Milwaukee Mile/IndyCar Notes

West Allis, WI – Call today a “No Decision” when it comes to deciding the fate of major league auto racing at the Milwaukee Mile.

Though the grandstands that surround the historic track were less than half full, the enthusiasm by the fans for a hard fought, well-run race was evident.

AB Promotions and Chris McGrath had nine months to revive a dormant track and put racing back on the map in a city that often has a short memory. Operating without a title sponsor, the team worked hard to revive interest in an event that was at one time a 40,000-fan sellout in the CART/Champ Car era.

Some mistakes were made in the race promotion and operation, but race cars were once again on the track and fans were in the stands. There were some in this city who thought we might never again see a wheel turn here.

“It’s great to be back in Milwaukee. I think Milwaukee is part of IndyCar
history and should be part of IndyCar future. It’s a great track-very
challenging. I think you ask any driver out there we all love one-mile
ovals, low banked like Indy. And it’s a great city. So I really hope it’s
there to stay for the long run.”- Oriol Servia

“I’m not sure why the crowd wasn’t so big. I thought their last race here in 2009 was a great crowd. I know they’re starting from scratch after a change in promoters. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t fill this place, it’s so close to Chicago and Minneapolis. I sat in the grandstand today and I love the Cheeseheads. They were buying me beers. Milwaukee is my favorite oval”- Bobby Rahal

“Every driver I’ve spoken to is really happy to be back here.”-Dario Franchitti

So, the drivers like the place. It’s the only Indy car race within 300+ miles. Why didn’t the race draw better?

Indy Car has been on an upswing the past year. New cars and engines for 2012. An exciting Centennial running of the Indy 500. A buzz in the air.

Where were you readers Sunday? It rained early in the day so you weren’t doing yard work. Were you at the Lakefront Art Festival? Polish Fest? Did you decide to see what would happen here in West Allis and think about coming next year?

Things should be better in 2012. Perhaps a title sponsor and with it more advertising. Maybe a few less races during the weekend so that the spotlight lands more brightly on the IndyCar race. Smoother operations in selling tickets could help. And maybe selling that history of the track; a history that the drivers seem to appreciate more than the fans.

Time will tell. We just don’t know how much time the oval has.

• Bobby Rahal mentioned in a post-race interview that he’s hoping to have a full-time program for his Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing team in 2012.Perhaps this is linked to the three-race deal announced recently for RLL to run Pippa Mann in three races during 2011.

•Recent stories in the Chicago Tribune and the Ft. Lauderdale Sun Sentinel might lead one to believe that the IZOD Indy Car Series could be planning a return to the Chicago area as soon as 2012, and expand to the south Florida coast city by 2013. Chicagoland Speedway president Scott Paddock was quoted in the Tribune article as saying, “We would love to have them (Indy Car) back.” Reacting to the report, INDY CAR head Randy Bernard stated,”We’re both working toward the same goal of bringing a race back to Chicago.” And, with the Milwaukee Mile having lost its week-after- Indianapolis date to Texas Motor Speedway, Bernard threw both of those tracks a curve when he speculated that a Chicago date the week after Indy might be a good fit.”That would be a great spot for it,” he said. “It’s close for the teams (to Indy), and we have such a strong crowd within a 300-mile radius of the Indy 500.” INDY CAR had been a staple at the track for years, but was taken off the schedule in 2011 due to the rescheduling of the track’s NASCAR Chase to the Sprint Cup race to September, nearer their traditional IC date. Potential St. Petersburg organizers have been given permission by Indy Car to explore a street race along the city’s Atlantic Ocean beach front by 2013 according to the Sun Sentinel. The organizers are described by the paper as a group of “racing insiders” include construction executive Dale Dillon and Indy Car driver Ryan Hunter-Reay who resides in Ft. Lauderdale. The group would like the event to replace the INDY CAR race that was dropped from the Homestead Speedway schedule this year. Homestead had been the season’s closing IC race for many years, but is located in a somewhat barren area south of Miami and never seemed to draw a sizeable crowd. Another promotional group headed by local beach developer Ramola Motwani is seeking city approval for the return of an air show in April, 2012. More detailed planning for both Florida events awaits an endorsement from the city.

• Milwaukee-based Direct Supply Co. was the primary sponsor Sunday for Sarah Fisher’s entry piloted by Ed Carpenter at the Milwaukee 225 race. DS has been an associate backer for the team for many seasons.

• Simona de Silvestro was released from Froedert Hospital late Saturday night after crashing hard into the Turn 4 wall during her second warm-up lap prior to beginning her qualifying run. She was cleared to race on Sunday morning after the HVM Racing crew worked overnight to repair her heavily damaged car. De Silvestro dropped out of the race on lap 11 complaining that her Nuclear Clean Air Energy Dallara didn’t feel stable.

• Green Bay Packer defensive back Charles Woodson served as the Grand Marshal of the Milwaukee 225, gave the command to start engines and received a race-car version of a Packers helmet signed by the INDY CAR starting field. But his biggest thrill was giving that command from the “Fastest Seat in Sports”, the two-seater race car that paces the field to the green flag. Al Unser Jr. gave Woodson his ride and claimed that, “I took it easy on him.” “Really,” exclaimed Woodson, “What an exhilarating feeling to go that fast and be in a car that small, holding onto the roll cage.” Hope he didn’t get a penalty flag for that hold.

• JournalSentinel racing writer Dave Kallman had a special gift for race winner Dario Franchitti after his post-race interview. Franchitti, a frequent customer of Kopp’s custard when he visits Milwaukee, was told by Kallman that Leon’s stand had a better vanilla. Franchitti was looking for directions to their S.27th St. location so he could send his father on a “Leon’s run” when Kallman did him one better and presented the Scotsman with a gallon of the south-side favorite.

• Helio Castroneves came in for some harsh criticism from race-winner Dario Franchitti. “Racing with Tony (Kanaan) is a real pleasure. Just inches apart, giving each other room and respect. And then Helio joins the party and does his usual blocking crap. I don’t know what it’s going to take to understand that blocking is not a part of what we do in the IndyCar Series No wonder he got a flat tire with so many parts of the track he was using.”

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