Report: IndyCar Series may return to Road America in 2014

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As NASCAR’s Nationwide Series prepares for its fourth go-round on the challenging and twisting 4.05-mile, 14-turn road course at Road America in central Wisconsin this Saturday, a report Wednesday suggests that Indy cars may soon return there, perhaps as early as next season.

SpeedTV.com’s Robin Miller reported that the open-wheel series is considering hosting a return to two annual races in the Badger State, continuing its run at The Milwaukee Mile in suburban West Allis, Wisc., as well racing for the first time in its history at Road America.

Since 1956, there have been 89 open-wheel races at Milwaukee, spanning from USAC to CART/Champ Car to the Izod IndyCar Series, which has raced there for nine of the last 10 years, including last weekend.

Meanwhile, for 25 years Road America was the exclusive province of CART and the succeeding Champ Car World Series until the latter went out of business following the 2007 season. Open-wheel cars have not raced there since.

It was also during that 25-year reign at Road America that CART/Champ Car ran two races per year — one each at both tracks — oftentimes with sellout crowds at both venues, drawing tens of thousands of fans from throughout the Midwest and Canada.

Now a move is underway to bring the IndyCar series to Road America as early as next season.

Road America president George Bruggenthies told Miller, “I’ve reached out to IndyCar and had a meeting with (IndyCar CEO) Mark Miles back in April at Long Beach and we’d like to bring Indy cars back.”

But for as much as Bruggenthies would like to see open-wheel racing back at his bucolic track in the middle of America’s Dairyland, IndyCar has been non-committal. Part of the reason is the contract to promote the Milwaukee race, which has been held by team owner and former Indy car star driver Michael Andretti for the last two races there, expired after last weekend’s race.

“Bobby Rahal sat in on our meeting and expounded on the virtues of Road America to him (Miles) and we discussed possible dates but I haven’t heard from him since,” Bruggenthis said. “I reached out again last weekend because we were only an hour apart when (Miles) was in Milwaukee, but I never got a response. I know he’d like to end the season around Labor Day and we’d be fine with a September race.”

Miles told Miller in an email that he wants to see how things play out with Milwaukee and whether Andretti will extend his contract to promote the race before committing to adding a race at Road America.

But it appears Andretti Autosport wants to continue promoting the Milwaukee event, which drew around 25,000 fans on race day this past Sunday (although far below the crowds of 40,000-plus that flocked to CART races there in the past).

“A couple of things need to come together to extend this deal but we’re determined to get it done,” Kevin Healey, managing director of the Milwaukee race for Andretti, told Miller. “It was a two-year deal with the understanding of trying to make it long-term if it worked out.”

Will Power, Roger Penske collect Indy 500 trophies

Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images
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DETROIT (AP) Last year, Will Power finally broke through and won the Indianapolis 500, so he can cross that accomplishment off the list.

Now 37, Power is reaching an age when it’s fair to wonder how much longer he’ll keep at it.

“I’m really enjoying my racing. I’ve never been so motivated. I’m fitter than I’ve ever been, mentally on the game,” Power said. “I think once you get to this part of your career, you realize that you’re not going to be doing this forever. So you’ve got to enjoy it and you’ve got to go for it when you’ve got it, because, you know, probably only another five years at maximum, and you’re retired.”

Whenever Power’s career does wind down, his 2018 Indy 500 win will remain a moment to remember. He was in Detroit on Wednesday night with team owner Roger Penske for a ceremony in which they received their “Baby Borg” trophies for winning last year’s race. The Baby Borgs are replicas of the Borg-Warner Trophy that honors the Indy 500 winner.

Power finished second at Indy in 2015, and his victory last year made him the race’s first Australian winner. It was Penske’s 17th Indy 500 win as an owner, part of a banner year for him. Penske also won a NASCAR Cup title with driver Joey Logano.

“When you think about 2018, we had 32 race wins, 35 poles. I think we led almost 5,400 laps, with all the series,” Penske said.

On Wednesday, Penske collected another significant trophy, and he’ll be celebrated again in a couple weeks. He’s being inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Feb. 1.

“It’s amazing that a guy from the north can get into the Hall of Fame in the south,” Penske joked. “No, it’s special. … NASCAR has helped us build our brand over the years, certainly, with the reputation it has, and the notoriety we get, being a NASCAR team owner.”

Penske’s most recent Indy 500 title came courtesy of Power, who long preferred road courses to ovals but certainly looked comfortable at Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year.

“The 500 was one record that he didn’t have, and I think you saw the excitement he and his wife, and the whole team, when he was able to win the race,” Penske said. “He’s probably the best qualifier we’ve ever had, as a road racer, and no question his expertise. He didn’t like ovals to start with, but I think today, he loves racing on ovals.”

Power seems content with all aspects of his racing life at the moment. The aftermath of an Indy 500 victory can be a whirlwind, and it would be understandable for a driver to be weary of it eight months later, but for Power, it’s a new experience.

“I’ve been looking forward to this event for a few months now, to actually get the Baby Borg. You have the face on it – I didn’t realize that, you actually get your own face on it,” Power said. “It makes you realize the significance of the event, when you think about all the things that come with winning the 500.”

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