The Milwaukee Mile, the oldest operating motor speedway in the world, hosted Round 3 of the 2012 Season 1 IZOD IndyCar Series.  The one mile track is one of the toughest the series travels to and usually provides great short track action.  29 drivers showed-up to do battle, with the Top Split comprising 15 of the higher iRated drivers.

Shaun Stroud led qualifying to earn the pole position with a 21.702 second lap, while Tim Doyle’s 21.767s lap earned him a  spot on the outside of the front row.  Chris Cahoe, Matthew Lambertson and Niles Anders rounded-out the top five in a starting field blanketed by just over half a second.

The start of the 135 lap race saw Stroud jump out to the early lead with Doyle and Lambertson falling in behind.  The race went green until the first caution flew on Lap 18, when Jeffrey Koolbergen lost control exiting Turn Four and slammed hard into the wall – and immediate retirement.  Given that Milwaukee is notoriously hard on tires, the resulting yellow saw the entire field head to pit road for tires and fuel.  The top five remained the same with the exception of Anders beating Cahoe out of the pits.

15 cars ready to rumble on the Milwaukee Mile.

On the Lap 22 restart, Stroud once again blasted to the lead with Doyle and Lambertson just behind battling for the second spot.  Lambertson eventually muscled his way around Doyle and set his sights on Stroud.  The race remained green with the entire field staying on the lead lap until Scott Manifold became the first victim of a blown right front tire on Lap 69 with race leader Stroud just behind him.  Manifold managed to bring his car to pit road, avoiding a yellow and no one else was involved.  Three laps later, Randy Crossno would also suffer a tire failure, again without a yellow flag flying.

First tire victim: Scott Manifold.

Meanwhile, several drivers started making green flag pit stops on Lap 72.  Leader Stroud brought his Dallara to pit road on Lap 75 which allowed Doyle to lead a lap.  For Doyle though, this spelled doom as his right front failed entering Turn One, sending him hard into the Turn Two wall.  This brought-out the race’s second yellow and ended his hopes for a good finish.

During this caution period, Anders was able to lead two laps before pitting for fresh tires and returning the lead to Stroud.  Lambertson, Cahoe, Mark Schutte and Gary Borkenhagen all benefited from being ahead of the leader prior to the restart, as they got the wave around and tagged onto the tail of the field.

Week One winner, Michael Peters, had worked his way up to second on the restart on Lap 80 ahead of Anders, Chris Manifold and Joe Branch.  In all, 10 cars were still on the lead lap with only Terry Matthiensen one lap down.

Stroud powered away from the field at the green with many positions changing over the course of the next eight laps.  Peters dropped from second to eighth while Lambertson worked his way from the rear of the field to third position.  The first car-to-car contact occurred on Lap 88 when fifth place Jonathan Goke got a little loose in Turn Two leaving Cahoe nowhere to go.  Both retired with heavy damage.

A bird's eye view of the contact between Goke and Cahoe.

Once again the field headed to pit road for new tires with 45 laps left in the race.  Stroud led the field off pit road with Lambertson moving up to second, followed by Anders, Branch and C. Manifold.

Once back under green on Lap 92, the pace started to pick-up with many drivers setting their fastest laps of the race.  The top five remained the same until C. Manifold worked his way past Branch for fourth on Lap 105, only for Branch to retake the position the following lap.  Three laps later, C. Manifold moved back around Branch, bringing Peters with him and dropping Branch to sixth.

Lap 119 saw the race’s fourth and final yellow fly for the spinning Schutte off Turn Four, although he was able to remain on the lead lap.  Four of the top five chose not to pit, the exception being fifth placed Peters.  Branch and Schutte also took the opportunity to pit in the hopes of advancing positions on the restart.

With only six laps to go on the restart, Stroud led Lambertson, Anders, C. Manifold and Borkenhagen to the green flag.  Lap 125 saw C. Manifold lose three positions, dropping to seventh while Peters, who restarted sixth, made his way past Anders for third on Lap 127.  Borkenhagen lost three positions in the end on older tires, finishing seventh.

A 'Stroud's-eye' view of most of the race.

Stroud becomes the third winner in three races, moving up six positions in the points to within five points of Doyle.  It was his first top five.  Lambertson finished third, also picking up his first top five.  Peters had another strong run, coming from 11th to snag the last podium position.  Anders and Branch rounded-out the top five.

Stroud cruising to victory!

Race Stats

Laps:  130
Pole:  Shaun Stroud
Lead changes:  3
Cautions:  4
Caution laps:  16
Lap leaders: Stroud 1-74; Doyle 75; Anders 76-77; Stroud 78-130.
Margin of victory:  0.912s
Hard charger:  Michael Peters (8 spots)
Biggest loser:  Tim Doyle(10 spots)
Laps lead:  Stroud (127)
Fastest lap:  Stroud, 22.200s (Lap 95)

Top 5
1.  Shaun Stroud
2.  Matthew Lambertson
3.  Michael Peters
4.  Niles Anders
5.  Joe Branch

Cars finishing: 9
DNF: Koolbergen, S. Manifold, Crossno, Doyle, Goke, Cahoe

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