If you missed my Milwaukee pep talk the other day, this is a big moment in the history of one of the most iconic American open wheel ovals. If the Milwaukee IndyFest can have at least a good initial outing under the hand of Andretti Sports Marketing, then this event could be sustainable in the long run. If it’s a mess attendance and promotion-wise like 2011 was, well, that makes the case quite a bit harder.
Honestly, with the sort of racing we’ve seen this year, taken with plenty of big stories and contenders, Milwaukee should be a great racing weekend. Here are some key items in mind to watch this weekend:
Watching The Attendance: As mentioned above, this race could very well be a make-or-break year for the Milwaukee Mile hosting IndyCar. While it sounds like things are going much better than last year (how could they not?), we'll have to see what sort of last-minute and walk-up boost the event gets. Most folks are saying in the 20k range would be a good start, and 25k would be a big success for the first year. After a couple of years of disappointment, we'll see how the fans react to the promotional efforts this year.
Grid Penalties Galore: The top two points leaders, Will Power and Scott Dixon, will be serve 10-grid penalties for this race, along with Takuma Sato, Justin Wilson, Josef Newgarden, and Mike Conway. That’s one Chevy and a plethora of Hondas, if we’re keeping track.
The Big Points Battle: The above penalties are especially interesting when you consider how the points battle is shaping up. Will Power maintains a 36 point lead over Scott Dixon, but James Hinchcliffe (12 behind Dixon), Helio Castroneves (17 behind Dixon), and Simon Pagenaud (21 behind Dixon) are keeping it interesting. Meanwhile, Dario Franchitti sits 64 points behind his rival Power, but is known for his ability to bring those point deficits down in a hurry. It might seem like an obvious statement, but if you want to see how the standings will shake out, watching a driver’s consistency over the course of the season is the best way. It doesn’t take many poor races or early
Chevy v. Honda, Round 8: Chevy grabbed the first four wins of the season, but Honda has won the three races since then, including the Indy 500. While it’s still been a close battle on track, there’s at least the perception that for now, Honda has the upper hand. It goes without saying a Chevy win here would be welcome news indeed for the Bowtie Brigade.
Marco's Brutal Season: Many people thought 2012 might be a turnaround year for Marco Andretti, but instead he has failed to record a single Top 10 this season. There's always the promise of another Andretti win around the corner, but so far, this season has been nothing short of dismal. If he can win at Milwaukee, it would be keeping in the Andretti family's success here over the years, and a potential season-saver to boot.
ROY Fight All But Over?: Let's be honest, right now Simon Pagenaud (199 points) is mopping the floor with Rubens Barrichello (118 points; a rookie, but not technically a ROY candidate) and Josef Newgarden (104 points) for Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors. Sure, plenty can happen, but Josef needs a game changer if he want to catch Pags, and soon.
Indy Lights Update: If you missed the article yesterday, Bryan Clauson chatted a bit about Firestone Indy Lights and his other endeavors. He’ll be in the car for Fan Force United this week, as well as for Iowa. Meanwhile, Esteban Guerrieri has jumped to the overall points lead, with Tristan Vautier and Sebastian Saavedra only 15 and 16 points back, respectively. This could be a weekend for Guerrieri to truly make his case for the Lights championship and begin to put some daylight between himself and his nearest competitors. He won here last year, and should have a good chance to do the same this time around.
Pole: Let’s go with Scott Dixon on this one.
Winner: We’ll go TK this time, though I think Dario could quite possibly win here again.
Dark Horse: As recompense for my doubt in Simon Pagenaud last week, he’ll get the nod for Milwaukee.
I’m headed up to Milwaukee, and should be in sometime this evening ahead of tomorrow’s race. If I see you up there, please say hi—I’ll be the big guy in the orange shirt yet again.