While the Milwaukee Mile is the oldest operating automobile race track in America, it has been suffering lately through neglect by the state and faulty promotion by the race providers. We had NASCAR Trucks and Nationwide racing but lost those.
We were this close to losing our Indy car race when famed race car driver Michael Andretti, now a car owner and promoter, stepped in to save the Mile. Michael was very accessible during this event. He got around on this little scooter as did many of the other participants. I came across Michael at various times including when his car was practicing,
standing outside his owner's tent
and even at the judging of the Battle of the Bands that closed the night.
Michael also tried to make this a family event so the infield had things like a midway and food.
I decided that I would get a Pit Pass for qualifying day and take my brother-in-law Bob from Louisville with me.
So on Friday June 15th, we were out at the track by 9:00 a.m. On this day, the Pit Pass allows you to go anywhere you darn well want to in the pits and it is pretty cool.
The first order of business was to get the Indy cars on the track for practice before qualifying.
Some jobs seem thankless. How about umbrella guy?
Or 100 degree fireman guy?
After that practice session, the Indy Lights took to the track for qualifying.
More Indy Lights action followed when they set up for the race later.
Izod Indycar practice came next.
Throughout the day, various drivers were very accessible to the fans. Here is IZOD Indy car points leader Dario Franchitti (who appears to be more famous for being married to Ashley Judd than anything else--p. s.: I had no Judd sighting during the two days). Despite his forlorn look now, this is before he set the pole and then crashed out of the race.
Scott Dixon debriefs after practice.
Helio Castroneves checks his times and then gives his fans the thumb's up.
"T. K.," Tony Kanaan looks like he is not happy with his times.
The Go Daddy driver James Hinchcliffe.
Will Power signs for the little boy in front of him but...
There were many young Japanese women hanging around the pits whenever Takuma Sato was around.
And then there were the Brazilian women hanging around Rubens Barrichello.
Eventual race winner Ryan Hunter-Reay in the pits during practice.
A. J. Foyt sits on his team box.
Former great Johnny Rutherford was hanging around the pits taking it all in.
And the media was everywhere.
The Izod Indycars returned to the track for final practice and we decided to camp out in turn four to try and catch some on track action.
Then came Izod Indycar qualifying. Dario Franchitti's crew rolls the car out to pit lane.
Dario blasts off from pit lane for his two lap qualifying attempt.
Cars are qualifying at an average at a top speed of 164 miles an hour on this flat 1-mile oval. Dario wins the pole and I think I know why--he is the only car in my photos so low that the yellow pit lane cone is in front of the car. Low car--fast car. Fast car--big check.
The rest of the gang fought over 2nd to 24th.
After the last Izod Indycar practice, we roamed the pits before the race for the Indy Car Lights.
For the Indy Lights race, it was back to turn four.
I'm not a professional race car driver but I believe they are not supposed to be pointed in this direction. Ever.
Indy Lights race winner Tristan Vautier celebrates in Victory Circle.
After the Indy Lights race, eight local groups took place in the Izod Indy Battle of the Bands!!!!
Saturday was race day and Bob and I were back at the track bright and early for preparation. I am not sure, unless you are a race fan, if you can understand how much effort is required to put on an event like this but let's just say the pits are busy before the race.
And then it rained. For about an hour Bob and I took shelter with the track officials under a pup tent on pit road while everyone just stands around and waits. Unfortunately for the crews, some of the work they had just done now needs to be done all over again. Plus, everything is wet.
So slightly damp boys with nothing better to do horse around in victory lane.
With everything now dry, the cars are grided again.
The good news these two days is that I was in the pits. The bad news is the pits is not the place to watch a race. Most of the crew members looked bored out of their minds until called upon to do their job while most of them watch the race on either TV screens in their pit boxes or on the jumbo tron at the track.
For the end of the race Bob and I went up into the Grandstand to join Denice who watched the race from our actual seats. Here is the winner, Ryan Hunter Reay, coming around to take the checkered flag.
To finished off the two days, all of us went into the infield for a concert by Smashmouth.
See all my photos from this event at http://www.flickr.com/photos/gniebuhr/sets/72157630231230638/