Brake Glow

An aspiring motorsports journalist’s personal blog.

Tag Archives: Milwaukee Mile

One Year Later, Wheldon is in IndyCar’s Memory

Dwelling on the past prevents progression. Reminiscing, however, is vastly different from dwelling. Reminiscing involves reflection and remembrance and insight. The IndyCar paddock this week did not dwell on the past but reminisced about the life of Dan Wheldon. From his triumphs to his tragedies, from his extraordinary racing talents to his extraordinary family talents.

Few have accomplished what Wheldon had. Two Indianapolis 500 victores, an IndyCar championship, 16 wins in 128 IndyCar starts. For those keeping track, that means Wheldon won nearly 13% of all of his IndyCar races. His talent was profound. His likability was incomparable. But all that was taken from the IndyCar paddock just over a year ago.

Anyone who watched the IndyCar World Championship at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in October of 2011, remembers that race. I remember exactly the scenario when the massive, 15-car pileup unfolded.

I was helping the girl who I was going to marry in less than a month fold laundry. I was DVRing the race but still had it on in the living room. I heard the announcers’ voices escalate and peeked my head into the living room to see its cause. After watching IndyCar racing for 23 years, I witnessed the most rabid and vicious scene to come from a racetrack I had seen.  The rest, as they say, is history.

Allow me to jump topics a bit. I admittedly blog infrequently. I have barely been at a racetrack since the birth of my daughter. Just three times. Once at Chicagoland Speedway for a private Firestone test, again for the NASCAR race there and, lastly, at the Milwaukee Mile this June. The void that has arisen from my lack of time in the paddock over the past few years often makes it somewhat saddening to come write a blog. Frankly, I find it counter-productive to write about a topic when I cannot provide visual media to stimulate my own story lines. I miss racing and this often makes it worse. But, this week, I began looking through old pictures of mine from the 2008 and 2009 IndyCar season. I realized I was dwelling on the past.

On a personal note, I need to take my own advice and reminisce. The only way to develop anything further with a career in motorsports is to continue to cultivate the seeds already planted. My degree will finally be complete in under six months. From there, and in the meantime, I must continue to write in this setting. This blog provides the only opportunity, albeit on a personal level, to continue growing as a writer/photographer in motorsports. There are many motivations behind this. But one is IndyCar’s own lesson on how to move on and grow.

IndyCar has used the tragedy that took Wheldon from their own paddock and used it to grow. The new chassis, the DW12, is named such in respect of Wheldon. Through this season the DW12 has proved itself with an impeccable safety record. IndyCar moved away from “pack-racing” and brought back oval races that were more than just engineers competing on aerodynamic setups. Drivers drove the cars. IndyCar used what happened in Vegas as a lesson and largely moved away from the 1.5-mile ovals. In fact, only Texas Motor Speedway remained of the venues.

As painful as Wheldon’s loss was, it pushed the series into motion. That motion is leading into safer, more skilled racing. 2012 provided arguably the best season in IndyCar’s 16-year history and one of the safest. With Wheldon’s influence in setting up the DW12 for the paddock, this year’s phenomenal racing can largely be attributed directly to him. Although he has left us, he has provided many lasting legacies that will long outlive the brashness that surrounded his death.

Although but a fraction of his IndyCar career, I decided to post a sampling of Dan Wheldon from my personal collection, despite some flaws. As we mark a year since his passing, reflect and reminisce on the fantastic talent that was Dan Wheldon. Enjoy.

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Milwaukee Confirmed for 2012

IndyCars will indeed return to the Milwaukee Mile in 2012. (Photo: Zach Wenzel)

As reported by Brake Glow on February 4th, the IZOD IndyCar Series announced a deal has been agreed upon to bring the series back to the Milwaukee Mile in West Allis, Wisconsin.

Few formal details were released with the announcement but the race is scheduled for Father’s Day weekend, June 15th & 16th.

