Inside Milwaukee IndyFest, Part 1: How it Works

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Roughly once monthly over the next several months, with more to come in the last month, MotorSportsTalk will take you inside the preparation for the ABC Supply Co. Inc., Wisconsin 250 at Milwaukee IndyFest presented by the Metro Milwaukee Honda Dealers, taking place August 16-17, 2014, promoted by Andretti Sports Marketing. Through this series, we look to provide insight on the behind-the-scenes process of how a Verizon IndyCar Series event comes to be; from pre-race events, to partner activations and promotions, to staff overview.

At 5 p.m. on a frigid, March Sunday night, Andretti Autosport Indy Lights drivers Zach Veach and Matthew “Matty” Brabham visit JB’s on 41 bowling alley on 27th Street in Milwaukee, and meet their bowling opponents.

No, not us, the assembled media and race fans who have come out to the event; it’s the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee collegiate bowling team.

It’s a fun local Milwaukee event, and one that may have seen Veach discover a backup career if his progression through the Mazda Road to Indy doesn’t fully work out.

He beat me by two pins after a 10th frame turkey in our first game, and then was busy exchanging high-fives and fist-bumps with the UWM team during the second, as his strikes were flowing like water.

Several weeks later, he carried the winning momentum into winning the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires season opener at St. Petersburg, his first career victory.

But back to bowling: it was a fun night had by all. The historical anorak in me loved to see one kid wearing a 2010 KV Racing shirt, which featured both Lotus and Cosworth branding even though Honda provided the actual power that year.

This event is one of many supporting events organized by the Andretti Sports Marketing team, some five months ahead of the 2014 Milwaukee IndyFest, as the team works to plan the Verizon IndyCar Series weekend of August 16-17, 2014.

There are a few more months available this year in terms of preparation. In 2012 and 2013, the race was held on Father’s Day; a Saturday in June. In 2014, Milwaukee IndyFest moves to August to increase awareness and foot traffic throughout the Wisconsin State Fair.

What that means is that the Andretti Sports Marketing staff has been preparing for the event since November 2013. The Andretti Sports Marketing team meets once weekly to develop and execute key event planning and marketing tactics related to the race weekend.

This bowling event was capper to two days in the city; other events that featured a Milwaukee IndyFest presence included visiting a Milwaukee Wave soccer game and the Milwaukee Auto Show.

During the time in March, nine volunteer leads met for the first time, with direction from the Andretti Sports Marketing team. Volunteer leads assist the team with security, medical, track operations, safety, redemption, observation, event services, and guest services. Later on, the volunteer leads direct the 180+ volunteers that assist with the execution of Milwaukee IndyFest race weekend.

Specific duties related to the race itself are led and handled by Andretti Sports Marketing staff. The staff has a designated person or persons in charge of race PR/marketing and client services, operations, entertainment, and side events (such as the National Volleyball League, for instance).

Preparing the number of corporate sponsors is something the Andretti Sports Marketing organization is also working on at the moment, as is getting the infield logistics set up to handle the elements that make up the “three-day festival of speed.”

In April, further meetings will follow to help determine more about how the event comes together.

More information:

Websites: Milwaukee IndyFest, Andretti Sports Marketing

Twitter: @MKE_IndyFest, @AndrettiSM

Top Fuel driver Austin Prock earns 2019 NHRA top rookie honors

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Having just completed a promising first year in NHRA Top Fuel competition, Austin Prock is on the road to even greater drag racing success in his career.

That’s why it’s not surprising that Prock was named the winner of the 2019 Auto Club Road to the Future Award during Monday night’s annual NHRA Awards dinner at the Ray Dolby Theater in Hollywood, California.

The Road to the Future Award is NHRA’s version of Rookie of the Year, and Prock was among the brightest young stars on the circuit this past season, including winning his first national event at the Northwest Nationals at Pacific Raceways in suburban Seattle, the 16th race on the 24-race schedule.

What made that first win all the more sweeter is it came at the same event that his boss, legendary 16-time Funny Car champion John Force, captured his milestone 150th career win.

One month ago, Prock set a personal best run of 3.688 seconds at 334.40 mph over veteran driver Doug Kalitta in the first round of eliminations at the AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals three weeks ago in Ennis, Texas (suburban Dallas).

“I am proud of the season this Montana Brand / Rocky Mountain Twist team put together,” Prock said in a media release. “My guys worked their asses off all season long to give me the opportunity to win the Auto Club Road the Future Award. I couldn’t have done it without them.

“I would have never been here without John Force and Robert Hight (president of John Force Racing). They gave me the opportunity to fulfill my dream and I owe the world to them. I hope I made them proud.”

Prock became only the 10th rookie in the history of the NHRA pro ranks to both win a race in their first season and also go on to win the Road to the Future award. He also was the 13th rookie in the sport’s history to qualify for the Countdown to the Championship, NHRA’s six race playoffs.

Prock becomes the sixth John Force Racing driver to earn the Road to the Future Award, joining Tony Pedregon (1996), Hight (2005), Ashley Force-Hood (2007), Mike Neff (2008), Courtney Force (2012) and Brittany Force (2013).

Austin Prock is the son of veteran crew chief Jimmy Prock, who tuned Hight to his third career NHRA Funny Car championship this past Sunday.

Follow @JerryBonkowski