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. 

Ferrari, Mercedes launch 2018 F1 cars

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The title combatants from the 2017 FIA Formula 1 World Championship season both launched their 2018 challengers earlier on Thursday, with Scuderia Ferrari revealing the SF71H and Mercedes AMG Petronas revealing the W09.

For Ferrari, the SF71H represents an evolution of last year’s SF70H, which helped produce Ferrari’s best season in several years.

They presented a strong challenge to Mercedes for the championship, even leading the way at various points, with Sebastian Vettel recording five wins along the way. But, mechanical failures and crashes hampered their efforts late in the season, and they settled for second in the driver’s championship (with Vettel) and the constructor’s championship.

Entering 2018, the team is emphasizing the importance of building momentum with every race to ultimately secure their first constructor’s crown since 2008 and their first driver’s crown since 2007.

“There are no challenges actually. There are no challenges in the plural. There is just one challenge, which is the final challenge,” asserted team principal Maurizio Arrivabene. So that’s work that you build and you don’t build that work in one or two races. We’ve seen over the last few years, in the last championships, that you work race by race, and you always try to do the best you can.”

Technical director Mattia Binotto detailed some of the updates on the 2018 car, such as an new power unit and new suspension designs in anticipation of new tire constructions.

“We worked a lot on the power unit, we worked on its reliability and performance. We worked on the packaging, on suspensions in the rear axle because there will be new tires the following season, so we also tried to design the car to accommodate the new tires,” he explained.

Binotto added, “In regards to aerodynamics, we maintained our concept of having the inlets on the radiators, and everybody’s copying that, but we tried to make an additional step forward and what we showed today is not the same element of last year, but it is something more developed.”

Mercedes, meanwhile, will look to take it’s fifth consecutive driver’s and constructor’s championships with the W09. The team even took the car to the track for its launch, conducting a filming day at Silverstone Circuit.

“It is always a very exciting time because what has been designed is coming together and coming alive,”  team principal Toto Wolff said during the launch.

Despite facing challenges with last year’s car, the W08, the team elected to follow a similar design concept with the aerodynamics to improve on the car’s strengths while simultaneously addressing its weak points.

“We like some of the character traits from our diva,” Wolf quipped. “The W08 was the fastest car on the grid, scoring the highest number of pole positions and winning the most races last year. So we were careful not to lose the car’s many strengths just to overcome the difficulties.”

Both Ferrari and Mercedes are expected to slug it out again for the 2018 driver’s and constructor’s championships.

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