WEST ALLIS, Wis. — Dario Franchitti was sorry to see rival driver Tony Kanaan drop out of contention.
Helio Castroneves? Not so much.
Franchitti took over the lead after Kanaan crashed and Castroneves had a tire problem, then held on to win the IndyCar Series race at the Milwaukee Mile on Sunday.
It might have looked as if Franchitti was taking it easy and waiting for the race to come to him, but he was pushing as hard as he could — especially after a blocking move by Castroneves revved up his temper.
“I was trying to get on Kanaan’s gearbox,” Franchitti said. “I was trying to make it happen. I was still so spittin’ mad from what Helio did on that restart, I was doing all I could to get on to him and get past Tony as well.”
It was the third victory of the season for Franchitti, who stayed out of trouble as Kanaan and Castroneves fell by the wayside. Kanaan crashed with 31 laps to go, and Castroneves gave up the lead when he had to make a late extra pit stop to change a tire that was going flat.
Graham Rahal was second, followed by Oriol Servia, Will Power and Danica Patrick.
With the victory, Franchitti pulled even with Power in the series points standings.
Castroneves finished ninth, and Franchitti seemed to think Castroneves had it coming after blocking him on a previous restart.
“We had that one restart where Helio blocked to the inside, then blocked to the outside,” Franchitti said. “No wonder he got a flat tire, some of the parts of the track he was using.”
But Franchitti seemed genuinely sorry for Kanaan.
“I think we have a respect for each other,” Franchitti said. “We race each other bloody hard, but there’s always that respect there, too.”
Kanaan said he was just trying to win the race.
“It’s a shame,” Kanaan said. “It’s my fault. But, hey, it was a fun race. We raced each other hard the whole race. Unfortunately, I’m human. I make mistakes sometimes as well. I’d rather make a mistake trying hard then actually not trying at all.”
Rahal, meanwhile, sees his team making real progress.
“Eventually, we’re going to win one,” he said.
It was a return to racing for the Milwaukee Mile, a historic track that dates to 1903 but didn’t host major events last year because of previous promoters’ financial problems.
IndyCar was back on the schedule this year but fan response was tepid at best, with the grandstands perhaps one-third full at the green flag. That was despite increased efforts by the new event promoter, including a two-for-one ticket deal.
“I think Milwaukee’s a part of IndyCar’s history, and should be part of IndyCar’s future,” Servia said. “It’s a great track, very challenging.”
Franchitti was thrilled to see the track back on the schedule, having won there in 2004.
It turned out to be a decent day for Power, who came into the race with a 21-point lead over Franchitti but started 17th on Sunday after a bad run in qualifying while Franchitti won the pole. A good pit stop near the end helped Power pull off a top-five finish.
Now Franchitti and Power are threatening to make the championship a two-man race.
“To catch those two guys, we need to start winning races,” Servia said. “It’s not enough to be consistent, or being top-five.”
It was a rough weekend for Simona De Silvestro, who was hospitalized Saturday night after crashing in qualifying.
IndyCar officials cleared De Silvestro to race Sunday morning, after her crew worked into the early morning hours to repair her car. But she didn’t last long once the green flag fell, pulling into the pits and getting out of the car just a handful of laps into the race.
It’s the continuation of a run of rough luck for De Silvestro, who burned both her hands in a crash during Indianapolis 500 practice last month.
But it was a good run for Patrick, her first top-five finish in what has been a disappointing season.
“I really took care of my equipment,” she said. “Once the yellows came out, everything started going backwards. That’s the way it goes. I’m glad to get a good finish.”