The weekend started about as well as one could ask for KV Racing Technology. Their drivers qualified P4-P6 for the IZOD IndyCar Series Milwaukee 225. They were what we'd term “racy”, with Takuma Sato, Tony Kanaan, and EJ Viso all taking turns in the Top 5. It was perhaps shaping up to be the best all-around team result of the weekend.
And that's when we were reminded just how quickly fortunes can turn in racing:
-EJ Viso was fighting his way to the front, continually in the Top 5, when he lost the car and crashed, ending his day. Outside of Texas, Viso has had some manner of incident in every race this season, and Milwaukee proved to be no different in that regard.
-Tony Kanaan had led for two stints in the race already when he spun and crashed while running a strong P2. He had appeared to have the strongest car out there on the day, and would have at least been in contention for the win.
-Even Takuma Sato, who seemed nearly as strong as Kanaan, ended up being sent backwards after hitting a crew member in the pits. He fought his way back to a P8, but it was only consolation for a team that had started the day with such bright hopes.
It's become a theme for INDYCAR's hard-luck team; great efforts, only to be undone by mistakes or poor fortune. Sato was leading in Brazil, but lost on fuel strategy. Viso's generally fast, but seems doomed to have a bad, almost soul-crushing lapse or incident every weekend. Of course, Kanaan was the car to beat at Milwaukee, but the opportunity to take the checkered ended in almost the blink of an eye.
KV Racing serves as a reminder, in some ways. It's not enough in this series to be fast; you've got to be fast, consistent, and lucky if you want to win. KV seems to be able to nail any one or two of the three in 2011, but never the third.
Despite, the rough season, it's not all bad for KV Racing. Kanaan remains well-situated in overall series championship points, in P6 just behind Graham Rahal. Takuma Sato has ensconced himself in P9 in the standings, and should have some prime opportunities to move up if he can keep running well on both road and oval courses. For Viso, he needs to hope that his flashes of excellence finally come together in a sustained effort, not unlike his P3 at Iowa last year.
Of course, there's Kanaan's veteran leadership. He's worked especially well with Sato in setup and data-sharing, and there's every sign that having his presence is bringing a stabilizing influence to a team eager to erase memories of a nightmarish 2010 season.
Kanaan won at Iowa last year. Viso, as mentioned was on the podium. Sato's consistency seems to be gelling. For KV Racing, however, it will be at least one more week of frustration and unanswered questions. They have talented crews, with some of the best folks in the business working behind the scenes. They'll have more opportunities. Yes, KV Racing Technology can win this year, be it on an oval or twisty course. The only question is when the breaks will turn their way.
Zachary Houghton runs www.indycaradvocate.com, which features regularly-updated INDYCAR, IZOD IndyCar Series, and Mazda Road to Indy interviews, commentary, and more. You can find him on Twitter at @indycaradvocate.