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.

Bourdais hopes last year’s crash turns into Indy 500 Cinderella story on Sunday

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Sebastien Bourdais has relived his May 20, 2017 crash during Indianapolis 500 qualifying over and over in his mind, day after day, week after week and month after month.

He would think of the worst crash of his open-wheel racing career at least once — if not several times — a day, particularly when he’d experience a slight twinge of pain.

“I think about it every day,” Bourdais told MotorSportsTalk. “Even though I’m functionally 100 percent now, it’s still very rare that during the day that there’s not a little pinch or something that reminds me of what happened.”

But this past weekend while qualifying for this year’s 500, one year later, the French driver said he was finally able to work past the mental roadblock that just would not leave his mind.

The solution was simple: complete the task he wasn’t able to do so last year, namely, qualifying for the race – and qualifying well.

Bourdais will start fifth in Sunday’s 102nd Running of the Greatest Spectacle In Racing, in the middle of Row 2.

“(Last year’s crash is) still in my mind,” Bourdais said. “But I think the biggest hurdle, at least mentally, was qualifying last weekend, putting yourself back in the same set of circumstances, going back on the line there.

“It felt a little bit the same, chances of rain, some rain, delays, you get back in line, conditions change, everything gets harder because it gets hotter, but that’s the biggest hurdle to overcome. After that, it’s back to business.”

Bourdais has already won once in 2018 – the season-opening race in his adopted hometown of St. Petersburg, Florida.

It helped jump start him to a strong overall run in the first five races of the season, including a fourth-place showing two weeks ago at the INDYCAR Grand Prix of Indianapolis, coupled with entering the 500 third in the Verizon IndyCar Series standings.

Now, he wants to win the biggest race of his career. If he does so, he’ll feel as if he finally and completely has come full circle from last year’s devastating wreck that shattered his pelvis, going head-on into the Turn 2 wall at a reported 228 mph.

“Well, it’s the Holy Grail of IndyCar, it doesn’t really get any bigger than that,” Bourdais said of the 500. “It’s the biggest achievement that you can accomplish in IndyCar.

“I don’t think I’m any different than anybody else: we all want to win it pretty bad, but I’m sure after what happened after last year, it’d be a Cinderella story.”

But there’s a caveat to Bourdais writing that story: “There’s 32 other drivers that want to accomplish the same thing, and it’s a one day event. We’ll give it our best shot … you can only give your very best and see what happens on that given day.”

Bourdais has a lot going for him heading into Sunday. First off, he’ll start from the highest qualifying position he’s ever had in what will be the seventh Indy 500 of the 39-year-old’s racing career.

Second, his confidence and comfort level are higher than they’ve ever been coming into the annual classic at the 2.5-mile Brickyard oval.

Third, he’s forgiven himself – not IMS – for what happened last year. He has no ill feeling towards the racetrack, nor does he seek revenge. If he were to start thinking that way, it would serve no positive purpose.

“No. I’m not really that way,” he said when asked if he wants revenge over the racetrack. “The track didn’t beat me up, I beat myself.

“The bottom line is there were a couple of reasons why it happened, but I got more comfortable and more confident and confidence and comfort at some point just bite you at Indy.

“You just do your laps, you get into such a rhythm and the week had gone perfectly with an awesome car and there was not a doubt in my mind it was going to stick (going into Turn 2), and that’s when it happened – and I paid the price.”

So, Bourdais is simply going to go out and race, again, hoping to complete what he started last year before being so painfully derailed.

His best finish to date in the 500 has been seventh (2014). He just needs for his Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser – Sullivan Honda to finish six places higher on Sunday.

And if he does, his move to Dale Coyne Racing last year – he’s competed in 13 of 23 races with two wins, 3 podiums and one pole – would only serve to make what already has proven to be a great move into a potentially brilliant move.

Because, yes, Bourdais isn’t just thinking Indy 500 win, he’s also thinking of a potential championship this season.

“I sure hope so,” Bourdais said when asked if his team’s success will continue. “I like to say it’s (the success that the Coyne camp has had since he came there) a little bit of my baby, bringing in Craig (engineer Craig Hampson) and Olivier (race engineer Olivier Boisson) and reinforcing the existing crew.”

Bourdais is no stranger to winning championships. He won four straight combined titles in CART and the Champ Car World Series from 2004 through 2007 (he also won 28 races in that four-year span).

“Obviously, it’s one thing to get into a winning team and basically meet expectations,” Bourdais said. “It’s another thing to try and build something and change the status of the underdog and turn him into a contender week in and week out.

“We got a glimpse of that last year, and this year, we’ve been competitive every weekend so far, and that’s a great feeling. Once you’re able to be competitive on street course, road courses, short ovals and superspeedways, then you can start saying and thinking championship.”

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