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

Justin Grant prevails over Kyle Larson in the Turkey Night Grand Prix

Grant Larson Turkey Night
USACRacing.com / DB3 Inc.
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On the heels of his Hangtown 100 victory, Justin Grant worked his way from 13th in the Turkey Night Grand Prix to beat three-time event winner Kyle Larson by 1.367 seconds. The 81st annual event was run at Ventura (Calif.) Raceway for the sixth time.

“My dad used to take me to Irwindale Speedway, and we’d watch Turkey Night there every year,” Grant said in a series press release. “This is one of the races I fell in love with. I didn’t think I’d ever get a chance to run in it, never thought I’d make a show and certainly never thought I’d be able to win one.”

With its genesis in 1934 at Gilmore Stadium, a quarter-mile dirt track in Los Angeles, the race is steeped in history with winners that include AJ Foyt, Parnelli Jones, Gary Bettenhausen and Johnnie Parsons. Tony Stewart won it in 2000. Kyle Larson won his first of three Turkey Night Grands Prix in 2012. Christopher Bell earned his first of three in 2014, so Grant’s enthusiasm was well deserved.

So was the skepticism that he would win. He failed to crack the top five in three previous attempts, although he came close last year with a sixth-place result. When he lined up for the feature 13th in the crowded 28-car field, winning seemed like a longshot.

Grant watched as serious challengers fell by the wayside. Mitchel Moles flipped on Lap 10 of the feature. Michael “Buddy” Kofoid took a tumble on Lap 68 and World of Outlaws Sprint car driver Carson Macedo flipped on Lap 79. Grant saw the carnage ahead of him and held a steady wheel as he passed Tanner Thorson for the lead with 15 laps remaining and stayed out of trouble for the remainder of the event.

“It’s a dream come true to win the Turkey Night Grand Prix,” Grant said.


Kyle Larson follows Justin Grant to the front on Turkey Night

The 2012, 2016 and 2019 winner, Larson was not scheduled to run the event. His wife Katelyn is expecting their third child shortly, but after a couple of glasses of wine with Thanksgiving dinner and while watching some replays of the event, Larson texted car owner Chad Boat to see if he had a spare car lying around. He did.

“We weren’t great but just hung around and it seemed like anybody who got to the lead crashed and collected some people,” Larson said. “We made some passes throughout; in the mid-portion, we weren’t very good but then we got better at the end.

“I just ran really, really hard there, and knew I was running out of time, so I had to go. I made some pretty crazy and dumb moves, but I got to second and was hoping we could get a caution to get racing with Justin there. He was sliding himself at both ends and thought that maybe we could get a run and just out-angle him into [Turn] 1 and get clear off [Turn] 2 if we got a caution, but it just didn’t work out.”

Larson padded one of the most impressive stats in the history of this race, however. In 10 starts, he’s won three times, finished second four times, was third once and fourth twice.

Bryant Wiedeman took the final spot on the podium.

As Grant and Larson began to pick their way through the field, Kofoid took the lead early from the outside of the front row and led the first 44 laps of the race before handing it over to Cannon McIntosh, who bicycled on Lap 71 before landing on all fours. While Macedo and Thorson tussled for the lead with McIntosh, Grant closed in.

Thorson finished 19th with McIntosh 20th. Macedo recovered from his incident to finish ninth. Kofoid’s hard tumble relegated him to 23rd.

Jake Andreotti in fourth and Kevin Thomas, Jr. rounded out the top five.

1. Justin Grant (started 13)
2. Kyle Larson (22)
3. Bryant Wiedeman (4)
4. Jake Andreotti (9)
5. Kevin Thomas Jr. (1)
6. Logan Seavey (8)
7. Alex Bright (27)
8. Emerson Axsom (24)
9. Carson Macedo (7)
10. Jason McDougal (18)
11. Jake Swanson (16)
12. Chase Johnson (6)
13. Jacob Denney (26)
14. Ryan Timms (23)
15. Chance Crum (28)
16. Brenham Crouch (17)
17. Jonathan Beason (19)
18. Cade Lewis (14)
19. Tanner Thorson (11)
20. Cannon McIntosh (3)
21. Thomas Meseraull (15)
22. Tyler Courtney (21)
23. Buddy Kofoid (2)
24. Brody Fuson (5)
25. Mitchel Moles (20)
26. Daniel Whitley (10)
27. Kaylee Bryson (12)
28. Spencer Bayston (25)