Milwaukee Talks: Michael Andretti
Andretti Autosport owner and Auto Racing Hall of Famer Michael Andretti was in town recently for car testing in advance of Milwaukee IndyFest at the famed Milwaukee Mile on June 15-16.
Andretti spent some time with OnMilwaukee.com to talk about his history at the Mile, the new IndyFest model and IndyCar reaching the masses.
OnMilwaukee.com: How important is the history of this track to IndyCar?
Michael Andretti: It's like saying how important is it to Indianapolis, you know? I think this is only second to Indy of any race track with that sort of heritage. I think it's important.
OMC: On the promotional end, is it easier or more difficult than other races you've promoted?
MA: No, it's going the way we thought it would be. Everything's going as planned. I think we've executed it so far to this point very well. We feel comfortable with all that side of it. Hopefully the fans will come out and see it. We're trying to give them a lot for their money. We've literally lowered the price 38 percent but they're going to have 10 times more things to do for the whole family. We're trying to give them value because we know there is competition for entertainment dollars. I think they're going to get a lot of fun for not a lot of money.
OMC: The "fest" aspect of what you're doing seems to be good idea in a city loves its festivals.
MA: Right. It's really going to be. We're doing it all on the infield, so it's going to really feel like a festival. We'll have a snake pit, a family fun zone, a Ferris wheel, bumper cars. We'll have something for all ages. It's going to really look cool, I think, in the set up. Hopefully it's going to be packed with a lot of people.
OMC: Does the fact that it's oval track help that cause?
MA: Yeah, for sure. It helps a lot. It makes it more doable and easier to do. It's a little bit like what street racers do. It's not just the race, it's the event, there's something for people to do everywhere. You see when you walk around a street race 'let's do that' and 'let's do that.' That's what we wanted to do here. We didn't want people to come and watch a race and that's it.
OMC: Many of the drivers have said they want to be here because it's a fun track to run on, as a team owner and promoter, it must help when the participants really want to be here.
MA: That means a lot when these guys are talking positively about things because they can hurt a race just as much as help it. They love this place to the point where guys are actually getting buses to bring people up from Indianapolis. I mean, what drivers do that for an event? That's because it really means a lot to them and they want to help make it successful. That's pretty cool.
OMC: You've been to Milwaukee countless times, both in your own career and in that of your dad (Mario) and son (Marco) – do you remember getting out much?
MA: I don't know. I can't think of any ... There's Moe's. It's funny, when I've come out here I've been mostly at the race track.
OMC: What was the impetus for Andretti Sports Marketing to get behind the promotion of this event?
MA: As a team owner, I felt it was very important for our series to not let this race go away because of its heritage, because it's an oval. That was very important to be as a team owner. And me, personally, this track has meant a lot to our family and to have it not be on our schedule is just wrong in my opinion.
OMC: Do you have a favorite memory here?
MA: One of the huge memories here is in '91 when we had an all Andretti podium, first, second and third. That was a special day.
OMC: You appeared on "Celebrity Apprentice" this year, and driver Helio Castroneves won "Dancing With The Stars" a few years ago – how important are things like that for IndyCar?
MA: It is. It's trying to get us outside and in the mainstream a bit. Anything we can do like that will only have value for the series.
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