Milwaukee’s future uncertain, but helped by “OK” crowd number

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MILWAUKEE – “This could be the last time… this could be the last time… this could… be… the last time… I don’t know.”

The lyrics uttered by The Rolling Stones for the first time 50 years ago could well be the most apt description of the future of the Milwaukee Mile on foreseeable Verizon IndyCar Series calendars.

And the result of today’s race now see contrasting viewpoints from two members of Michael Andretti’s sports marketing group, Andretti Sports Marketing.

Kevin Healy, who is general manager of the Milwaukee IndyFest, spoke to the Business Journal serving greater Milwaukee sports business reporter Rich Kirchen and indicated that today’s crowd could be enough to save the race for 2016 and beyond.

In a brief follow-up with Healy, he termed the crowd “good” when asked by MotorSportsTalk, and observed the crowd from the press box. He also said there were a good number of people in the infield.

Andretti, however, was less than enthusiastic about today’s crowd number at first ask.

“OK, not great,” Andretti told MotorSportsTalk. “We’ll have to evaluate and make a decision.”

Regarding the weather, Andretti said, “There’s no excuse there right? I don’t know why the fans don’t come out. I don’t think there’s anywhere you could have gone in town that you didn’t know the race was on. I don’t know.”

However, race winner Sebastien Bourdais offered an impassioned defense of the race, its attendance and its grown over four years since Andretti Sports Marketing took over the race in 2012.

“I won here in ’06, and there was 1,000 people in the stands,” Bourdais said during the post-race press conference. “It’s good to see this place with a rebirth and a lot of enthusiasm in the paddock, people in the stands. I think Andretti promotions did a great job.

“I hope it keeps going. It’s the oval nobody likes except IndyCar. We don’t need the banking to make exciting racing, unlike other series.”

Bourdais called today’s crowd “good” and hopes the track, promoter and the sanctioning body can reach an agreement to sustain the race’s future.

“We had a good crowd today. I know people are trying to make it work,” Bourdais said.

“There’s a lot of energy to come twice in Wisconsin. We should have never left Road America. But the sporting side and financial side is always very challenging.

“You have to be true to your fans and your sport. It’s a deep anchor.”

On the whole, promotional efforts seemed down according to several series and local insiders, compared to previous years.

This year marks the second and last year of the ABC Supply Co. title sponsorship contract, and the race’s third different date in as many years, following mid-June and then mid-August dates the last two years.

Indianapolis ABC reporter Dave Furst estimated the crowd at roughly 12,000; however, it was almost certainly a higher number than that.

I sat in the Turn 1 grandstands for the opening half of the race and from my vantage point, the crowd seemed healthier looking than last year.

If I had to peg a number, I would say in the 16,000 to 18,000 range, counting the number in the infield as well.

This is not the first year where it feels like this could be the last race at Milwaukee. I had the same feeling in 2009 and 2011.

After 2009, the race did not come back. After 2011, it didn’t, either.

But Andretti’s group made a miracle happen in February of 2012 to bring it back, and has ran it for four years.

Was this the last time? It felt like it could have been. But then again, perhaps it wasn’t.

And thus remains the saga of the Milwaukee Mile in modern day North American open-wheel racing.

X44 Racing win 2022 Extreme E championship as Abt Cupra score first race victory

2022 Extreme E Uruguay
Extreme E
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Abt Cupra Racing’s Nasser Al-Attiyah and Klara Andersson scored their first win in the Extreme E Energy X Prix in the 2022 finale in Uruguay as Lewis Hamilton’s X44 Vida Carbon Racing drivers Sebastien Loeb and Cristina Gutierrez survived a chaotic finale to edge the 2021 champion Rosberg X Prix team of Johan Kristoffersson and Mikhaela Ahlin-Kottulinsky, by two points.

“There are so many emotions,” Andersson said in Extreme E’s coverage. “I’ve been waiting for this for so long. In my second race, first full weekend to be at the top of the podium: it’s big.”

Andersson was behind the wheel at the finish.

Rosberg Racing entered the event with a 17-point advantage over X44, but the standings were close enough that four teams remained in contention in Round 5.

“It’s a crucial weekend for us,” Loeb said in Extreme E’s coverage prior to the race. “We are not in the best position to win the championship, but the only thing we can do is try to win the race and score as many points as possible.”

The top two title contenders each crashed in qualification and were relegated to the Crazy Race, Extreme E’s version of the Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ). For the moment, they had the steepest hill to climb, but then the other two championship contending teams, Chip Ganassi Racing and Acciona Sainz Racing failed to advance from their heats.

Only one team advances from the Crazy Race, so the X44 drivers were in a must-win situation to simply keep hope alive.

More: Extreme E 2023 schedule

Ahlin-Kottulinsky and Gutierrez ran wheel to wheel into the first turn at the start of the LCQ.

The Rosberg racer experienced crash damage in that turn that damaged her front steering, but managed to limp back to the pits at the end of her two-lap stint. The team attempted to fix the steering, but incurred a penalty for having too many mechanics in the pit area.

Meanwhile, Gutierrez took the early lead, but knew she would need to sit through a five-second penalty for an incident earlier in the weekend. The female half of the gender equal pair erased the penalty by entering the Switch Zone with a five-second lead before turning the car over to Loeb.

That was all the nine-time World Rally Championship titlist needed to give him the advantage needed to win the Crazy Race.

But the championship was not over yet. X44 Racing needed to finish third or better in the five-car finale to earn enough points for the title and after advancing from the LCQ, they were forced to take the worst grid position.

A chaotic start to the Finale saw Loeb run as high the lead and low as fourth after getting pushed off course during his first lap. And that is how he entered to Switch Zone.

On her first lap, Gutierrez slammed into Molly Taylor. With one lap remaining, X44 and Gutierrez were still in fourth and the title hope was quickly evaporating, but it was announced halfway through the lap that the third-running Andretti United team would suffer a penalty for a Switch Zone infraction. The seven-second deduction for Timmy Hansen braking too late in the zone made the difference in the title.

Coming off a disappointing Copper X Prix when Tanner Foust and Emma Gilmour crossed under the checkers first, but were relegated to fifth by penalty, the McLaren pair scored their first podium of the season in second.