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.”

Indy 500 analyst role part of looking forward for Danica Patrick

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It’s been 10 months since Danica Patrick last competed in an auto racing event and she is completely fine with that.

Patrick was last seen in a cockpit in last May’s Indianapolis 500, part of her mini-retirement tour from racing that also included a run in the Daytona 500.

Now she’ll be back at the track, serving as an analyst for NBC’s broadcast of the 103rd Indy 500 on May 26.

It will be an interlude to her post-racing career.

“I really don’t miss racing,” Patrick said during a teleconference Wednesday.  “I’m really happy. I selfishly set out (with) the intention I wanted to travel a lot. I’ve definitely done that. Also working on my other businesses.”

Without racing, Patrick is able to look over her “Warrior” clothing line and her Somnium wine. She’s also been a host of ESPN’s Espy Awards show.

“I’m not a look-back kind of person, I’m a look-forward (person),” Patrick said. “This is something that’s part of looking forward. This is something totally new and different for me. It’s coming at a place where I have a lot of history, but it hasn’t been my job, which is why I’m going to work really hard to make sure I’m ready, like anything else I do that’s different.

Since retiring, Patrick said she watches racing “when I can.”

“I’m not going to lie, I’m happy doing what I’m doing,” Patrick said. “It’s allowed me new opportunities like this.”

This won’t be the first time Patrick has served in an analyst role for a race. She did the same for some Xfinity Series race broadcasts in the last few years of her NASCAR career.

“It’s very good to have had that experience,” Patrick said. “Obviously I was giving my driving experience sort of perspective and that insight, which is something I’m going to be doing again. But it was a guest spot.

“This is firm and established, part of a small team of two with Mike (Tirico) and I. I think there’s going to be a lot more preparation involved, I’m going to need to know a lot more information.”

Patrick said there will be one difference in her Indy 500 experience this year compared to the eight times she competed in the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”

“I didn’t purposely look at the buildup of the day,” Patrick said. “I didn’t want to see the fans rolling in, all the pomp and circumstance. I really liked to keep it quiet. I wanted to just walk out there and have it be the event, not let myself get built up too much in my head with nerves, just the platform, the iconic event that it was, the millions of people. I just wanted to stay focused and go do it.

“This time, I’m sure I will see the buildup. I’m sure I’ll see the place fill in and turn from a quiet, peaceful, magical place, (and) at the shot of a cannon it’s going to start unraveling. That will be a cool perspective for me that I purposely haven’t really watched closely.”

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