Aug 19, 2014, 1:00 PM EDT
Several factors need to be taken into play when doing a weekend debrief of last weekend’s Milwaukee IndyFest, the third crack by Andretti Sports Marketing in promoting a race at the legendary, one-mile oval.
One, the date changed. Date equity is often one of the keys to a successful event; it’s been something that Milwaukee is readjusting to. For ages, it was the week after the Indianapolis 500, but then it was shifted to later in June upon its return to the calendar in 2011, and then for 2014, switched to August.
Two, it didn’t rain pre-race. Each of the last two years, the Father’s Day Saturday, pop-up showers occurred and had an adverse affect on the walk-up crowd. With a glorious, sun-soaked Sunday this time around, the infield pre-race was buzzing.
Three, there is a general perception that oval attendance looks worse visually than at road and street courses. A road or street course race weekend may get as little as 10 to 15,000 patrons on race day, but if they’re neatly packed into say, three or four grandstands around a two-mile course, it looks like a sellout. But 20 or 25,000 at a Texas, Iowa or Milwaukee looks worse because the grandstand capacity is much bigger – either north of 30,000 on the short ovals or exceeding 75,000 at the 1.5-mile TMS.
So, consider those factors and the fact that visually speaking (top is 2013, bottom 2014), the grandstands appeared to be fuller this go around and you’ll have to say there were more positives than negatives to take away from the 2014 edition of an event that needed a big weekend.
Promotionally speaking, Andretti Sports Marketing had an active city presence for the better part of five months. Various driver appearances and other pre-race elements were chronicled throughout the process on MotorSportsTalk. There were at least some billboards present on the freeways driving up from Chicago/Indianapolis up north.
If there was one complaint I heard during the weekend, and perhaps fairly, it was that the event merchandise selection was lacking. So were the cream puffs for those outside victory lane. But certainly, the entertainment options weren’t. With rides, a Ferris Wheel, various food options, tweet-ups, the National Volleyball League and a concert stage all packed into the infield, there was plenty for families to engage in.
Crowd reports have been mixed. Honestly, I’d peg it a bit as close to 30,000. Robin Miller estimated a lower amount (18,000) in a piece for RACER.com but if event general manager Kevin Healy estimated last year’s at nearer to 28,000 (which seems high), and this one felt busier (believe me, it did) in a piece for the Business Journal Serving Greater Milwaukee, so it should be a little bit higher. And any growth, especially given the above factors, is a good thing. Estimates of 35 to 40,000, as ABC Supply Co. owner Diane Hendricks hoped for, were wide of the mark.
Did the fans get treated to one of the best races of the year? Frankly, no. Will Power checked out in one of his most clutch performances in the Verizon IndyCar Series, and he won with tenacity (he survived an early battle with Tony Kanaan), pace (consistent 150+ mph laps before the tires fell off) and fuel saving (going 62 laps on a final stint).
But that says something more to the quality of IndyCar races throughout the year than it does a lack of excitement with Milwaukee. The downside to the racing in Sunday’s case was that it required a second screen experience – generally the Verizon INDYCAR 14 app or a laptop – to enhance the viewing of the race, and follow the respective strategies and timing & scoring.
Perhaps the tires fell off too fast, and the horsepower isn’t high enough to where it could be. Still, neither Juan Pablo Montoya nor Kanaan blamed anything bad about Sunday’s race on the current package – they blamed it on drivers who were difficult to pass as slower traffic.
The corporate support for this race was up, and that is a big takeaway. Michael Andretti said pre-race how happy he was with the uptick, and considering events need all the local and corporate support they can get, it’s a positive sign. ABC Supply’s presence as title sponsor is a good thing – so is Direct Supply’s, Marcus Hotels, the Metro Milwaukee Honda Dealers, and on down the line. There was a street party on the Friday night, with a charity event for Racing for Kids also well-received.
Seeing news reports that “Milwaukee has just been confirmed for 2015″ is erroneous. The race was announced as being locked into a two-year deal last October. The only new news this weekend about the event’s status was its reported 2015 date, initially pegged as August 22-23 (so a week later, but still a week after the State Fair) by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel‘s Dave Kallmann.
All told, while there continue to be elements the event needs to improve on, both on and off-track, I think Andretti Sports Marketing delivered another solid event overall.
As always, the fan interest needs to back up the promoter and corporate efforts – and that will remain IndyCar’s biggest challenge on ovals going forward.
Mar 27, 2015, 7:08 PM EDT
Rain washed out Friday’s first two rounds of qualifying for this weekend’s 6th annual NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at zMAX Dragway in Concord, N.C.
Mar 27, 2015, 6:03 PM EDT
No IndyCar second practice, and other notes from St. Petersburg.
Mar 27, 2015, 5:50 PM EDT
Michael Johnson in ICU after practice accident at St. Petersburg.
Mar 27, 2015, 5:00 PM EDT
Are Red Bull’s recent quibbles about Mercedes’ dominance well-reasoned, or is it simply a case of sour grapes?
Mar 27, 2015, 3:00 PM EDT
Marciello becomes the first Italian driver in four years to take part in an F1 weekend session.
Mar 27, 2015, 2:00 PM EDT
2014 GP2 champion will take part in his first F1 grand prix weekend session in Shanghai.
Mar 27, 2015, 1:50 PM EDT
Will Power leads IndyCar’s opening practice session of 2015.
Mar 27, 2015, 1:00 PM EDT
However, Renault could pull out of F1 altogether in the near future should it decide that its involvement is no longer viable.
Mar 27, 2015, 12:00 PM EDT
Hot conditions make for difficult running during practice on Friday.
Mar 27, 2015, 11:06 AM EDT
Wilson and Andretti – finally confirmed.
Mar 27, 2015, 11:00 AM EDT
Defending world champion sidelined by engine issues in FP1 on Friday.
Mar 27, 2015, 10:30 AM EDT
Hitachi and Brembo back in IndyCar for 2015.
Mar 27, 2015, 10:00 AM EDT
Spaniard completes 45 laps in Friday practice as he gets back behind the wheel of an F1 car for the first time in a month.
Mar 27, 2015, 9:40 AM EDT
Roundup of all the Verizon IndyCar Series preseason posts for the 2015 season, heading into this weekend’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
Mar 27, 2015, 9:05 AM EDT
Scott Speed, Loic Duval set for further Formula E starts in Long Beach.
Mar 27, 2015, 9:00 AM EDT
Team should qualify for Sunday’s Malaysian Grand Prix, thus completing its comeback.
Mar 27, 2015, 8:00 AM EDT
British driver planned to use a blue helmet to pay homage to Mercedes title sponsor Petronas in Malaysia.
Mar 27, 2015, 3:31 AM EDT
British driver responds to the pace shown by Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg in FP1 by topping the second session on Friday.
Mar 27, 2015, 1:45 AM EDT
Catch all of the action from second practice live on NBCSN and Live Extra.
Mar 26, 2015, 11:31 PM EDT
Defending world champion forced to stop his car out on track early in practice, but Rosberg enjoys a more fruitful session.
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- Practice setbacks leave Hamilton “quite a bit off” in Malaysia (VIDEO) 2
- Verizon IndyCar Series 2015 preseason content roundup 0
- Hamilton hits back by topping second practice in Malaysia 0
- Rosberg quickest in Malaysia FP1 as Hamilton hits trouble 2
- Now IndyCar’s champion, Will Power’s mindset hasn’t changed heading into 2015 0