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.
May 29, 2015, 5:00 PM EDT
Frenchman hopes to bounce back in Canada next weekend after finishing outside of the points in Monaco.
May 29, 2015, 4:52 PM EDT
Will Power and Helio Castroneves complete the front row for first of two IndyCar races in Detroit.
May 29, 2015, 4:00 PM EDT
Sainz went on to finish the race in tenth place, but it all very nearly ended far earlier in Monaco last Sunday.
May 29, 2015, 3:00 PM EDT
GT racer returns after making his Formula E debut in Uruguay at the end of 2014.
May 29, 2015, 1:51 PM EDT
Brembo busy with IndyCar, TUDOR and World Challenge this weekend.
May 29, 2015, 12:48 PM EDT
Kanaan leads the way in the T-Swift mobile.
May 29, 2015, 12:00 PM EDT
Fernando Alonso’s manager confident the Spaniard was right to leave Ferrari and join McLaren for 2015.
May 29, 2015, 11:00 AM EDT
Ecclestone has given the race promoters two months to make a decision on whether to revive the Indian Grand Prix or not.
May 29, 2015, 10:15 AM EDT
What’s next for Joni Wiman, the defending Red Bull Global Rallycross champion?
May 29, 2015, 9:30 AM EDT
Ricciardo announced himself on F1’s big stage in Canada last year with the first of three victories in 2014.
May 29, 2015, 9:00 AM EDT
Here’s how field did in last year’s doubleheaders.
May 29, 2015, 7:45 AM EDT
Who will emerge on top after a crucial weekend in Detroit?
May 29, 2015, 12:35 AM EDT
Larry Dixon is making up for lost time – in VERY fast way, that is – as in the neighborhood of 320-plus mph and less than four seconds.
May 28, 2015, 11:05 PM EDT
Sarah Cornett-Ching is opening a lot of eyes in the ARCA Series this season.
May 28, 2015, 8:59 PM EDT
Here’s the field for this year’s Red Bull GRC season opener in Ft. Lauderdale.
May 28, 2015, 8:31 PM EDT
Taylor Swift on an IndyCar? Believe it.
May 28, 2015, 6:49 PM EDT
With the completion of the Kansas Nationals this past Sunday, the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series has reached the one-third point of the 2015 season.
May 28, 2015, 4:30 PM EDT
Ex-F1 driver ponders whether Hamilton’s trust in Mercedes may have taken a hit after his Monaco defeat.
May 28, 2015, 3:23 PM EDT
FIA looking for more teams to join the sport in the next two seasons.
- Power wins Verizon P1 Award in Detroit with new track record 1
- Preview: Detroit’s doubleheader a crucial weekend for IndyCar championship 0
- ARCA: From welder to race car driver, Sarah Cornett-Ching continues her building prowess 2
- Taylor Swift to be featured on Tony Kanaan’s IndyCar in Detroit; will she make it to track? 7
- Surprises, struggles: NHRA at one-third mark of ’15 season 5
- FIA seeking new teams for Formula 1 in 2016 and 2017 8
- Gossage to Walker: “We need a more competitive race this year than last year” 2