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IndyCar Preview: Milwaukee IndyFest

*What’s News?*

The IZOD IndyCar Series heads to the Milwaukee Mile this week for Milwaukee IndyFest (yes…that’s the name of the race). After a thriller last week at Texas, the historic Milwaukee Mile circuit promises to put on another fabulous show. This race, which is being promoted by the marketing arm of Michael Andretti’s team, it is hoped will be an attempt to recapture some lost glory from the race’s glory days. With the future of this race being murky at best, IndyFest promoters are on pins and needles hoping that the race weekend turns out to be a success. In other news, the China race that was scheduled for later this summer has been dropped off the schedule completely. Word on the street is that the race may be moved to either Road America, Pocono, or possibly even Texas. IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard confirms the series is investigating the possibilities for a replacement event to keep the schedule at 16 races. This doesn’t come as much of a surprise, as the China endeavor was ill-fated from the start.

*Track Preview: The Milwaukee Mile*
Located in the quaint town of West Allis, Wisconsin, the Milwaukee Mile is one of the most historic race tracks on earth. Before there was Indianapolis, before there was Daytona, there was Milwaukee. The Milwaukee Mile is the oldest continually operating race circuit in the world, as the track has been in operation since 1903. Milwaukee has been a staple of American Open Wheel Racing for years, and all the drivers realize that a win in Milwaukee puts them in prestigious historic company. Dario Franchitti took the checkers in last year’s race, and did so in dominant fashion. Franchitti led 161 of the 225 scheduled laps and cruised to an easy victory over teammate Graham Rahal.

*What’s the Points (Driver Standings):* Will Power still has a comfortable lead in the series standings. The veteran Aussie is nursing a 36-point advantage over second place driver and countryman Scott Dixon. James Hinchcliffe, Helio Castroneves, and Simon Pagenaud round out the top 5 in points, all three of whom are still within 57 points of the leader.

*What’s the Points (Engine Manufacturers):* Honda has slowly chipped away at Chevrolet’s early season lead, and the Japanese manufacturer now sits only three points behind the Bowtie Brigade. Lotus’s miserable 2012 season continued last week at Texas, and the maligned engine supplier is a distant 23 points behind Honda.

Justin Wilson scored his first win since 2009 and very first on an oval in Texas last week. Photo credit INDYCAR/LAT USA.

*Featured Driver: Justin Wilson*
Justin Wilson has done a little bit of everything in his racing career. He had a short stint in Formula 1 back in 2003, he’s driven sports car, and he had an illustrious career in CART. However, success in IndyCar has been rather hard to come by for the affable British wheelman, with only one IndyCar win (at Watkins Glen in 2009) to his name before last week’s race at Texas. But last week at Texas, Wilson drove one of the best races of his IndyCar career and picked up his second win, and his first win on an oval. It appears that Wilson is finally starting to get the hang of this oval racing thing, and if he can match his new-found oval success with his already established road racing prowess, Wilson ought to become a household name in this series.

*Who Wins?*
Here’s to seeing if our experts can do better this week. *Toni Montgomery* is picking Tony Kanaan. He led late at Indy, he challenged late at Texas, he could get it done at Milwaukee. *Matt Stallknecht* is going with James Hinchcliffe. Matt thinks he’s ready to take the next step and win on an oval.

*Any Other News:*

As stated earlier, the cancellation of the planned race in China left a gaping hole in the season schedule. A number of tracks have been proposed as replacements for the China race, but the most likely scenario is that Texas will pick up the open date and shift it such that the race becomes the season finale. Auto Club does not have a clause in its contract which stipulates that it has to be the season finale, thus it is entirely possible that Texas will pick up a second race that ends up being the season finale. Stay tuned for more news on this one, as it could get very interesting.

*Upcoming:* After the IndyCar Series tour leaves Milwaukee, the teams and drivers will pick back up and head south to the small Midwestern town of Newton, IA for the Iowa Corn Indy 250 at the Iowa Speedway. This race will feature a special format as a set of two heat races will be run before the main event to determine the starting order for the field. Iowa always puts on a good race, and the heat racing format ought to shake things up a bit, so this race will be one you won’t want to miss!

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