ABC Supply car driven by Mike Conway will serve the 10-grid spot penalty for the second consecutive race as its engine quit at the Iowa test. Wilson’s engine in the No. 18 Sonny’s BBQ car for Dale Coyne Racing gave out at Iowa, too.
The No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing car of Takuma Sato and the No. 67 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing car driven by rookie Josef Newgarden also will receive 10-spot grid penalties for unapproved engine changes at Texas.
2. If you missed it – Ryan Briscoe conference call: Earlier today, IZOD IndyCar Series driver Ryan Briscoe participated in an INDYCAR Conference Call to preview the Milwaukee IndyFest Presented by XYQ. The Indianapolis 500 pole sitter, who is coming off third-place finish in the Firestone 550 at Texas Motor Speedway on June 9, earned his first IZOD IndyCar Series victory at the Milwaukee Mile in 2008.
A full transcript and a broadcast-quality MP3 are available at media.indycar.com. Selected quotes from the interview are below.
Q. We seem to be having a series of firsts here with the new car on ovals. Indy was the first oval. Texas was the first high-banked oval. Milwaukee now is the first flat, short oval. What are you expecting in terms of the car with the aero package?
RYAN BRISCOE: Most of us got to run it in Milwaukee a couple weeks ago after Indianapolis and get a feel for what it’s going to be like. It’s going to be tough. It always is at Milwaukee. But it felt like the tires were definitely going off a lot. That’s going to be a big player in the race, much like we saw in Texas.
You’re going to need a good-handling car from about mid-stint on. If you get a long green stint, you’re going to see someone with a good car turning laps around the field, and that’s going to have to be the focus — being good over the distance.
Q. Is there any other characteristic of the new car when you tested there that really caught you by surprise compared to the old car?
RYAN BRISCOE: Within 10 laps I actually turned a couple of laps flat out around the circuit and felt pretty comfortable. I think the downforce numbers and stuff are very similar to the old car. My team did a great job preparing a set-up that would work well at Milwaukee, but on the test day the wind really picked up a lot in the afternoon. Maybe this car was a bit more sensitive to the wind. It made being consistent really difficult, and the speed dropped off a little bit in the afternoon. It wasn’t so easy anymore.
I think the biggest thing with this new car that’s a bit different than the old one is it seems to wear the rear tires more. So a stint at Milwaukee is probably somewhere up around the 60-lap range. After about 40 laps, it was really tough to hang on. So if we’re going to have to stay up there and not pit, those last 20 laps of the stint are going to be really challenging, probably more so than the old car.
Q. Seeing that we have two more this weekend and one more left on the schedule, what are your goals are for the second half of the season?
RYAN BRISCOE: We’re in a really intense stretch right now. A five-race stretch and a couple of short ovals coming up which are crucial, I believe, to the championship. Anything can happen on these tracks. I think we really need to be focused on running solid like we did at Texas. I feel like it was disappointing not to win Texas, but certainly bringing home the third place was a good point. I think that’s the kind of mentality I need to carry here in Milwaukee and Iowa.
Certainly the rest of the season is to get more podiums and try to snatch somewins. I think that is going to be the most important thing is to get some race wins because they make the biggest difference.
3. Clauson returns to Milwaukee with Indy 500 experience: For the first time, the Firestone Indy Lights race at the Milwaukee Mile will have two drivers in the field that raced in the same Indianapolis 500 — Sebastian Saavedra and Bryan Clauson.
Clauson will drive the No. 24 Fan Force United entry in his first Firestone Indy Lights race since the Las Vegas 100 last October. The native of Noblesville, Ind., competed in the 2012 500 Mile Race by way of the Mazda Road to Indy scholarship he won for being the 2011 USAC National Drivers Champion.
“Any time you can be in an IndyCar, you learn a lot,” Clauson said of his experience. “Spending two or three weeks with a car – now that’s huge. With all of the laps I put in at Indy, I learned so much about aero and mechanical grip. It really sped up my learning curve. It’s a lot of pressure there, but I feel like a good Indy program really helps a young guy, because even though it’s tough you get to be more methodical.”
The partnership with USAC was announced in 2010 and allows the National Drivers Champion to jump on the Mazda Road to Indy and make their way into the IZOD IndyCar Series. Clauson has won the scholarship two years in a row. In 2011, he drove all oval races for Sam Schmidt Motorsports, with a best finish of third at Iowa. His second-best finish was at the Milwaukee Mile, where he finished fourth after qualifying third.
In addition to celebrating his return to the series, Clauson will also be celebrating his 23rd birthday on the day of the event.
“Milwaukee is a fun place. It’s an oval like no other,” Clauson said. “Both ends are really different, and it is a very tricky place. I’ve run several different types of cars here, and it really is a fun and challenging place to get the car working well. It’s definitely a give and take, as what works at one end may not work so well at the other, so you’re really just trying to find the fastest compromise and what will let you run as close as possible to the edge.”
4. Virgin Group partners with TrueCar Racing: TrueCar Racing announced that Virgin Group, a leading international branded investment company started in 1970 by Sir Richard Branson, is joining as an affiliate sponsor of the Nos. 6 and 7 cars driven by Katherine Legge and Sebastien Bourdais.
Virgin’s logos also will be placed on each TrueCar-sponsored “Women Empowered” initiative racing team cars.
“We are thrilled to have the Virgin Group team with TrueCar Racing to help empower women in racing and to help strengthen and broaden the message that women racers can statistically win in a sport dominated by men with the right resources and support,” said Scott Painter, founder and CEO of TrueCar, Inc. “We are committed to providing our team with the tools they need to win now and in the future.”
The 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series continues with Milwaukee IndyFest Presented by XYQ on June 16 at the Milwaukee Mile. The race will be televised by ABC at 1 p.m. (ET) and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network on SiriusXM (XM 94 and Sirius 212) and indycar.com. The next Firestone Indy Lights race is the Milwaukee 100 on June 15 at the Milwaukee Mile. The race will be televised by NBC Sports Network at 5 p.m. (ET) on June 21.