Milwaukee IndyFest: What to do, where to go, plus other tidbits

3 Comments

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.

Alexander Rossi hopes to dodge oncoming traffic in second Baja 1000

Honda Photo
Honda Photo
Leave a comment

One of the great viral videos of last year’s offseason was the sight of Alexander Rossi’s Honda Ridgeline off-road vehicle and its near head-on collision with a passenger SUV coming in the wrong direction of last year’s Baja 1000.

The video of the incident overshadowed an outstanding debut for Rossi in the SCORE OFF Road Desert race.

Rossi (pictured above on the right along with fellow driver Jeff Proctor) told NBCSports.com that driving down the same roads still used by passenger traffic is one of the unique challenges of the Baja 1000.

“The most demanding form of racing is IndyCar racing,” Rossi told NBC Sports.com. “But the big thing for me in the Baja 1000 is mentally being able to understand the terrain that is coming at you at 120 miles an hour in the dust and pedestrians and other cars, people and cattle that come along with this race.”

Rossi is becoming a modern-day Parnelli Jones, A.J. Foyt and Mario Andretti. He wants to race anything on wheels and win.

Since the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series season concluded with the Sept. 22 Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey, Rossi competed in the Bathurst 1000 in Australia on Oct. 13. Earlier this year, Rossi drove for Acura Team Penske in the Rolex 24 at Daytona and the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring.

This weekend, the winner of the 100th Indianapolis 500 in 2016 and a perennial contender for the NTT IndyCar Series championship will compete in the Baja 1000 for the second straight year.

Rossi will be driving for the Honda Ridgeline Racing team and is the sixth Indy 500 winner to compete in the Baja 1000.

Other Indy 500 winners who have raced in the SCORE Baja 1000 include Jones, the 1963 Indianapolis winner and a two-time Baja 1000 race winner (1971 72); fellow Honda IndyCar Series driver and Andretti Autosport teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay, the Indy winner in 2014; Rick Mears, who won the Indianapolis 500 four times, 1985 Indy 500 champion Danny Sullivan and 2004 Indy winner Buddy Rice.

NTT IndyCar season champions who have raced in the Baja 1000 include Mears, Hunter-Reay, Sebastien Bourdais, Jimmy Vasser and Paul Tracy.

Rossi has a better understanding of what to expect in this year’s Baja 1000 after last year’s rookie experience.

How valuable was last years’ experience?

“It’s hugely valuable,” Rossi said. “The course changes each year. There will be some elements that are the same, but it’s a new route from start to finish this year. That is why we go down a week early. We do pre-running in a similar type of vehicle and take course notes and analyze each individual section of the course, find the danger areas and what you need to do come race day.

“Ultimately, the biggest thing is having the knowledge of how to prepare for the race and what to expect once you roll off the starting line. That is something I will have going for me this year that I didn’t have last year.”

As an off-road rookie, Rossi acclimated to the demands of desert racing as the Jeff Proctor-led Honda Off-Road Racing Team finished second in Class 7. It was the fourth consecutive time the team finished first or second in the Ridgeline Baja Race Truck at the Baja 1000.

“I don’t know that I can pinpoint any highlights other than just the whole experience,” Rossi said of last years’ experience. “The whole week and a half I had down there in 2018 was phenomenal. The team made me feel part of the family from Day One. I just love driving a desert truck through Baja California. It’s an experience unlike any other.

“The entire event was a highlight more than one specific moment.”

Getty Images

Driving an off-road Honda Ridgeline through the desert of Baja California in Mexico is vastly different than Rossi’s regular ride in the No. 27 NAPA Honda in the NTT IndyCar Series. But Rossi believes there are many similarities, also.

“It’s very different, for obvious reasons, but ultimately, a race car is a race car,” Rossi said. “It has four wheels, and you are trying to get it from Point A to Point B quicker than other people. The general underlying techniques of getting a car through the corner efficiently is all the same; it’s just a different style.

“Everyone here is very talented at what they do and very good so in order to win this race, you have to be at the top of your game.”

The Baja 1000, like most forms of off-road racing, is more against the clock than a wheel-to-wheel competition such as IndyCar. Rossi believes it is a different form of endurance racing, similar to IMSA in many ways.

“You have to compare it like an endurance race,” Rossi said. “It’s a race where the first part of it, you are trying to get through and not take chances and stay in touch with the people you are trying to stay in touch with.

“When you get down to the final 20 to 30 percent, that is when you try to either close the lead of extend the lead of whatever position you are in. That is similar to the Rolex 24 at Daytona. It comes down to the last three or four hours, and we take a mentality closer to that.

“The only difference is if you get it wrong at Daytona, you spin in the grass. Here, it can be more dramatic than that.”

As an off-road rookie in 2018, Rossi acclimated to the demands of desert racing as the Jeff Proctor-led Honda Off-Road Racing Team finished second in Class 7. It was the fourth consecutive time the team finished first or second in the Ridgeline Baja Race Truck at the Baja 1000.

“The Honda off-road guys and my co-driver/navigator Evan Weller make it so easy for me to just jump right in and go to work,” Rossi said. “I can’t wait to share the seat with Jeff [Proctor] and Pat [Dailey] once again, and hopefully, bring home a win.”

The Honda Off-Road Racing Team has had an outstanding 2019 season, including class wins for the Baja Ridgeline Race Truck at the Parker 425, the Mint 400 and the Baja 500; where the team successfully debuted the second-generation “TSCO” chassis; and a second-place Class 7 finish at the Vegas-to-Reno event.

Proctor won his class in the Baja 1000 in both 2015 and 2016 with the Ridgeline, finished second in class in 2017 and 2018; and won the companion SCORE Baja 500 race both in 2016, 2018 and again earlier this year. The Ridgeline competes in Class 7, for unlimited six-cylinder production-appearing trucks and SUVs.

“We are stoked to have Alexander back racing with us in Mexico for his sophomore attempt at this iconic off-road race,” Proctor said. “This year’s 52nd annual Baja 1000 course covers ALL of the toughest terrain and areas in Baja Norte….as always, it will be tough.

“Alex is one of the brightest motorsports minds I’ve worked with, and he is a great asset to our team.”

The Baja 1000 begins Friday and runs through the weekend along the Baja Peninsula of Mexico.

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500