McDONALD'S DRIVER WILSON RETURNS TO THE MILWAUKEE MILE -- THE SITE OF HIS BEST OVAL FINISH: HOLE IN THE WALL CAMPS DRIVER RAHAL MAKES DEBUT AT TEAM'S HOME TRACK WEST ALLIS, Wis. (May 29, 2008) --- The 2008 IndyCar ...
McDONALD'S DRIVER WILSON RETURNS TO THE MILWAUKEE MILE -- THE SITE OF HIS BEST OVAL FINISH: HOLE IN THE WALL CAMPS DRIVER RAHAL MAKES DEBUT AT TEAM'S HOME TRACK
WEST ALLIS, Wis. (May 29, 2008) --- The 2008 IndyCar Series season is full of many challenges for Lincolnshire, Ill.-based Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing (NHLR). Nine of the scheduled events are run on tracks the team has never competed on so when the series heads to a venue where they have recently raced, there is an added level of familiarity and anticipation. Not only did the team, then-named Newman/Haas Racing (NHR), earn one of their most satisfying wins in recent history at the Milwaukee Mile in 2006, site of this Sunday's ABC Supply / A.J. Foyt 225, the famed one-mile oval has also been long-considered the team's "home track" due to its one-hour distance from their headquarters. Team co-owner, Carl Haas, was also the promoter of racing events here from 1992 to 2003.
NHR competed at the legendary Milwaukee Mile course on the Wisconsin State Fairgrounds from their first season in 1983 until 2006. In their 24 previous races here, NHR drivers Mario Andretti, Nigel Mansell, Paul Tracy, Michael Andretti and Sebastien Bourdais have combined to bring the team seven wins at this track with the most recent coming in dominating fashion in 2006 by Bourdais. Mario Andretti brought the team their first pole here in 1985 and Bourdais added a second in 2006. In total the team has earned 13 podium finishes in 24 events.
Because their home track had been the most challenging of the season, Bourdais' 2006 victory was all the more sweet. He overcame a punctured tire which put him one lap down to bring the team its first win here in 10 years. It was also his fourth consecutive win of the season which matched a CART/Champ Car era record (1979-present) set by Al Unser Jr. (1990), Alex Zanardi (1998), and Cristiano da Matta (2002 with NHR). Prior to the victory Bourdais and teammate Bruno Junqueira rewarded the team for all their hard work on improving the team's short oval setup by qualifying first and second with Bourdais bringing the team their first pole here in 21 years.
As was the case for much of the 2006 and 2007 season, the last time the team competed here, their main competition came from Justin Wilson who finished second to Bourdais at The Mile in 2006. Wilson will return to the track as the driver of the McDonald's race car that he finished second to and is hoping to continue his trend of success here.
"Each year that I've gone to the Milwaukee Mile, we have done better and better," said Wilson who has made three starts at this track from 2004-2006. "I had a fourth place the second time there and a second place the last time I was there in 2006. I really enjoy the track; I think it is a very challenging, low banked oval. It's going to be nice to race on an oval that we have been on before. The key will be working out the set-up quick on the McDonald's car because the IndyCar Series weekends are short and you don't have a chance to really develop the car much. Hopefully we can be on the pace straight away and have a good, solid weekend."
Of his eight oval races to date, Wilson's second place finish here from a fourth place start in 2006 with RuSport is his highest result on an oval track. In 2005 he started third and finished fourth with RuSport and started 12th and finished 11th in his 2004 rookie season with Mi-Jack Conquest Racing. All drivers who are transitioning from the Champ Car World Series as well as any other rookies have been given a one-hour practice session on Friday from 4-5 p.m. EDT to get reacclimated to the new racing package and Wilson is thankful for the opportunity.
"The one-hour "rookie" practice on Friday should help a lot because it will give us a chance to get up to speed in our own time whereas once everyone else comes out, they are flat out from Lap 1 and we would still be getting used to the car and the feel of the place," said Wilson. "It gives us a little bit of breathing time to get up to speed and feel comfortable and check everything out. It helps us to get a good start to the weekend."
While Wilson and teammate Graham Rahal are included among the 10 IndyCar Series "rookies" that will compete at the Milwaukee Mile, six of those have raced here in either Champ Car or the Firestone Indy Lights series. Hole in the Wall Camps driver Rahal, 19, Enrique Bernoldi, Mario Moraes and E.J. Viso will make their debut at this track. The 27-car field will be the largest in recent history at the track and Rahal is expecting some close racing on the one-mile track.
"I'm looking forward to racing at the Milwaukee Mile," said Rahal. "It should be a really fun race because of how close the cars will be running together on the short oval. I'm also really looking forward to it because it's the home track for the team so hopefully we'll get a lot of support from the fans and have some success. It was a tough weekend at Indy and we're looking forward to bouncing back."
This weekend's ABC Supply / A.J. Foyt 225 can be seen live Sunday, June 1 on ABC, beginning at 4 p.m. EDT. The event will get underway with a one-hour rookie practice on Friday, followed by practice and qualifying on Saturday. As always, fans can follow the action from every on-track session via the official website of the IndyCar Series, www.indycar.com. It will also be broadcast live on IMS Radio Network and XM Radio 145.