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Michael Andretti hopes to keep Milwaukee “on the map”

Jun 16, 2013, 12:48 PM EST

Firestone 550 - Practice Getty Images

Michael Andretti had a lot to be proud of on Saturday, as his Andretti Autosport team scored the win and three Top-5 finishes in the Milwaukee IndyFest and his Andretti Sports Marketing team put on a second successful event at the historic Milwaukee Mile. A glance at the crowd that saw yesterday’s 250-lap race seemed to show that attendance was again in the 25,000 range like it was for last year’s race in Milwaukee.

“I’m excited about how today went obviously with the win, but also with the people that showed up to support the race,” said Andretti, who won five times at the Mile as a driver. “I think it’s a great day. I think a lot of people had a lot of fun out there with the [IndyFest]. Hopefully, we can get this figured out and get this thing to stay on the map.”

Last year, Andretti Sports Marketing announced to the post-race crowd that a second IndyFest would be in the cards. But that didn’t happen this year and Andretti has admitted that his event is going to need more backing.

“In the end, it’s going to come down to sponsorship. We need more,” Andretti said according to the Chicago Tribune. “We can’t lose this race.”

Adding to the uncertainty is reported interest in staging IndyCar events from nearby 1.5-mile oval Chicagoland Speedway and venerable Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. The IZOD IndyCar Series has not raced at the ISC-owned Chicagoland oval since 2010, and Road America hasn’t seen major-league open-wheel racing since 2007.

The good news for Milwaukee race fans is that INDYCAR CEO Jeff Belskus appears to be appreciative of the Andretti group’s efforts to keep racing alive at the Mile, the oldest operating motor speedway in the world.

“We feel we have a lot of good options, and we’re glad to be in that situation and position,” Belskus told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel this past week. “But on the other hand, we recognize the folks that have helped get us to this point, and certainly the Andretti team and this event in Milwaukee have been a very positive part of our schedule.

“It’s good racing here in Milwaukee, and if they continue to make progress, that will be helpful in putting this deal together for a longer-term future.”

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