Home » FEATURE STORY, INDYCAR

A Joyful Rebirth And Sad Farewell In Wisconsin

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Saturday, June 25 2016
Tony Kanaan takes a ride through the scenic Wisconsin countryside. (Photos courtesy of INDYCAR)

Tony Kanaan takes a ride through the scenic Wisconsin countryside. (Photos courtesy of INDYCAR)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
RacinToday.com

There is certainly reason to celebrate this weekend as North America’s top non-stock car racing series returns to the best road circuit not located in France, Germany, Italy or Belgium. But there is also reason to mourn.

A hearty welcome back, Road America but at the same time, so sad to see you go, Milwaukee Mile.

bugopinionRoad America is one sweet permanent road circuit. It’s the kind they don’t make anymore. At a hair over four miles around, it’s a monster. It features terrific elevation change. With three long straightaways, quick corners and the sweeping “Carousel”, it’s fast, fast, fast.

There is a heaping helping of natural passing zones; a personal favorite being Turn 5 – a sharp, first-gear left-hander which is entered by way of what has been the fastest straight on the circuit and exited up steep “Fireman’s Hill”.

As wonderful as it is for drivers, it’s even better for fans. Paths through the woods allow spectators to walk to the most remote parts of the big track, belly up to the fencing and watch all aspects of the wonderful sport of road racing.

Thankfully absent is the studio-like setting of modern tracks like Circuit of the Americas, Abu Dhabi and Shanghai. No painted runoff areas, futuristic (apocalyptic?) pavilions, climate controlled grandstands or manicured landscaping here. Just a big old track running up hills and through wooded moraines that challenges drivers and satisfies fans of the best form of auto racing.

With its harmonious integration of function and natural beauty, it is kind of Frank Lloyd Wright (a

The wide, racy and historic Milwaukee Mile has left the IndyCar house.

The wide, racy and historic Milwaukee Mile has left the IndyCar house.

native of Wisconsin) in terms of design.

Think Spa, Monza and, even, the Circuit de la Sarthe as parts of the track used to be county roadways.

The little town of Elkhart Lake has a Le Mans like feel to it as well. The streets of the hamlet fill after action at the track ends on race weekends. It’s a scene that those who frequent Sebring and Watkins Glen will relate.

Time was, competitors and fans sat should to shoulder at food joints and watering holes. More than one driver over the years has been reported to have woken up on the grounds instead of in their rooms at Siebkens Resort.

Yes, good to have Road America back on the IndyCar schedule for the first time since 2007. The racing world is jacked. Word is, 100,000 fans could jam the grounds this weekend.

It’s just too bad that another wonderful, historic Wisconsin track had to be cut from the schedule to make room for RA.

Gone, quite probably for good, is The Milwaukee Mile. Or, as some older Wisconsinites still refer to it, State Fair Park.

The Mile began hosting major league racing before Indianapolis Motor Speedway. During what some still call the Golden Age of American Motorsports, The Mile would host the Indy cars the week after the Indy 500.

Teams would pack up after the 500 on Memorial Day weekend, point their trucks and trailers

Road America, one of the great road circuits in the world, is back on the IndyCar Series schedule.

Road America, one of the great road circuits in the world, is back on the IndyCar Series schedule.

north and caravan to West Allis, a suburb just southwest of downtown Milwaukee.

As with Road America, drivers loved The Mile. It’s surface was wide, smooth and fast. Plenty of room to pass and none of banking that modern ovals use to create artificial drama.

Sitting in the grandstands, and walking the State Fair Park grounds at The Mile offered a throwback experience.

This year, The Mile will go silent. Not because the track suddenly sucks or because its history has

Scenic road America. (Photo by Frank Aiello)

Scenic road America. (Photo by Frank Aiello)

been found faulty. But because contemporary fans in a in suddenly regressive Wisconsin that many of us oldsters no longer recognize, have fallen out of love with the blue-collar Mile.

Michael Andretti, whose family loved and respected the place, attempted to revive racing there in recent years but his attempts were not able to get The Mile back into the air. Milwaukee, site of the famous, huge, annual food-and-music extravaganza known at Summer Fest,  just never really embraced Andretti-promoted IndyFest.

When INDYCAR schedule makers went to work on 2016, two things became obvious to them: First, Road America simply had to be back on the schedule because fans, competitors and history were demanding it; Second, having two events located 60 miles apart was not a formula for financial success at either venue.

So, it is one gem in and one gem out. For some of us, it’s highly understandable but equally lamentable.

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Saturday, June 25 2016
2 Comments

2 Comments »

  • Jim Pedley says:

    Ed:
    My two home tracks when was young. Liked early 70s Can Am at Elkhart Lake, Indy cars at the Mile. Agree with everything you say here. They are flat out, the two best venues of their kind in — in my opinion and have been to my share — the world.

  • Ed Wieland says:

    Yes Jim,sadly we have moved on from a racing atmosphere to a somewhat party atmosphere.
    As I walked through the paddock for 3 days one thing I noticed was that the people don’t even know the drivers any longer.I had 2 grandkids that had a field day as grandpa would out point out the drives and some background on them.

    Gone are the days when you had to hope you got an autograph.A former employee of Indy Radio and I were talking about it as we waited for the 100 running winner Rossi to come out of the hauler.Not a person was around but for us.

    Long live the Mile and the great drivers that raced at a beautiful venue and that’s not to say RA isn’t a great facility.I think it a sign that the public wants to be entertained in more ways and the race is really just a part of it.