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My Lucky day at The Mile
Over The Wall at Milwaukee  By Bronco
Over The Wall at Milwaukee By Bronco
December 19th 2007 - By Jim Gorecki
BroncosPitstop.com

June 3, 2007
The Milwaukee Mile
Wisconsin State Fair Park, West Allis, WI

As far as race fans go, most would like to sit in the stands so they can see the finish line, and the entire track if possible. Last Sunday, at the A.J. Foyt/ABC Supply 225 Indy Car race in Milwaukee, I had a rare opportunity that many people would like to have, but most likely, never will have the chance to do. I watched the entire race from the inside the pit-box!

A little background on myself, having grown up just north of turn four on South 79th Street, my first race at the Milwaukee Mile was in 1967, and this has become an annual event for myself, coming “home to my track” for the Indy Cars, and I get to see my mom and dad too who still live in the same house I grew up in. This was the 50th time that the Indy Cars have run at Milwaukee the week after the Indy 500, so the atmosphere at the track was very festive. Since starting my racing website, (www.BroncosPitstop.com), in 2005, I have received full press credentials for this race. That alone is a great value to me, but to see the race from this vantage point was incredible! Excited as a kid in a toy store, I couldn’t wait for the racing to start.

Specifically, I was in pit-box of Andretti-Green Teammates Danica Patrick and Marco Andretti. Danica, age 25, took the racing world by storm when she lead the 2004 Indy 500, and finishing fourth. Marco, age 20, is the son of Michael Andretti, and grandson of Mario Andretti, and just missed winning the 500 last season, finishing second. Both of these young drivers are beyond rising stars in their sport, they have “transcended their sport” as the saying goes.

I stood between the two teams, with my feet literally straddling the finish line. About two feet from the cars as they entered and exited for their pit stops, I made sure I gave the teams plenty of room to work. As far as the view, I could see the cars come out of turn four, speed by the finish line at over 170 MPH, and turn left into the first corner. Directly behind me in the infield, was a large “Jumbo Tron” screen, so I could see the racing action around the entire track. With the amount of people crowded around the fence behind the “hot pit area”, trying to get a glimpse of both of these stars prior to and after the race, I’d say I was in a very enviable position.

During the race, I actually stood next to Danica Patrick’s biggest fan, her mother, Beverly. She was nice enough to answer a few questions during some caution periods, when it was not so loud, and the cars were behind the pace car on the back stretch. Her husband had raced sprint cars out of Roscoe, Illinois, so I inquired as to what was more difficult, to watch her child race or her spouse. She replied immediately, “It doesn’t really matter. It is difficult to watch either. Actually, inside I am a nervous wreck. This is such a dangerous sport. It is what Danica loves to do, so I support her.” Support her she did too, nervously swaying from foot to foot, like she was rocking a baby to in her arms. Clapping, cheering, going through the same emotions as a driver, as Danica had a long pit stop on lap 93 of the 225 scheduled lap race. A result of a driving “incedent” with driver Dan Wheldon in turn one, bent the right front steering arm on her black Motorolla number 7 car. That put her a lap down, and from seventh place, to 18th. With some aggressive driving, some great pit stops from her crew, she worked her way back onto the lead lap, and finished the day in eight place.

Marco Andretti, had stared his day in 14th, and he too, benefited from some great pit stops to worked his way into the top five, when he put his car into the fence coming out of turn two. He was checked out in the infield care center, and came back to the pits to watch the rest of the race. That is when I approached him, all 5’-7”, 140 lbs of him, asked him if he was ok, and he said, “Yeah, just disappointed, my pride is hurt, two DNF’s in a row.” I asked him if something broke on the car, "I got anxious. I knew I was going to have a good shot at moving forward and I knew I was the only one in the field that had the tires. I got too antsy about taking advantage of it. I apologize to the NYSE team because we had a car that could have driven through".

The day for Andretting-Green Racing wasn’t a total loss however, as teammate Tony Kanaan won the race, when luck was on his side. Running in second place behind pole sitter, Helio Castroneves, who was pulling away from the field with 25 laps to go, had a mishap on the main straight, when the rear wing fell off his car, and sent Castroneves spinning into the inside wall, right in front of my vantage point. His day finished, Kanaan assumed the lead, driving the rest of the way for the win. Previous weekend, Indy 500 winner, Dario Franchitti, the fourth member of Andretti-Green Racing, finished in second place, and took over the Indy Racing League points lead.

The racing day over, I had time to savor my lucky day, as I was stuck in post race traffic trying to exit the infield parking, and the sky opened up with a down pour. With no place to go, but at least dry, I realized I would have a difficult time ever watching a race from the stands again. Sometimes, life in the “pits” can make for a great day.
 
Further Resources:
www.milwaukeemile.com