Aug 15, 2014, 11:48 AM EDT
Traditionally a staple on the Verizon IndyCar Series calendar in June, the Milwaukee weekend now shifts to August in 2014, which is crucial on several fronts.
From an event standpoint, Milwaukee is the fifth of six oval races this season. While the Indianapolis 500 is and will always be both IndyCar’s biggest and marquee race from an attendance and interest standpoint, the other oval races this year at Texas, Pocono and Iowa have come under fire for perceived lack of attendance.
“It’s hard to compare a Milwaukee or Pocono to St. Petersburg or Long Beach; they’re different environments,” says Ed Carpenter, owner/driver of the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet. “They have done a really good job at Milwaukee. Sometimes the perception of attendance is one event – street courses feel busier than what they are compared to a Pocono or Iowa, good example, or Texas as well.
“The actual attendance you see at Texas or Iowa isn’t all that different… but like St. Pete, Detroit, there’s more going on at the race. It feels more crowded at Detroit because of confined space. It looks more different than what they are. For ovals it’s a different type of excitement; and there is always going to be more passing.”
It’s an important event for IndyCar to look big – Andretti Sports Marketing has more or less “thrown the kitchen sink” at this event for the last three years, although there’s still something of a mystery as to how well it gets through to the locals.
The upside is that this year’s race comes following the Wisconsin State Fair. A record number of patrons passed through the gates there, and a fair number should have been exposed to IndyFest signage and appearances. Drivers have been in the state for appearances and promotions on-and-off since March. Radio ads and billboards have made the rounds; a good Sunday forecast should encourage a good walk-up number.
But the look will be important, because although Milwaukee is overflowing with history and praise from most in the IndyCar paddock, it needs to work business-wise to ensure its long-term survival. For that, I say, if you’re near the area and claim to be an IndyCar oval fan, you need to put your money where your mouth is, show up, and pack the joint. Here’s a rundown of the events occurring this weekend.
From the series standpoint, the championship now enters its final stretch of three races, in three weekends, on three completely different types of circuits.
The ABC Supply Co. Wisconsin 250 at Milwaukee IndyFest Presented by the Metro Milwaukee Honda Dealers (Sunday, 3 p.m. ET, NBCSN) is on the legendary, historic one-mile Milwaukee Mile oval. Then it shifts to the flowing road course of Sonoma next week, and the two-mile, bumpy Auto Club Speedway in Fontana the following week.
This is more or less the week Ryan Hunter-Reay and Simon Pagenaud, 63 and 64 points behind points leader Will Power (and his Team Penske teammate, Helio Castroneves, who lost the lead at Mid-Ohio) need to make headway and get to within roughly the 30-40 point ballpark of the top two.
There’s 200 available points, plus bonus points, for the final three races with Fontana a double-points race. Hunter-Reay, who’s won the last two Milwaukee races and three in total, has his first ever shot at a race three-peat this weekend.
In his 2012 title-winning season, Hunter-Reay kicked off a string of three wins during the season at Milwaukee, which began his championship charge. Wins at Iowa and Toronto added to it.
None of the other three other than “RHR” have won here. Castroneves, in particular, has had a snakebit history at this track. Past Milwaukee winners Juan Pablo Montoya and Scott Dixon have a mathematical, if less realistic shot at the title but could well play themselves into it with another big week themselves. Neither “JPM” nor “Dixie” has anything to lose.
Then there are the spoilers. Any of 13 drivers have the chance to become IndyCar’s 11th different winner this season, which would tie a record set in the 2000 and 2001 CART seasons.
From that baker’s dozen, Tony Kanaan and James Hinchcliffe are the two I’m watching closely this weekend. Kanaan’s been fast, leading and unlucky on ovals; Hinchcliffe has traditionally run well at Milwaukee.
Marco Andretti and Josef Newgarden would also be popular winners – Andretti for the name and the fact it’s his father, Michael’s, organization promoting the event, and Newgarden after his Mid-Ohio near miss.
But whoever wins Sunday will have mastered the combination of pace, patience, balance, setup and traffic.
And so long as there’s a good number of folks in the stands here to see it – so it looks like the historic and major event it can be, and to enhance the NBCSN TV coverage – that’ll be a good day at the office for both INDYCAR and Andretti Sports Marketing.
Sep 20, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT
Australian driver qualifies third for the Singapore Grand Prix ahead of teammate Sebastian Vettel.
Sep 20, 2014, 11:45 AM EDT
The 16-year-old earns his second career Truck Series pole ahead of today’s UNOH 175 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Sep 20, 2014, 11:30 AM EDT
The F1 championship leader falls agonizingly short of pole position in qualifying for the Singapore GP on Saturday.
Sep 20, 2014, 10:30 AM EDT
Under overcast skies and with ambient temperatures around 40 degrees – a far cry from what’s expected for Sunday – Keselowski posted a hot lap of 135.622 mph to pace the field.
Sep 20, 2014, 10:06 AM EDT
Hamilton bags pole position by the narrowest of margins on Saturday night in Singapore.
Sep 20, 2014, 8:15 AM EDT
Track preview of LA course for Red Bull Global Rallycross.
Sep 20, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT
Dutch youngster is set to take part in practice for the Japanese Grand Prix in two weeks’ time.
Sep 20, 2014, 7:30 AM EDT
With the future of as many as four teams in the lurch, F1 could be forced to take drastic action in 2015. However, efforts must be made to resolve the current situation instead of finding a solution to a future problem.
Sep 20, 2014, 7:04 AM EDT
Spaniard fastest ahead of Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Rosberg.
Sep 20, 2014, 5:45 AM EDT
FP3 marks the final chance for the drivers and teams to get everything set for qualifying later today.
Sep 19, 2014, 9:13 PM EDT
Keselowski’s comments today at New Hampshire seem odd considering what he said just days after the Aug. 9 tragedy in upstate New York.
Sep 19, 2014, 8:00 PM EDT
Chris Buescher (RFR), Cale Conley (RCR) shine for these teams.
Sep 19, 2014, 7:15 PM EDT
Crafton hopes to build up his slim lead in the Camping World Truck Series championship with a strong outing in tomorrow’s UNOH 175.
Sep 19, 2014, 6:45 PM EDT
Kenzie Ruston can relate so well to NASCAR star Danica Patrick. Just like when Patrick was working her way up through the racing ranks early on in her own career, Ruston has also had to outwork other male drivers for virtually everything she’s achieved up to now.
Sep 19, 2014, 6:03 PM EDT
Keselowski sets a new track record at New Hampshire in earning his fifth Sprint Cup pole of 2014.
Sep 19, 2014, 5:37 PM EDT
Pre-race videos with Austin Dyne and Tanner Foust before Red Bull GRC doubleheader in LA.
Sep 19, 2014, 5:00 PM EDT
A win from Gordon on Sunday would give New Hampshire its record-setting 14th different winner in as many races.
Sep 19, 2014, 4:30 PM EDT
We crunch the numbers to see who is really ahead at Mercedes in Singapore after Friday practice.
Video from NASCAR America
- Hamilton snatches Singapore pole away from Rosberg 0
- Fernando Alonso closes out practice in Singapore fastest 0
- Brad Keselowski wins pole for Sunday’s Chase race at New Hampshire 0
- F1 Friday Analysis: Is Lewis the man to beat? 0
- Hamilton tops FP2 as night falls in Singapore 0
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- Alonso fastest in first practice for Singapore GP 0