Milwaukee IndyFest: What to do, where to go, plus other tidbits

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Here’s a rundown of some of the key elements you need to pay attention to if you’re thinking of or planning to attend this year’s Milwaukee IndyFest, or, as its known by its full race name, the ABC Supply Co. Wisconsin 250 at Milwaukee IndyFest Presented by the Metro Milwaukee Honda Dealers. The event is promoted by Andretti Sports Marketing:

The race weekend schedule:

Linked here, via the Milwaukee IndyFest website.

Driver appearances/places to go:

A driver appearance schedule, as compiled by Milwaukee Journal Sentinel ace motorsports reporter Dave Kallmann.

A round-up of places to go and events to hit when in Milwaukee, per The Set-Up Sheet’s Steve Wittich.

Here’s more information on Thursday night’s celebrity driver bartending event, plus Friday night’s IndyFest Street Party and the Racing for Kids benefit event, Beer, Cheese & Charity:

How many people can say that their favorite IndyCar driver has served them a beer?

Thursday, Miller Time Pub & Grill will host the second annual Bartender Challenge from 5-6PM. IndyCar drivers Justin Wilson, Josef Newgarden, Jack Hawksworth, Simon Pagenaud, and Mikhail Aleshin will tend bar, competing for tips that will go to Racing For Kids-Official Charity of Milwaukee. Also joining them will be Molly Menard of NVL Pro Beach Volleyball and Sue Black of the Milwaukee Wave.

On the IndyFest Street Party:

The IndyFest Street Party will be rocking from 5-10PM across from the Hilton City Center downtown. Meet your favorite drivers at autograph sessions and enjoy interactive displays with your family before racing really gets going on Saturday. Also at the IndyFest Street Party will be Beer, Cheese & Charity-a special event to benefit Racing For Kids. Participants will be able to enjoy a VIP Beer Garden, silent auction of one-of-a-kind racing memorabilia and experiences, and meet & greets with select IndyCar drivers.

On the race weekend itself, which begins with testing Friday for Indy Lights and Pro Mazda and a full day Saturday:

For tickets and more information, visit milwaukeeindyfest.com

More information on what Honda, which is a presenting sponsor of the race by way of the Metro Milwaukee Honda Dealers, is doing: 

H-BLOCK – A Honda Fan Section will be present, which is a section that is dedicated to Honda fans; special Honda and Honda Racing/HPD branded pom-poms and sunglasses will be given out.

Honda On-Track Ticket: Honda guests will be receiving TWO laps in the Official Pace Car (instead of the customary one lap) as well as merchandise. The Official Pace Car this race will be back to the Honda Accord for the Milwaukee event, but then back to the HPD CR-Z for Sonoma; the CR-Z premiered at Mid-Ohio two weeks ago.

Social event previews:

If you’re a fan of reporter predictions and bobbling heads (you’ll gain a further appreciation of why I’m a web reporter and not an on-camera person), then you’re in for a treat with this social media preview of the event I did with the Milwaukee Social Club (hint: it also includes my win pick, so you can hold me to that this weekend). Pippa Mann, who’s much more camera savvy and can better offer both a driver and regular radio analyst opinion, also did one too.

Hinchcliffe’s knock-knock joke for kindness:

James Hinchcliffe got two tickets to give away for IndyFest, and gave them away to the fan who came up with the best knock-knock joke.  Here’s your winner:

Michael Andretti on Milwaukee’s history:

A good video from IndyCar with Michael Andretti, on the history and value of the Milwaukee event:

Pre-race post roundup? Look out for that tomorrow:

We’ve done a wealth of behind-the-scenes and pre-race posts ahead of Milwaukee IndyFest. If you missed any, or if we missed any in this post, we’ll hit that on Friday.

F1 Paddock Pass: Azerbaijan Grand Prix (VIDEO)

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Formula 1 returns to Europe this weekend with the renamed Azerbaijan Grand Prix from the Baku City Circuit. The track is the second longest on the schedule and the race is renamed after being called the European Grand Prix last year (all times for the weekend via NBCSN or CNBC here).

Here with the latest from the paddock in Baku is the latest edition of the NBC Sports Group original digital series Paddock Pass, with F1 pit reporter and insider Will Buxton joined by producer Jason Swales.

Swales celebrates his 300th Grand Prix on site this weekend, a major milestone after his 250th was celebrated a couple seasons ago at the United States Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas. As you can see below, McLaren Honda’s Fernando Alonso has joined in the festivities.

There’s plenty of fun to recap and plenty of important angles to preview in this week’s show, which you can see below in three parts.

 

Raikkonen prepared to sacrifice himself to help Vettel

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BAKU, Azerbaijan (AP) Kimi Raikkonen is prepared to sacrifice himself in order to help Ferrari teammate Sebastian Vettel win a fifth Formula One title.

Vettel leads the championship by 12 points ahead of Mercedes rival Lewis Hamilton after seven races. Raikkonen is fourth and already trails Vettel by 68 points.

