Scott Dixon passed Ryan Briscoe with 24 laps remaining and went on to win the Milwaukee Mile round of the IndyCar Series and deny Briscoe a second straight win at the track.
In a reversal of last year's battle, which saw Briscoe take his first win in the championship after overtaking Dixon in the final stint, this time it was the Ganassi driver who pounced on the Penske man in traffic in the closing stages.
Briscoe, who led most of the race, got hung up behind the lapped Dreyer & Reinbold car of Tomas Scheckter, giving Dixon an opening on the inside. Briscoe held on to second place, followed by Dixon's Chip Ganassi Racing team-mate, Dario Franchitti, and Graham Rahal (Newman/Haas/Lanigan).
The move angered Briscoe's team owner Roger Penske, who complained that Scheckter was impeding Briscoe, but neither Briscoe nor Dixon said Scheckter was the issue.
"You can't really use traffic; you just have to time it right," Dixon said. "You've got to try to look ahead and see where the other guys are using their lines - see if they're on the bottom or top. You've got to see the quickest way around. Luckily for me, my car was fantastic on the high line around [Turns] 1 and 2. A lot of people were driving through the middle, so I could get a good run. You get good timing sometimes, but other times it will bite you in the ass."
Briscoe said his car just did not have as much momentum as Dixon's in the final stint.
"Scott was just a little bit better than me at the end there," Briscoe said. "He got me in traffic. I was struggling with a little bit of understeer, and whenever I'd get on the inside I'd really lose momentum. He was there all day long and took the opportunity to pass me when I got slowed up."
Traffic also was an issue for other top finishers, who struggled to get past slower cars while the groove narrowed as the race went on.
"The hard thing was lapped cars," said Franchitti, who led for a while after vaulting ahead in the pits, only to drop behind both Briscoe and Dixon when caught among backmarkers. "It was traffic, timing your passes right. I tried hard to pass Ryan at the end, but when he was taking my air there was nothing I could do."
Dixon's second victory of the season gives him the lead in the IndyCar Series standings after five races, by four points over Briscoe and Franchitti. That is quite a turnaround from Dixon's lowly position after the first two races saw him only 16th in St Petersburg and 15th in Long Beach.
"We gave up our two bad races in the first two races," said Dixon. "We just have to maintain and get as many points as possible. It's going to be a tough season no matter what, but we knew then that we had to make up as many points as possible."
The champion had struggled with Milwaukee since his first race here in 2004 - "we crashed twice in four laps in 2004; that must be a record," he said - but finally conquered the track that has given him so many problems.
"It's an extremely tough track," Dixon said. "We just waited patiently. We were consistently happy. The car was good in traffic."
Despite being disappointed to lose the race, Briscoe's second place keeps him in the championship hunt heading into next Saturday's race at Texas.
"Scott got the better of us, but we scored some points and we're still in it," Briscoe said. "That's the important part. If you can't win them, you've got to take what you can get. I thought we did a good job this week."
Danica Patrick followed up her third place finish at Indianapolis with a patient fifth place effort at Milwaukee, the best of the Andretti Green drivers - although her team-mate Tony Kanaan led the opening laps before later retiring due to a fire on his car. Patrick's result put her fourth in the points, the highest she has been in the standings this far into a season.
"I just took it easy," she said. "I knew at the beginning that I wasn't over-hustling the car, and I could see some other cars that were definitely pushing it. I thought it was going to come to me a little bit, and it did."
Raphael Matos, who ran well at Indy before crashing with Vitor Meira late in the race, finished sixth for Luczo Dragon. Another driver who crashed out of the 500, Marco Andretti, finished seventh on Sunday despite falling to last at the start. His AGR team-mate Hideki Mutoh, KV's Mario Moraes and Panther's Dan Wheldon rounded out the top 10.
Helio Castroneves, the Indy 500 winner who crashed in qualifying and had to start last in the 20-car field, struggled to stay on the lead lap and settled for an 11th place finish.
"This is one of those days when it feels like there are 700 laps to go," he said.
Paul Tracy, in his first race as Meira's replacement with AJ Foyt Racing, said he was not sure if he would continue with the team after his 17th-place finish.
"It was like a dirt car out there," Tracy said. "I was just trying to keep it off the wall."
Pos Driver Team Gap 1. Scott Dixon Ganassi 1h38m43.9552s 2. Ryan Briscoe Penske + 2.1257s 3. Dario Franchitti Ganassi + 2.2644s 4. Graham Rahal Newman/Haas/Lanigan + 2.6744s 5. Danica Patrick Andretti Green + 5.9824s 6. Raphael Matos Luczo Dragon + 15.8877s 7. Marco Andretti Andretti Green + 17.9448s 8. Hideki Mutoh Andretti Green + 1 lap 9. Mario Moraes KV + 1 lap 10. Dan Wheldon Panther + 1 lap 11. Helio Castroneves Penske + 3 laps 12. Ryan Hunter-Reay Vision + 3 laps 13. Tomas Scheckter Dreyer & Reinbold + 3 laps 14. Robert Doornbos Newman/Haas/Lanigan + 5 laps 15. Justin Wilson Coyne + 6 laps 16. Ed Carpenter Vision + 6 laps 17. Paul Tracy Foyt + 6 laps Retirements: EJ Viso HVM 175 laps Tony Kanaan Andretti Green 132 laps Mike Conway Dreyer & Reinbold 55 laps Stanton Barrett 3G