IZOD Indy Car Series Returns To Milwaukee And More

Much has happened in the racing world since the Indianapolis 500 two weeks ago. Here are a few things to think about regarding those events and some upcoming ones.

• We’ll know soon if the Milwaukee area and the state of Wisconsin will continue to be important players in the motorsports community, as two major events will test our support of racing in the Dairy State. In case you haven’t noticed, there is an IZOD Indy Car Series race at the Milwaukee Mile this weekend. And while the drivers and teams have almost unanimously greeted their return to the historic West Allis oval with approval, the pre-race “buzz” you would expect to accompany the return of a major national event to the area after a year’s absence seems to be lacking. What once was THE race a week after the Indianapolis 500, is now run here almost three weeks later, unable to ride the publicity coattails of the 500. Without a major title sponsor (the race is the Milwaukee 225), the event hasn’t been able to blanket the area with advertising as it did in the past, and what there has been hasn’t been very clear, especially to the casual fan.

What are the seven races scheduled over the Father’s Day weekend, and when are they scheduled to run? Are these support races USAC sprints ,midgets, Silver Crown or what? Even mentions of the race by the local media have often ignored the fact that this is the return of the Izod Indy Car Series to the Mile. Today, too many people relate any major race to NASCAR, and here’s where some confusion could likely exist in the marketplace. The Bucyrus 250 upcoming at Road America on June 25th, does feature NASCAR’s Nationwide Series, along with a Rolex Sports Car Series race. The Nationwide Series ran a very successful event at the Elkhart Lake track last season, and with the addition of the Daytona Prototypes, could be headed for another strong showing. It’s too bad that both of these important summer events are scheduled within a week of each other. Wisconsin racing fans may have to choose between the two. Will their dollars end up in West Allis or Elkhart Lake? Where will pre-race publicity lead them? Their vote could go a long way toward determining the future of one, or both, of these major events.

• The announcement earlier in May that the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was going to repave most of the track’s road course, led to much speculation as to what that project meant. It has now become clear with the announcement that the 2012 Brickyard 400 weekend will also include the running of the GRAN-AM Rolex Series on the infield/oval course. This will be the first time that both the 2.5 mile oval and the road circuit will be used on the same weekend. For years rumors have circulated that another race would be presented during the Brickyard 400 weekend, but most centered on NASCAR’s Nationwide Series moving east from Lucas Raceway Park to the Speedway. Perhaps this added race will strengthen attendance, as crowds for the Brickyard 400 have slipped noticeably in recent years.

• When the word “horrendous” is used to describe a crash during a race, you know it’s bad. But when two such incidents are described in that way during the same event, we all need to sit up and take notice. During the recent running of the 24 Hours of LeMans, dramatic crashes by Audi drivers Allan McNish and Mike Rockenfeller emphasized just how far we’ve come in efforts regarding driver safety, but showed the further need for track safety improvements. Both crashes, which were rerun many times on TV, were caused by GT class drivers colliding with the much faster LMP cars, knocking them off course. In the McNish incident, his Audi R18 slid through a gravel trap, hit a tire barrier at a very high speed, where it disintegrated, causing parts to be launched into a photographer’s area that wasn’t protected by a debris fence. Good fortune resulted in no one being injured in either incident, but the McNish Audi came very close to hurtling the barrier and striking the photographers, while potentially entering a spectator area adjacent.

Le Mans is a very fast, sweeping circuit that saw a car enter a grandstand in 1955, killing over 80 spectators and injuring 120. Racing as we know it almost ended that day. We can’t afford anything like that to occur today. Gaps in track safety need to be addressed at all circuits, and something needs to be done to close the difference between the closing speeds of GT cars and the much faster prototypes in endurance races. The future of our sport depends on it.

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