Back to an oval, IndyCar returns to Milwaukee
WEST ALLIS, Wis. (AP) Will Power should like the next oval on the IndyCar schedule.
The series returns Sunday to Milwaukee, a mile-long oval that shouldn't recreate the kind of wheel-gripping racing that drivers endured at Fontana two weeks ago.
There is a different rules package in place at the shorter, flat Milwaukee Mile. There are really just two lanes here, rather than the five-wide scrums and high-banking turns at Fontana that turned that race into an edge-of-your-seat thriller for fans - and a headache for some drivers who said the rules created dangerous pack racing.
Power was among the most vocal drivers about Fontana. The week off that followed has allowed tensions to dissipate going into Sunday's 250-lap race.
''It's another race weekend,'' Power said. ''I mean Fontana is over. Just moving on.''
There is no better place than Milwaukee for Power to get back in a groove. The defending series champion won at the Mile last year.
He loves the flat track at Milwaukee, a course that puts driver skills to the test.
''Yeah, you've got to actually worry about traction, right? Coming out of the corner, that's what driving is about,'' Power said.
With five races left, Power is second in the standings behind Penske teammate Juan Pablo Montoya.
Like Power, Montoya was also unhappy about the racing at Fontana. IndyCar wasn't happy about their post-race comments.
''We felt that we didn't need to be doing that,'' Montoya said Saturday. ''Yes, it was a great race for the spectators. But there were so many close calls with so many people. I'm kind of glad no one got hurt.''
At least one driver hopes to keep the momentum going from Fontana.
Graham Rahal won the race, lifting him one spot into fourth in the driver standings. He has increased confidence on ovals after also finishing fifth at the Indy 500.
Now the series is in a stretch of three straight ovals that started with Fontana. Iowa is next after Milwaukee; Pocono is also coming up in the second-to-last race of the season on Aug. 23.
''We know what the main objective is. We got a huge monkey off our backs by getting a win, but the main objective here for sure is a championship,'' Rahal said.
''The guys we're contending with are the Penske and Ganassi cars. Those are the two best out here,'' the Rahal Letterman Lanigan driver added. ''Here and Iowa, back-to-back, both short ovals - different styles but both short ovals. That could make or break our year, really.''
Josef Newgarden, who posted the fastest speed in Saturday evening's practice, said aerokits new to Indy this year could allow for more passing at Milwaukee.
''It's always nice when you roll off the truck and the car is good,'' he said. ''It just makes it a lot easier during the weekend.''
Drivers must contend with another wrinkle this year with a condensed schedule. The first practice session took place Saturday, but the second practice is Sunday morning.
Qualifying is midday on Sunday, with the race in the afternoon.
It doesn't leave a lot of time for adjustments, especially if something goes wrong in practice or qualifying on Sunday.
Conversely, it makes for a shorter weekend overall for teams, with track work shortened to two days.
Maybe a full Sunday schedule will help a race that has been struggling to draw fans. There are questions about whether the IndyCar will return to the Mile next year, and an underwhelming turnout on Sunday won't help despite the track's history.
''To come out for one day and see everything, it's a full day of IndyCar racing,'' Rahal said. ''The crowd has got to come this year if they want the race to continue, they better be here. I'm looking forward to it. I think the condensed schedule is good from that perspective.''