WEST ALLIS, Wis. (AP) — When Ryan Hunter-Reay picked up his first win of the season in Alabama, he regretted that his wife and newborn son weren’t on hand for Victory Lane photographs.
He made up for it Saturday with an early Father’s Day celebration at his favorite track, no less.
Hunter-Reay continued Andretti Autosport’s domination at the Milwaukee Mile, winning the IndyCar event for the second year in a row and third time in his career. He became the first driver to win back-to-back races at the Mile since Tony Kanaan in 2006 and 2007 when he was driving for … you guessed it, Michael Andretti, himself a five-time winner at Milwaukee.
“At Barber, that was one of the races that Beccy and our son didn’t come to and I felt bad because we didn’t have the pictures of him in Victory Lane, so this is even better,” Hunter-Reay said. “To do it on Father’s Day, to do back-to-back at Milwaukee, I love this place. Every driver, you ask them, they respect this oval the most.”
Andretti drivers have won five of the last nine races at the mile oval and nearly had a perfect day Saturday in a race that was promoted for the second year by Michael Andretti’s marketing company. Hunter-Reay got the win, E.J. Viso finished fourth and James Hinchcliffe was fifth.
The only blemish was pole-sitter Marco Andretti, who led the first 62 laps before his day fell apart with an electrical issue.
“He let me down,” joked father Michael Andretti. “I really feel bad for Marco. He was running really strong, really strong all weekend.”
But it was still a huge success for Andretti, who is in negotiations with IndyCar to promote the race next year but makes winning at Milwaukee a priority for his organization.
“We come here with a philosophy of what I had back when I was driving, and we just carry that on, try to stress that to the engineering and the drivers on the way we used to do it then,” Andretti said. “There’s things we used to do that really used to work. Seem to still be working.”
For Hunter-Reay, it was the second win of the season for the defending IndyCar Series champion. And it came at the site of the track he used to jump-start last year’s title run — Hunter-Reay reeled off three consecutive wins starting with Milwaukee last season to climb into the championship race.
He wasn’t thinking championship in the closing laps, though. His focus was on Father’s Day and son Ryden.
“Those last few laps I was thinking, ‘Man, I’ve got to do this for him,’” Hunter-Reay said. “It’s so special, he’s 6 months old, getting to have my little guy here in Victory Lane is the best Father’s Day gift.”
IndyCar Series points leader Helio Castroneves was second and followed by Penske Racing teammate Will Power as Chevrolet swept the podium. It was the first podium finish this season for Power, who hasn’t won a race since Brazil last year.
He made a bold attempt to pass Castroneves for second in the closing laps before cautiously backing off a touch. Power said after the race he had to consider the big picture and that his teammate is the current points leader while racing for position.
“That was close, I wanted to race him very cleanly because he’s leading the championship,” Power said. “I was like ‘Man, I don’t want to take you out.’ Helio continues to get good points, and it’s cool to get (my) car up on the podium. We’ve just got to keep chipping away and in the meantime, I’m going to help out Helio as much as I can. If I can beat him I will, and make some hay on the championship.”
Scott Dixon was sixth in the highest finishing Honda and was followed by Takuma Sato, who dominated the middle section of the race but was shuffled out of contention when Ana Beatriz brought out the final caution and pit cycles dropped him deep into the field. Still, it was the best finish for an A.J. Foyt Racing entry at Milwaukee since Foyt himself was fifth in 1988.
“The yellow came out and that was very bad timing for us because it put us behind those who hadn’t pitted yet,” Sato said. “They were able to pit and get ahead of us which is why we lined up in seventh. Then they had fresher tires, too, so it was really tough to pass them back. It was still a great race, but it was so disappointing in the end. Really a shame.”
Dario Franchitti, Justin Wilson and Kanaan rounded out the top 10.
Marco Andretti wound up 20th and was passed by teammate Hunter-Reay for second in the IndyCar standings.
“It’s unfortunate, we came here for a win and had a car to do it,” said Andretti, who was slowed before the electrical issue by a poor pit stop. “The voltage went straight down and I lost all kinds of power. I couldn’t shift, the clutch didn’t work. We came back for all the points we could.”