Confirmation that IndyCar will visit Road America next year was met with widespread approval amongst fans. But with the addition of a second race in Wisconsin and legal wrangles at Andretti Sports Marketing, the future of the Milwaukee race is once again in serious doubt.
The addition of the classic Road America circuit for 2016 has generated the kind of excitement the entire 2015 schedule failed to. Returning to the track that was a showcase for CART in its heyday of the late 90’s and early 2000’s is something fans have been desperate to see for many years. However it is likely to come at a price – the potential loss of the hallowed Milwaukee Mile.
Andretti Sports Marketing implodes
For the Milwaukee organizers the combination of a returning Road America and the implosion of Andretti Sports Marketing (ASM) could be a death-knell. This week fans were greeted by the worrying and confusing news that ASM is taking legal action against Andretti Autosport. Curt Cavin reports that the lawsuit covers alleged improper use of funds by the Andretti race team originally intended for ASM. The lawsuit, coming on the back of ASM reducing staff numbers recently, makes for a less than promising situation for all involved. Which includes the Milwaukee IndyCar race as ASM have promoted the event in recent years.
Widespread rumors have suggested the promotion of the Milwaukee event by ASM was running at a significant deficit. ASM’s portfolio of work has also diminished recently with the loss of the NOLA race in IndyCar and ASM no longer promoting the Red Bull Global Rallycross event in Washington DC.
Even if the issues within the Andretti business empire are resolved and ASM continue to promote the event or an alternative promoter is found, can the racing audience in Wisconsin support two races per season? Crowds at Milwaukee have appeared to be slowly increasing over the past 3 seasons but remain far from strong. The question that no one knows the answer to of course is whether fans would travel to see both events or select only one.
Oval or road course?
Splitting the historical IndyCar attendance for Milwaukee would render both races unviable unless significant gains in spectator numbers were achieved within a couple of seasons. In a head-to-head, Milwaukee’s rich history, location and the additional attractions and entertainment that have (up until this season) been a part of the race package fall in its favor.
Conversely Road America has the advantage of being a circuit that many fans have been itching to see the current generation of IndyCars race on. Combine that with the recent trend (excluding the Indy 500) for road/street course attendances to dwarf those of ovals and the smart money is likely to sit with Milwaukee falling by the wayside. Such a scenario creates a serious head versus heart dilemma.
The loss of the Milwaukee Mile (again and probably for good this time) is unthinkable for the many who have supported through thick and thin. Letting go of the history, the legends made there, the unique layout that offers such unique racing is tough to consider. On the flip side is the stark truth that IndyCar, as a championship, cannot afford to continue racing at venues that struggle to achieve even 50% capacity. Putting to one side the very relevant and very heated debate about how much or little support IndyCar does or should give to tracks/race promoters, there is a serious dilemma in play.
My hope is that the ASM mess is cleared up or another promoter is brought in to market an IndyCar race at Milwaukee in 2016, alongside the rightful return of Road America. A strengthening IndyCar series should feature two races that capture so much of the fabulous history of the sport as it moves forward.
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