Milwaukee IndyFest 250 – IZOD IndyCar Series Preview

It began with a Wilbur Shaw win in 1933 and continued in 2012 with Ryan Hunter-Reay’s victory.

Come Saturday, June 15th, Indy Cars (Big Cars or Champ Cars as they’ve been called over the years) will line up at the Milwaukee Mile for the 114th time on the nine-degree (almost flat) track located at the Wisconsin State Fair grounds which has hosted motorsports events since 1903.

Sanctioned at various times by the American Automobile Association (26 races) and continuing with USAC (49), CART (27),Champ Car (3) and IRL-IndyCar (8), the storied West Allis oval that was dirt until 1954, has seen its share of heroes and villains, life and death, and wins and losses since that first race captured by Shaw.

For 2013, the IZOD IndyCar Series rolls into the Badger state featuring one of the closest battles and most competitive fields in recent open wheel history.

Led by series’ points-leader and recent Texas winner Helio Castroneves, the 24-car field features six drivers who have won on the historic mile.

Besides Hunter-Reay, Ryan Briscoe, Dario Franchitti, Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan and Sebastien Bourdais have visited victory lane here; Kanaan and Franchitti having each won twice.

Franchitti has been especially strong here in recent years having won and started on the pole in 2011 and been the pole winner again last year.

Team Penske’s Dallara-Chevrolet won last week for the first time this season at Texas. They have seven wins all-time among active teams at Milwaukee, while Andretti Autosport (4) and Target Chip Ganassi (3) trail. The Newman-Haas powerhouse (1985-2006) is tied with Penske at seven.

Chevrolet has won both oval races this season (Indy and Texas), and has five wins in 2013 to Honda’s three.

This season has seen a mad scramble for the checkered flag so far, with seven winners in the eight events that have been contested.

Takuma Sato, Mike Conway and Simon Pagenaud have won for Honda, while Kanaan, Hunter-Reay, Castroneves and James Hinchcliffe (twice) have been victorious for the Bowtie Brigade.

From 2002-2004 the event has been run at 250 miles with Paul Tracy, Michel Jourdain Jr. and Hunter-Reay scoring wins at that distance.

As recently as 1966 Mario Andretti won a 100-miler here that was completed in just over sixty-two minutes.

The Andrettis have been especially successful here with Mario winning four times and Michael five. Marco trails Castroneves by 22 markers in the season’s points chase. He has never won here but this could be perhaps his best chance to join Dad and Grandpa as Milwaukee winners; especially on Father’s Day weekend.

The Andretti clan swept the podium in 1991 with Michael winning over cousin John and father Mario.

• Race event promoter Michael Andretti has won five times in Milwaukee.
His Andretti Autosport team has four cars entered in the IICS race and two each in Firestone Indy Lights and Cooper Tires Pro Mazda races here.

• Ryan Briscoe will once more drive the #4 National Guard Chevrolet for Panther Racing. Briscoe and Oriol Servia have both been in the cockpit for Panther after J.R.Hildebrand was dropped from the team after Indy. Servia will race next at Iowa.

• Milwaukeean David Hobbs and Will Buxton will join the regular NBC Sports Network announcing team for the MKE race. Both are regular Formula One broadcasters for the network. Hobbs will be in the booth with Leigh Diffey and Townsend Bell, while Buxton will work his usual F1 territory as a pit reporter along with Jon Beekhuis, Kevin Lee and Robin Miller.

• Michael Andretti: “It’s important for the series to be here. The track has tons and tons of history since 1903.”

• AA reps noted Wednesday that ticket sales seem to be a bit ahead of last year, but walk-up sales will depend on the weather.

• Sato’s manager said that they are working on a multi-year deal to keep the Long Beach winner with AJ Foyt’s team for several years to come.

• Castroneves: “We can’t stop now because the championship is wide open. A win (at Texas) is certainly a good feeling. A championship-I don’t know that yet. I’d love to have that feeling at the end of the year.”

• Who will win? Milwaukee can’t be taken flat-out during the race due to constant traffic on the tight, flat oval. Winners usually come from the veterans who have battled here before and have gained experience. Target Chip Ganassi-Honda has yet to win on an oval in 2013, but Franchitti has been successful in the past two events here. I’ll take him to win this week. TK could be a challenger, though, having scored eight top-ten finishes in his last ten MKE starts. Saturday will be his 205th consecutive series start.

• The race will be televised live on NBC Sports Network starting at 4:00PM (eastern). The radio broadcast can be heard on SIRIUS XM channel 211.

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