Q&A: Kevin Healy on Milwaukee IndyFest activation heading into Wisconsin State Fair

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Throughout the year, MotorSportsTalk has been chronicling the preparation for the ABC Supply Co. Wisconsin 250 at Milwaukee IndyFest Presented by the Metro Milwaukee Honda Dealers. As the race nears, and the Wisconsin State Fair begins this Thursday at Wisconsin State Fair Park, we caught up with Milwaukee IndyFest general manager Kevin Healy of Andretti Sports Marketing for a wide-ranging chat of topics before the race. In part one of this two-part interview, Healy outlines plans for IndyFest activation at the State Fair, and expands on the race’s new partnership with Visit Milwaukee to expand the reach to fans outside the Milwaukee area:

MotorSportsTalk: Can you expand a bit on the Visit Milwaukee state tourism grant program? 

Kevin Healy: It’s a joint effort, marketing program. Essentially it’s a matching program that produces the economic benefit of tourism within the state of Wisconsin.

What it does for us is that it helps fund the marketing necessary to reach out to Northern Illinois/Chicago market to bring them in to the race. It helps us double our dollar value and do more marketing in conjunction with Visit Milwaukee. We’re able to build that into our overall marketing plan. That drives more into the event, adds to an important market and continues to expand the fan base for Milwaukee IndyFest.

Can you expand on what the plans for activation and promotion are at the Wisconsin State Fair?

KH: It is a full booth, display area throughout the State Fair. Whenever the fair is open, we’ll be there. It should be a lot of fun.

When you’re planning a race, you’re asking who are you trying to bring into the race.

There’s the core race fan – and you’re always going after them. You never want to take them for granted. Generally, they know racing in Milwaukee is excellent.

There’s families. With families, you’re building fans for the future. And that’s what we’ve done with the infield. 

The general entertainment seeker is another. State Fair had 1.1 million fan-goers last year, so that’s a lot of eyeballs. For us, activating in the fair, throughout the 10 days of the fair, is a great opportunity.

The activation will include multiple show cars – we will likely trade them out a couple times. That’s an obvious.

Then we will sort of replicate the winner’s circle. There will be the podium, with backdrop for a photo opp, and we will also have Trophy Night. The Milwaukee IndyFest trophy will be there, as well as the Astor Cup (the season-long Verizon IndyCar Series championship). It’s a long shot trying for the Borg-Warner – I’d love to get that out there – but we won’t give up.

There will be some interactive displays, including some science/tech elements for racing. Your goal is always to make that connection that turns someone into a fan.

There’s an IndyCar 101 component. We’ll have a couple different driver appearances; because once you meet a driver you can establish that connection.

At State Fair, they have a parade every day, a la Disney. There’s one day where probably the two-seater will be in the parade, and other days the Honda pace car. So you can see the pace car and two-seaters.

There’s a possible contest that if you’re a fair-goer, you can win a ride, work with IndyCar Experience for that. The grand prize is a hot lap 2-seater at Milwaukee IndyFest. That’s a big aspirational goal, since almost everyone would love to take that ride, and it creates that connection of winning and coming to the event. It’s a really cool opp.

For the State Fair – as I’ve said, when we first came back, without the State Fair and its level of cooperation, it just wouldn’t be possible for us to put on this event.

Here’s a deal on IndyFest tickets from the Wisconsin State Fair. State Fair runs July 31-August 10. 

Norris made to wait for F3 title after final lap crash in Austria

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Rising British racer Lando Norris has been made to wait to secure the FIA European Formula 3 title after a crash on the final lap of Sunday’s race at the Red Bull Ring ensured the championship battle will go to the final round of the season.

Norris, 17, became part of Formula 1 team McLaren’s junior program earlier this year, and enjoyed his maiden test in a grand prix racer in Hungary over the summer, putting in an impressive display.

Norris has been racing in the highly-competitive FIA F3 series in Europe this year, a championship that has proved crucial in the careers for drivers such as Max Verstappen, Esteban Ocon and Antonio Giovinazzi.

After finishing second earlier on Sunday, Norris needed to simply finish ahead of chief title rival Maximilian Günther in the final race of the weekend to clinch the championship with three races to spare.

Norris started second and retained his position throughout the race, only to come under pressure from Ralf Aron in the closing stages, the two drivers making contact on the last lap.

Norris was sent off the track and into the gravel, forcing him to retire from the race, and with Günther finishing fifth, the points gap was reduced to 72 with three races remaining at Hockenheim in three weeks’ time.

While a title win is still likely for Norris given just 75 are on offer, to have come so close to sealing it early will nevertheless come as a blow to the talented youngster.

Norris is set to be placed in Formula 2 by McLaren in 2018, but is poised to be a name that is spoken about for many years to come in F1.

