By: Spencer Neff
December 12, 2019 | 10:42 AM
Continuing our celebration of the 2010s, this week we take a look back at the 2012 Milwaukee IndyFest. Despite its rich history, the Milwaukee Mile spent the better part of the 2010s in limbo.
For 2012, one of IndyCar’s biggest names helped revive the storied event. By race’s end, it would also prove to be a major turning point for this event’s winner.
Hunter-Reay dominates Milwaukee’s second half in first win of 2012
After being added back to the schedule for the 2011 IZOD IndyCar Series season, the Milwaukee Mile’s future status remained murky at best. Fortunately, five-time race winner Michael Andretti helped revive the event.
With help from his promotional company, Andretti Sports Marketing, the renamed Milwaukee IndyFest was brought back for a June 16th race date. Despite a 90-minute delay due to rain, the 225-lap event would run without significant interruption.
After winning pole, two-time and defending Milwaukee race winner Dario Franchitti jumped out to an early lead. Looking for his second win in the first three oval races of 2012, the former champion led the opening 63 laps.
Soon after Franchitti lost the lead, HVM Racing’s Simona de Silvestro spun in Turn 4 to bring out the first caution of the afternoon.
By Lap 70, KV Racing’s EJ Viso found his way to the front and remained there until just after a Lap 94 caution for the stalled Dale Coyne Racing car of Justin Wilson after the Honda engine in his entry let go.
While the field was under their second yellow, Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves took hold of the lead. In 11 previous starts, he had yet to duplicate or better the runner-up finish at Milwaukee from his 1998 rookie campaign in CART.
After going green, the caution flag flew just five laps later when Takuma Sato and James Jakes tangled in Turn 2. Further down the back straightaway, JR Hildebrand stalled. Despite having their race end prematurely, all three drivers walked away.
After a 14-lap yellow for the only multi-car incident of the day, the action settled for the time being.
However, Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon was assessed a controversial penalty for jumping the restart on Lap 103. Following the drive-through penalty, Dixon was forced to claw back from 21st.
On Lap 142, Castroneves got loose at the end of the back straightaway. While reining his car back in, Ryan Hunter-Reay took the lead back. With the race winding down, the June skies began to darken again and a fourth yellow was called for moisture on the track. Ten laps later, the race resumed under green flag conditions.
As had become the case throughout the day, the Lap 191 restart was soon followed by another yellow flag. Following his dominant start, Franchitti had been battling mid-pack during the bulk of the race. On Lap 194, his bid for a third win at the track ended when he crashed between Turns 3 and 4.
Six laps later, the race restarted for the final time. During the 25-lap run to the finish, one driver wouldn’t be denied.
Unchallenged since Lap 142, Hunter-Reay would claim his first victory of 2012 and finish 5.1029 seconds in front of KV Racing’s Tony Kanaan. James Hinchcliffe bookended the podium with his Andretti teammate in the historic return to Milwaukee.
Despite finishing 12th – the last car on the lead lap – Team Penske’s Will Power held on to a 31-point ahead of James Hinchcliffe. After winning the next two races, Hunter-Reay would later move into the points lead.
Despite jumping back on top of the points for three of the final four races, Power crashed out in the season finale at Auto Club Speedway. With a third-place finish, Hunter-Reay earned Andretti’s first title since 2007.
In 2013, he duplicated his win at Milwaukee in a race that expanded to 250 laps. For 2014 and 2015, the race was rescheduled for an August date to coincide with the Wisconsin State Fair. By 2016, the Milwaukee Mile would once again be left off the IndyCar schedule.
Note: Thank you as always to everyone who participated in our poll on Twitter to select this week’s IndyCar Flashback. Look for more IndyCar Flashbacks and Fan Votes throughout the offseason and in 2020.
Header Image By Autoweek.