Talks were ongoing between the Mile and IndyCar as late as last week when concerns were raised regarding a suitable promoter for the event. Michael Andretti’s Andretti Sports Marketing answered the call and was announced as the promoter of  “Milwaukee IndyFest.”

The series is trying a different approach from years past with the race taking place on a Saturday. The motive behind the Saturday race is the hope it might draw more fans from the Chicago area. Typically, the race has been held late Sunday afternoon. The late starting time made the race somewhat undesirable for Chicago IndyCar fans trying to return home at a decent time. The hope is the change will entice Chicago fans out of the woodwork and out to the racetrack.

The Firestone Indy Lights will also race the same weekend with other series possibly being added to the weekend ticket.

Tickets for Milwaukee IndyFest go on sale March 1st.

IndyCar “Pretty Positive” for Milwaukee Return

The 100 year tradition of racing at the Milwaukee Mile may still be alive in 2012. (Photo: Zach Wenzel)

Rick Frenette, the Executive Director of the Wisconsin State Fair Park (home to the Milwaukee Mile), say he is “pretty positive” Milwaukee will return to the 2012 IndyCar schedule.

In recent weeks, speculation has increased that IndyCars will race again on the legendary one mile oval. The Mile was initially left off the 2012 IndyCar schedule but that looks set to change. In interviews with the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel’s Dave Kallman, both the CEO of IndyCar and the Executive Director of the Milwaukee Mile indicated talks are ongoing and moving in a positive direction. But there is tension over one aspect of  contract negotiations that might ultimately derail talks of returning to Milwaukee. That tension revolves around longevity.

IndyCar in the past few outings at Milwaukee have only re-upped on one year contracts. The uncertainty around the future of the race seems to make it more difficult to sign the dotted line for Rick Frenette, the Executive Director of Wisconsin State Fair Park– home to the Milwaukee Mile. “The hard part with us is with the uncertainty of something being there forever and being positive because you watch the (IndyCar) schedule go out this year and they changed a number of tracks,” Frenette said.

Some complaints on IndyCar’s end is that the venue needs significant updates which becomes something of a Catch-22 for Milwaukee. “If we ever got some more certainty (. . .) Right now we’re not spending a lot of capital improvement dollars on the track either because we’re not going to put money into something that won’t pay me back,” said Frenette. IndyCar CEO, Randy Bernard, was equally bullish as well as optimistic. “We’d love to have Milwaukee, but it’d have to make sense for a promoter to be able to go there,” he said. ” If the opportunity exists,  we’d like to try to do it. But I don’t think we’re any further. Until we sign that dotted line, we’re no further,” Bernard added.

If a deal is put together, sponsorship would have to be finalized inside of five months. That may sound insurmountable but, Bernard says, procuring sponsorship would have to come down to existing relationships anyways. “If you didn’t have it by October (when IndyCar was finalizing its race contracts), it’s going to take relationships. Hopefully some sponsors will still have some money in their budgets to make this work.” Time to promote the race to ticket-buyers was also not a top concern for Bernard. “Most of your fan base for any sport today will buy their ticket in the last 18 days,” he said.

Bernard also clarified the addition of Milwaukee would not be based out of desperation. Currently the 2012 IndyCar schedule only holds 15 events, an amount deemed lacking by most of IndyCar’s fan-base. “If we have to live with 15 events this year, we can live with 15 events.” Bernard indicated there is another racetrack, in addition to Milwaukee, holding interest in securing a 2012 race but would not disclose which track it might be.

Bernard admitted the Milwaukee Mile’s future is bleak without a big-name event like IndyCar. “We owe the Milwaukee people. We owe the track,” Bernard said. “If we don’t do this, the chances of that track becoming mothballed, I think, is a possibility.”

Frenette felt similar. “We hope that we can get it back and have a successful event, a little better than last year, and they will continue to come back. It gives the Milwaukee Mile some activity. There’s not much else out there,” he said.