Marquez fights to Aragon MotoGP win, opens up points lead

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Marc Marquez fought through to his fifth win of the 2017 MotoGP season in Sunday’s Aragon Grand Prix, extending his lead in the riders’ championship to 16 points over Andrea Dovizioso.

A fall in qualifying meant Marquez started only fifth at Motorland Aragon, and failed to make any inroads at the start of the race, running only fourth in the early stages as Ducati’s Jorge Lorenzo hit the front.

Marquez was able to slowly rise up the order, passing title rival Dovizioso, Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi and finally Lorenzo, taking the lead of the race on Lap 16.

Marquez ultimately crossed the line less than one second clear of teammate Dani Pedrosa, who continued his good record at Motorland Aragon to complete a one-two finish for Repsol Honda.

Lorenzo held on to take his second podium in Ducati colors in third, finishing ahead of Yamaha pole-sitter Maverick Viñales, who dropped to fifth on the opening lap and never recovered.

Rossi’s remarkable return to racing a little over three weeks since suffering a double leg break ended with a run to fifth at the checkered flag, having spent the early part of the race battling at the front before dropping back.

Aleix Espargaro finished sixth ahead of Dovizioso, who slipped to 16 points behind Marquez in the title race by only finishing seventh for Ducati.

Alvaro Bautista crossed the line eighth ahead of Tech3’s Johann Zarco, while Pol Espargaro completed the top 10.

MotoGP returns in three weeks’ time with the Japanese Grand Prix at Twin Ring Motegi.

Palmer calls breakthrough F1 points ‘a weight off the shoulders’

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Jolyon Palmer has conceded that his march to his first points of the 2017 Formula 1 season last time out in Singapore was “a weight off the shoulders” as he looks to gain momentum for the remaining six races of the season.

Palmer recorded his best finish in F1 under the lights at Marina Bay, crossing the line sixth in the first wet night race in the history of the sport.

The result came at the end of a tough weekend for Palmer that saw Renault confirm it would be dropping the Briton from its F1 line-up for 2018, drafting in Carlos Sainz Jr. from Toro Rosso.

Even without an F1 seat to save, Palmer hopes the result can mark the start of a strong run to finish his time with Renault through the final six races.

“Finally we had a smooth race, which is ironic given what was going on with the safety cars and the tricky weather conditions,” Palmer said.

“We made a good start, and the move on [Valtteri] Bottas was fun; a lot happened in the two hours. It feels
like a weight off the shoulders to get some points.

“I hope to push on now and get some more. I know I can do it.”

Should Palmer wish to remain in F1, his only realistic options lie with Williams and Sauber for 2018, although both teams are understood to be looking elsewhere.

A report from Autosport claims Williams has narrowed its shortlist to partner Lance Stroll next year down to existing driver Felipe Massa, reserve driver Paul di Resta and recent Renault tester Robert Kubica.

Ferrari youngster and runaway Formula 2 points leader Charles Leclerc looks nailed on to take one of Sauber’s seats next year, replacing Mercedes junior Pascal Wehrlein.

Marcus Ericsson is expected to keep his seat with Sauber for a fourth season, with Leclerc’s fellow Ferrari-backed youngster Antonio Giovinazzi seemingly the only alternative for the Swiss team.

Renault F1 expecting to be ‘best of the rest’ in Malaysian GP

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Renault Formula 1 bosses Cyril Abiteboul and Nick Chester are confident of being the ‘best of the rest’ behind the front-running teams and leading F1’s midfield in Malaysia next weekend.

Renault enjoyed one of its strongest weekends of the season so far last time out in Singapore, with Nico Hulkenberg qualifying fifth and Jolyon Palmer picking up eight points for P6 in the race.

The result saw Renault move up to seventh in the constructors’ championship, and Abiteboul wants to keep the momentum going as part of its bid for a top-five finish come the end of the season.

“A positive we can take from Singapore is that we have moved up a position in the constructors’ championship which means a step closer to our end of season goal of fifth place overall,” Abiteboul said.

“Reliability remains our main focus, maximum effort and flawless execution is required by all in the remaining six races to achieve that target.

“Sepang will be about negotiating the unpredictable climate and getting the best out of the whole package in the heat and humidity. As we continue to develop the chassis side, we will introduce a new engine on Nico’s car at the start of the weekend, his fourth, engine of the season.

“We fully expect to have both cars in the top 10 as we have shown our capability on a number of occasions to be the best team behind the top three.”

Technical chief Chester echoed Abiteboul’s thoughts, believing the strengths of the R.S.17 car will put the team in good stead at Sepang.

“We ought to go quite well in Malaysia with the mixture of low, medium and high-speed corners – we should be the fourth quickest car again. The car has good pace and it looked strong in the wet in Singapore,” Chester said.

“The wet running we had in Singapore is useful information for us, given Malaysia is known to throw up a few surprises with its changeable climate.

“Overall the car is working reasonably well at this stage in the season.”