“When I don’t have a chance mathematically to fight for the championship, for sure I will help him. I have no issues with that,” Raikkonen said Thursday. “It’s about the team and the first thing is to try and make sure we are at the top with Ferrari.”

Ferrari is chasing its first drivers’ title since Raikkonen won his only title in 2007 and its first constructors’ title since 2008.

In the constructors’ battle, Ferrari trails Mercedes by eight points heading into this weekend’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

“We have a good car everywhere. Hopefully we’ll be at the front again,” Raikkonen said. “It’s been close every race this year.”

Although the Finnish driver looked set for victory at the Monaco Grand Prix last month, his hopes were ended when his team brought him into the pits for a tire change earlier than he wanted. That left Vettel in the clear to race away to victory, with Raikkonen finishing second.

Even though Raikkonen was disappointed in the aftermath of that race, and made his frustration known, he now appears fully committed to helping Vettel when the time comes.

“I think we have very clear rules in the team and what the team wants us to do. It goes by those rules,” Raikkonen said. “Nothing has changed and we know exactly when things will go either way. That’s fine.”

The 37-year-old Raikkonen acknowledged that Vettel’s consistency makes him the obvious choice as the team’s No. 1 driver.

“Seb has done very good races so far and has been strong everywhere,” Raikkonen said. “I was not starting very well the first races. I was not where I wanted to be.”

Kanaan finding IndyCar ‘more competitive than ever’

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Chip Ganassi Racing’s Tony Kanaan believes that the Verizon IndyCar Series is becoming “more competitive than ever” as the championship’s plans for the future begin to become clear.

INDYCAR bosses have outlined a five-year plan for the series moving forward, with a universal aero kit in 2018 and a push for a third manufacturer to join Chevrolet and Honda in the future on the agenda.

The 2017 season has kicked off in an unpredictable fashion as seven drivers have shared the opening nine race wins, with Will Power and Graham Rahal being the only repeat winners.

Kanaan feels that the series is only becoming more and more competitive, with the introduction of the universal aero kit poised to aid that from next year.

“I think it is going to be more competitive than ever as we still have different aero kits that can make a difference. Next year is going to be even tougher,” Kanaan said.

“At the last race [in Texas] we had 15 cars and two-tenths of a second. I think it is the right direction, and they are also trying to keep the costs down which is the biggest challenge in racing all over the world, to get the teams to afford to be there.

“The way they are doing the kits, trying to get more teams and new teams into the series, and it is working. We had three new teams at Indy 500 and they are looking forward to coming back. We should try to add more teams and not lose cars.”

Kanaan added that a third manufacturer would be “a big help” for IndyCar, saying: “They are in talks with two others but I don’t know who they are but more people, cars, manufacturers, teams will always help.”

Having made his debut in American single-seaters back in 1998, Kanaan has raced through many different eras, but does not believe the series has ever been more competitive.

“It doesn’t get any easier and I don’t get any younger. It goes the opposite way!” Kanaan chuckled.

“It is amazing as you cannot afford to have one little problem or one little hiccup in a race. Before if you did that you would finish third or fourth but now you will finish 15th.

“You have 22 cars and in some races 21 of them on the lead lap and five seconds from one another. It raised the game for the mechanics too with the importance of pit stops.”

Sauber driver Ericsson dismisses talk of favoritism in team

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BAKU, Azerbaijan (AP) Formula One driver Marcus Ericsson has dismissed talk of favoritism within Sauber following the unexpected departure of team principal Monisha Kaltenborn.

Kaltenborn, who was also Sauber’s chief executive officer, left Wednesday by mutual consent. The news came shortly after another team statement denying reports of unfair treatment between the Swedish driver and German teammate Pascal Wehrlein.

“There were a lot of stories in the press about this unfair advantage for one driver. It was upsetting, disrespectful, it’s false and untrue,” Ericsson said Thursday ahead of this weekend’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix. “For me and Pascal, it’s been very clear that’s not the case. We’ve both been given equal equipment.”

Ericsson has yet to score a point after seven races, while Wehrlein has four points after an eighth-place finish at the Spanish GP in May.

“We’re not going to go on holiday together, but as teammates goes we’ve been working really good together so far,” Ericsson said. “When we try different things across the cars, we discuss things.”

Sauber’s statement said Kaltenborn left “due to diverging views of the future of the company.” Her successor has not been announced.

The 46-year-old Kaltenborn joined Sauber in 2000 as head of its legal department and later became chief executive officer.

“We have to trust the owners that they know what they’re doing, and that they have a good plan for the future,” Ericsson said. “I have a lot to thank Monisha for. She was the one who gave me the chance to come here after my year in Caterham.”

Wehrlein also praised Kaltenborn for standing by him. He missed the first two races of the season after injuring his back in a crash at the Race of Champions in Miami in January, sustaining hairline cracks in vertebrae and compressing some of his intervertebral discs.

“Monisha was very close to me at one of my toughest times in my career so far,” Wehrlein said. “I am very thankful for that, and this is something that I will never forget.”