Remembering Leffler, Helping Charlie

Photo: LAT

From 1982-2007 there were at least two races in Wisconsin: the traditional Milwaukee Mile and the 4-mile splendor of Road America. For most of that time both shows were a rousing success because of the passionate fans, although The Split in 1996 eventually sucked the life out of Milwaukee’s legendary oval and Elkhart Lake was dropped after unification in 2008.

But it would appear there’s a decent chance both could be on the 2014 schedule.

“I’ve reached out to IndyCar and had a meeting with Mark Miles back in April at Long Beach and we’d like to bring Indy cars back,” said George Bruggenthies, longtime president of Road America’s scenic, challenging road course.

“Bobby Rahal sat in on our meeting and expounded on the virtues of Road America to him (Miles) and we discussed possible dates but I haven’t heard from him since. I reached out again last weekend because we were only an hour apart when he was in Milwaukee but I never got a response.

“I know he’d like to end the season around Labor Day and we’d be fine with a September race.”

In an email Miles says IndyCar wants to wait and see what happens with Milwaukee before making any decisions on Elkhart Lake.

Of course that’s contingent on Michael Andretti continuing to promote Milwaukee, where he just finished his contract last Saturday.

“A couple of things need to come together to extend this deal but we’re determined to get it done,” said Kevin Healy, managing director of Milwaukee for Andretti Autosport.

“It was a two-year deal with the understanding of trying to make it long-term if it worked out. Despite the forecast (70 percent chance of rain) I thought we had a decent crowd and it was a good race, as it always is at that track.”

Healy didn’t go into specifics but scoring a major title sponsor would be the best way to insure Milwaukee’s future.

And maybe moving to the Sunday after Indianapolis (like it was forever) would also help instead of a 3:40 p.m. start on a Saturday. “I’d take that,” said Healy with a chuckle.

No official crowd was announced but it appeared to be a couple thousand more than 2012 and it was in the 22,000-25,000 range counting the infield.

“There was a ton of people in the infield and a lot of families because we lowered the kids’ price to $5 (children 12 & under) and it was $25 for general admission,” continued Healy. “We had a family zone and a beer garden and they were both popular.”

Champ Car used a dual ticket for Milwaukee and Elkhart Lake in 2006 and neither promoter is against trying it again, although probably not back-to-back.

“I’ve got no problem working with The Mile but we couldn’t do a back-to-back in June because of June Sprints and our Nationwise race,” said Bruggenthies. “I’d try it if as long as it wasn’t against another big event. Later on the summer, sure, it might work.”

Asked if he was leaning towards a doubleheader with the unified sports car series and IndyCar, he responded: “I’d take a doubleheader with sports cars like we had in Champ Car or a standalone with IndyCar, either would be fine.”

The most asked questions by the fans at The Mile all weekend: is Milwaukee coming back and are we ever going back to Road America?

Stay tuned, we might have an answer soon.

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