Finally, after weeks of being wet blanketed by that previous race we move on to Milwaukee – after another delay of two weeks. None too soon and not soon enough. Thank you Father Time – now let’s move it along, gramps. We’ve got some good old fashioned oval racing to look forward to! Yip-piiee!
Photo from milwaukeeindyfest.com
Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus blares blissfully in our heads as we contemplate breaking out some celebratory morning beers ’round the conference table. We simply can’t wait for the annual Mash-up at the Mile, not because it’s our favorite track (it isn’t), or because we enjoy the taste of beer in the morning (only some days) but rather to cleanse the bitter, mostly ethanol-y taste of Mid-Ohio from our mouths.
Milwaukee is at least an oval, which means it should provide better racing than we’ve had in a while. We write “should” because it has so little banking that it drives like a roval and presents a challenge to many teams and drivers, while others seemingly have its number. It’s the level character of the track itself that’s out of the ordinary.
In good years it can even provide competitive and entertaining racing which is the entire point, at least for the few hundred thousand fans scattered around the mid west who make up IndyCar association of states. In bad years, it resembles a Sonoma-level race only on a track entirely viewable from the grandstands. That’s a distinct advantage ovals like Texas, Fontana (now known for two kinds of speed) and Iowa enjoy over road/street circuits by the way, for which they rarely receive credit – superior spectating for fans at the tracks.
The Milwaukee Mile has a tradition dating back to the 19th century as a horse track (“Sport of Kings”), then as an automobile dirt track from 1903 until the 1950s when it was paved (sport of warriors). IndyCar racing began at Milwaukee in the 1930s on the dirt track when eventual three-time Indy 500 winner Wilbur Shaw won the first “Big Car” race held there in 1933, as per the Wisconsin State Fair’s “History of the Milwaukee Mile.”
Interestingly, the track is surrounded by and a part of the state fairgrounds. It’s the oldest race track still in use in the world, although IndyCar and another series both took a hiatus from the struggling track in 2010. So one could say the race died and then miraculously came back to life.
Photo from milwaukeeindyfest.com
Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay historically has been outstanding at the Mile, winning the race a decade ago in CART and then back to back the last two trips in IndyCar. He certainly should be ready to race after his excruciatingly poor showing in Palookaville, OH and is the driver most happy to have witnessed the track’s resurrection. Early pre-prediction: the question will be can he make it three in a row at the Methuselah Mile?
Other drivers due some luck include Joseph Newgarden, although like another deserving young American named Rahal he’s not quite figured out the ovals yet. Speaking of which Takuma Sato will be racing in front of his sponsor’s hometown crowd – again – and needs to finish the race.
Towering (5′ 5”) talent Tony Kanaan is due to break out at any race now – just return to the poppin’ red paint livery, huh fellas? Then there’s Marco whose struggles already have been chronicled on this site. He needs a strong finish desperately and is luckily on the right team to do it (and the team promoting the race, and that’s won the last two here, and that his dad happens to own).
Since its inception over a century ago, legends from AJ, Parnelli and Wilbur to Ryan, Dan and Dario have thrilled race fans at the Milwaukee Mile. It’ll be a refreshing change and should thoroughly cleanse IndyCar fans’ pallets. We recommend you enjoy it with a nice light white wine (or more likely beers) and some heavy Wisconsin cheese. Badger-appétit!