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.
Sep 17, 2014, 8:00 PM EDT
The 2003 Sprint Cup champion talks with NASCAR AMERICA’s Marty Snider about how he’s now looking forward to racing at New Hampshire more than ever before.
Sep 17, 2014, 7:18 PM EDT
Joe Gibbs tells the press that the details have already been decided, and that an announcement could come within the next few weeks.
Sep 17, 2014, 6:15 PM EDT
Denny Hamlin and Kurt Busch are currently in position to make the Contender Round, but need big results this weekend at New Hampshire. NASCAR AMERICA’s Frank Stoddard explains why.
Sep 17, 2014, 5:30 PM EDT
Waltrip and partner Emma Slater are moving on to Week 2 despite a shaky opening performance.
Sep 17, 2014, 4:45 PM EDT
Also on tap: Chicagoland edition of “Scan All 43″; learning the best lines around New Hampshire.
Sep 17, 2014, 3:31 PM EDT
The No. 20 Truck failed to meet post-race body height requirements following Saturday night’s Truck Series event at Chicagoland Speedway.
Sep 17, 2014, 2:35 PM EDT
Needing two more good races to make the Contender Round, knowing when and when not to take a chance on the track will be important for the 4 camp.
Sep 17, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT
Singapore GP and two Red Bull GRC races to watch this weekend, among other items, on NBC TV times.
Sep 17, 2014, 1:33 PM EDT
RPM also announces that it will stay with Ford, and also continue chassis/engine supply deals with Roush Fenway Racing and Roush Yates Engines respectively.
Sep 17, 2014, 1:00 PM EDT
Ed Carpenter Racing and Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing, under new CFH Racing banner, will run Chevrolets in the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series.
Sep 17, 2014, 12:36 PM EDT
Team engineering director Pat Fry says some new components for 2015 will be tested on the current F14 T car during the final stretch of races this year.
Sep 17, 2014, 11:19 AM EDT
DEWALT and STANLEY join Joe Gibbs Racing, for Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth, in 2015.
Sep 17, 2014, 10:56 AM EDT
GP2 adds DRS for 2015.
Sep 17, 2014, 10:02 AM EDT
NASCAR Whelen Euro Series announces 2015 schedule, which includes another oval.
Sep 16, 2014, 10:00 PM EDT
Lajoie will run his first Cup race at New Hampshire, while Justin Boston will drive for Joe Gibbs Racing at Kentucky and Dover in the Nationwide Series.
Sep 16, 2014, 9:00 PM EDT
Will experience or hunger help him capture his 2nd Sprint Cup title? The NASCAR AMERICA gang debates the topic.
Sep 16, 2014, 8:00 PM EDT
NBC Sports legal analyst Jack Furlong breaks down what could happen now that a grand jury will decide whether Stewart will face charges for his involvement in the accident that killed sprint car racer Kevin Ward Jr.
Sep 16, 2014, 7:00 PM EDT
The nine-turn Port of Los Angeles circuit will feature the longest joker of the 2014 GRC season.
Sep 16, 2014, 6:00 PM EDT
Teams now know what radio messages can and cannot be made heading into this weekend’s Singapore Grand Prix.
Sep 16, 2014, 4:45 PM EDT
Also coming up today: What’s more important in winning a Sprint Cup title: Experience or Drive?; rookie phenom Kyle Larson on dealing with the hype; NASCAR pioneer Wendell Scott to be honored next month.
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