Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Adding More To The Milwaukee Mile

This year's Milwaukee IndyFest will be my oldest daughter's first IndyCar race. At eight years of age, she's gone to practice and tests at Indianapolis Motor Speedway aplenty, but the Mile will be her first full race weekend. As such, I've been following closely to see what IndyFest will be offering this year. Andretti Sports Marketing did a fine job bringing back last year's race, and their event staff was superb, but I wanted to see if they could add more to the race weekend.

Happily, it looks like that's going to be the case this year. Not only will Pro Mazda be racing Saturday at IndyFest, but the main event will be 25 laps longer than last year's 225-lap event. I think that's a welcome development for most fans. While most of us were just ecstatic to have MKE back on the schedule last year, the Mile has a strong place in the tradition and legacy of open wheel racing. It's one of a handful of tracks that can even come close to the history of Indy, dates from the same era.

The first cars raced at the Mile a few months before the Wright Brothers' first flight. Racing there pre-dates Indianapolis. It's a track where Barney Oldfield, Ralph DePalma, Rex Mays, A.J. Foyt, Rick Mears, and a whole host of other legends won, as part of a list that reads as a Who's Who of this sport. On a somber note, it's where Indy 500 drivers Ed Elisian, Jim Hickman, and Ronnie Duman all lost their lives. It's been home to as much drama, despair, sudden turns, and glory as any oval in America. That's an open wheel legacy that can only be properly protected by a successful, high-quality, regularly  recurring racing event. Fortunately that's what we're in line for.

This is going to be a pivotal year for the Mile. Enough support showed up in 2012 to make 2013 a go, and now we'll see if the event can endure and grow. Certainly the Andrettis are doing their part--they've partnered with SummerFest, pushed the "event atmosphere" that make racing events more attractive to the casual fan, and have taken steps to expand the on-track offerings. I hope my daughter is only one of many fans who get an introduction to INDYCAR that weekend in June.

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