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

IMSA: CJ Wilson Racing to enter WeatherTech Championship

Photo courtesy of IMSA
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CJ Wilson Racing, a championship winning team in IMSA’s Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge, is set to join the ranks of the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. The team will make its IMSA debut during testing this week at Sebring International Raceway and will campaign an Acura NSX GT3 in the GT Daytona class.

Marc Miller and Till Bechtolsheimer are scheduled to handle the driving duties during the Sebring test, and a third driver, to be named at a later date, will join them for their debut race at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring on March 17.

“As a young kid watching IMSA races, it was always my dream to race in the premier sports car series,” said team owner and former MLB all-star pitcher Wilson. “It looks like I still have some time before I race in (the) WeatherTech (Championship, as a driver) but I’m happy for Marc and Till to take on the toughest track in the country in the NSX.”

Wilson continued, “We have been aiming to get into this paddock for years but now the real fight begins to see what we can do against the much more experienced teams. So, we felt like, hey, if we’re going to go in and spend X-amount of dollars, maybe we’re better off spending that in GTD, getting our feet wet, and taking a real run at this and being where we want to be, which is having a chance to compete with the best teams in the Western Hemisphere.”
In addition to Sebring, the team will contest the other two rounds of the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup – the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen and the Motul Petit Le Mans – with plans to add additional events, as team manager Andris Laivins explained.
“Right now, the plan is to run the remainder of the Patrón NAEC, and hopefully add on a couple other rounds as we go,” Laivins detailed. “Last fall, as we approached Thanksgiving, it became clear that putting a proper effort on track for the Roar and Daytona was going to be tough, and the last thing you want to do is show up to the biggest race of the year unprepared, so we made the tough choice to sit it out and keep working.”
CJ Wilson Racing’s IMSA efforts date back to 2010, when the team debuted in the Mazda MX-5 Cup as well as what is now called the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge. The team went on to win a championship in 2015, in the Street Tuner class of the Continental Tire Challenge.
The team currently fields Porsches in the Continental Tire Challenge Grand Sport (GS) class. Wilson himself has also been an IMSA competitor as a driver, most recently competing in the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama series last year.