Inside Milwaukee IndyFest, Part 1: How it Works

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Roughly once monthly over the next several months, with more to come in the last month, MotorSportsTalk will take you inside the preparation for the ABC Supply Co. Inc., Wisconsin 250 at Milwaukee IndyFest presented by the Metro Milwaukee Honda Dealers, taking place August 16-17, 2014, promoted by Andretti Sports Marketing. Through this series, we look to provide insight on the behind-the-scenes process of how a Verizon IndyCar Series event comes to be; from pre-race events, to partner activations and promotions, to staff overview.

At 5 p.m. on a frigid, March Sunday night, Andretti Autosport Indy Lights drivers Zach Veach and Matthew “Matty” Brabham visit JB’s on 41 bowling alley on 27th Street in Milwaukee, and meet their bowling opponents.

No, not us, the assembled media and race fans who have come out to the event; it’s the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee collegiate bowling team.

It’s a fun local Milwaukee event, and one that may have seen Veach discover a backup career if his progression through the Mazda Road to Indy doesn’t fully work out.

He beat me by two pins after a 10th frame turkey in our first game, and then was busy exchanging high-fives and fist-bumps with the UWM team during the second, as his strikes were flowing like water.

Several weeks later, he carried the winning momentum into winning the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires season opener at St. Petersburg, his first career victory.

But back to bowling: it was a fun night had by all. The historical anorak in me loved to see one kid wearing a 2010 KV Racing shirt, which featured both Lotus and Cosworth branding even though Honda provided the actual power that year.

This event is one of many supporting events organized by the Andretti Sports Marketing team, some five months ahead of the 2014 Milwaukee IndyFest, as the team works to plan the Verizon IndyCar Series weekend of August 16-17, 2014.

There are a few more months available this year in terms of preparation. In 2012 and 2013, the race was held on Father’s Day; a Saturday in June. In 2014, Milwaukee IndyFest moves to August to increase awareness and foot traffic throughout the Wisconsin State Fair.

What that means is that the Andretti Sports Marketing staff has been preparing for the event since November 2013. The Andretti Sports Marketing team meets once weekly to develop and execute key event planning and marketing tactics related to the race weekend.

This bowling event was capper to two days in the city; other events that featured a Milwaukee IndyFest presence included visiting a Milwaukee Wave soccer game and the Milwaukee Auto Show.

During the time in March, nine volunteer leads met for the first time, with direction from the Andretti Sports Marketing team. Volunteer leads assist the team with security, medical, track operations, safety, redemption, observation, event services, and guest services. Later on, the volunteer leads direct the 180+ volunteers that assist with the execution of Milwaukee IndyFest race weekend.

Specific duties related to the race itself are led and handled by Andretti Sports Marketing staff. The staff has a designated person or persons in charge of race PR/marketing and client services, operations, entertainment, and side events (such as the National Volleyball League, for instance).

Preparing the number of corporate sponsors is something the Andretti Sports Marketing organization is also working on at the moment, as is getting the infield logistics set up to handle the elements that make up the “three-day festival of speed.”

In April, further meetings will follow to help determine more about how the event comes together.

More information:

Websites: Milwaukee IndyFest, Andretti Sports Marketing

Twitter: @MKE_IndyFest, @AndrettiSM

IndyCar 2017 driver review: Remaining part-time drivers

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MotorSportsTalk wraps up its annual review of the Verizon IndyCar Series drivers that raced in 2017 with the remaining part-time drivers, after the 23 drivers who ran anywhere from six events to the full season.

There were 15 drivers who made four or fewer starts this season. Some overly impressed or drew major headlines in their limited opportunities.

They were, by start count:

  • Sebastian Saavedra (No. 17 Juncos Racing Chevrolet, No. 7 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda, 4)
  • Gabby Chaves (No. 88 Harding Racing Chevrolet, 3)
  • Oriol Servia (No. 16 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda, 3)
  • Jack Harvey (No. 50 MSR w/Andretti Autosport Honda, No. 7 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda, 3)
  • Juan Pablo Montoya (No. 22 Team Penske Chevrolet, 2)
  • Zach Veach (No. 21 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet, No. 40 A.J. Foyt Enterprises Chevrolet, 2)
  • Fernando Alonso (No. 29 McLaren Honda Andretti Honda, 1)
  • Pippa Mann (No. 63 Dale Coyne Racing Honda, 1)
  • Jay Howard (No. 77 Team One Cure/SPM Honda, 1)
  • Sage Karam (No. 24 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Chevrolet, 1)
  • James Davison (No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda, 1)
  • Tristan Vautier (No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda, 1)
  • Buddy Lazier (No. 44 Lazier Racing Partners Chevrolet, 1)
  • Zachary Claman DeMelo (No. 13 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda, 1)
  • Robert Wickens (No. 7 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda, Practice Only)

Going through them, in terms of impact, Alonso’s one-off at the Indianapolis 500 easily resonated loudest. It was incredible to witness the amount of buzz, worldwide support and media attention that Alonso generated, and fueled a running joke that he was the only driver in this year’s race. It was capped off when he beat Ed Jones to race rookie-of-the-year honors, despite losing a Honda engine late while Jones dragged a broken Dale Coyne Racing car to third place.

Elsewhere, Chaves and Harding Racing’s debut was the most unexpected pleasant surprise from a driver and team standpoint. A solid ninth at Indianapolis was followed by an even more impressive fifth at Texas. Their three oval races laid the groundwork for a step-up to a full-time entry in 2018.

Montoya proved he still had it with a pair of top-10s in a fifth Team Penske car. He’ll be in Penske’s Acura prototype sports car program next year and the hope is that we haven’t seen the last of him in IndyCar.

Saavedra re-established himself on the scene after a year-plus hiatus. The likable Colombian overachieved given low expectations with two different teams. Whether it was enough to see him and longtime backer AFS Racing for further races in 2018 is unknown.

Harvey and Veach each came up to IndyCar for a cup of coffee, both rookies in the Indianapolis 500 alongside Alonso and Jones while also getting additional road course starts. Neither of them looked a world-beater in their road course outings owing to tough circumstances, but they logged key laps and miles to build for a brighter future from 2018 and beyond in recently announced multi-year programs (Harvey with Michael Shank Racing and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, and Veach with Andretti Autosport).

Of the rest, Servia’s results left a bit to be desired, a potential top-five fading in Indy when he and Davison collided to trigger a multi-car pileup. Davison and Vautier impressed in their lone starts of the year with their pace and aggression but were unable to parlay them into results.

Mann made her usual Indy 500 one-off entry and secured her best finish in six starts, but pressed through a challenging month that she’ll be keen to improve upon in 2018. Her day was significantly better than Howard’s and Lazier’s, who both ended their ‘500 bows in the wall, and with Howard having contributed to Scott Dixon’s savage accident when he crashed in Turn 1 and then came into Dixon’s path.

“ZCD” made his debut at Sonoma in a second RLL Racing entry and did rather well, competitive on lap times as the weekend progressed on a track that’s notoriously low-grip. Wickens never got that far. Despite a preseason ride swap with his close friend James Hinchcliffe that reignited his passion for open-wheel after several years, and with Mercedes announcing it would pull the plug on its DTM program after 2018, Wickens got only a practice day at Road America before Mikhail Aleshin sorted his visa issues. The circumstances evolved in Wickens’ favor at season’s end to see him get the second seat for 2018 at SPM after all.