Houston, Fort Lauderdale Among IndyCar’s Short List

In a recent interview with Autoweek, IndyCar head Randy Bernard commented on the future of IndyCar’s schedule. Keeping in line with much of the news surrounding additions to the 2012 schedule, Bernard discussed the Milwaukee Mile’s possible return as well as a race through the streets of Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

The interview with Autoweek was in advance of his Feb 13th “State of the Sport” speech and provided hints as to what the speech may entail. Bernard acknowledged Milwaukee’s return is possible but hangs on additional state and local financial support for the event in West Allis, Wisconsin.

He also recently met with officials from Disney in Orlando regarding a return to “the Mickyard,” the speedway at Walt Disney World where IndyCar held some of its first races. Bernard commented on the massive renovations needed there in order to accommodate an IndyCar return. Among them: the installation of SAFER barriers, and bleacher and asphalt maintenance.

Bernard neglected to go into detail about many of the projects currently under evaluation by IndyCar, but he did mention one other race that looks nearly certain to appear on the 2013 calendar: Houston. Champ Car fans remember the floodlit race through the streets of Houston, Texas promoted by Mike Lanigan. Lanigan promoted several Champ Car events and also went on to partner with Newman/Haas Racing and has since moved on to partner with Rahal-Letterman Racing to form Rahal-Letterman-Lanigan Racing. (Is that too many hyphens?)

Road America was surprisingly left out of the conversation as many expect it to appear on the 2013 schedule. The Baltimore Grand Prix, despite losing its promoter, looks solid. Bernard says he expects to pick a new promoter soon with the best interests of IndyCar and the Grand Prix in mind.

Bernard also touched on car counts for the season. 27 engine contracts have been signed for the season with a few pending. Once the others are secured, Bernard said, “you’re right there at 30.”

The final car counts will come to realization in just over two months as the IndyCar season opens on the streets of St. Petersburg on March 25th.

Milwaukee to Be Added to 2012 IndyCar Schedule?

IndyCar CEO, Randy Bernard, has publicly stated he would like to see a return of the legendary Milwaukee Mile to IndyCar’s 2012 schedule. The suggested date looks for a mid-June weekend. Traditionally, the Mile was always held immediately following the Indy 500.

Despite a possible date two weeks later than normal, one must wonder how much effective promoting of the event could be accomplished. The reasoning behind Milwaukee’s initial departure from the schedule was poor crowds resulting from poor promoting. So, would a last minute addition to the schedule lead to a permanent absence?

Other rumors surrounding the last minute addition of the famed 1-mile oval suggest its addition is a necessity after the mass exodus away from IndyCar’s 1.5-mile ovals following Dan Wheldon’s tragic death at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.  Currently there are but four ovals slated for 2012: Indianapolis (2.5 miles), Texas (1.5 miles), Iowa (0.875 miles) and AutoClub Speedway (2 miles) in Fontana, CA.

One other reason for the Mile’s potential addition is to cover the typically IndyCar saturated Milwaukee-Chicago market. In the past, IndyCar has run events at both the Milwaukee Mile and Chicagoland Speedway. With neither currently on the schedule, IndyCar might look to hastily put an event in place to satisfy the demographic. The addition of Milwaukee might provide a temporary solution when, in 2013, IndyCar looks to plan a double-header weekend with ALMS at the fan-favorite Road America in Elkhart Lake, WI.

Since the unification of American open-wheel racing in 2008, former Champ Car fans have eagerly awaited a race at the 4.048 mile track through the rolling hills of Wisconsin. Open-wheel’s loss of the track has led to NASCAR’s gain as the Nationwide series has raced there for the past two years.

If IndyCar returns to Road America, the track will be the only in America to host every major racing series in the country: AMA Superbikes, Grand-Am, NASCAR, ALMS, and IndyCar.

Will a permanent departure of the Milwaukee Mile lead to a permanent return of IndyCars to the flowing Road America circuit?