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Trackside Update: Milwaukee IndyFest Day One

6.14.13 – Hello from Wisconsin where round eight of IndyCar competition kicked off today from the historic Milwaukee Mile. In addition to IZOD IndyCar Series action, this weekend’s Milwaukee IndyFest will also play host to on track competition from Firestone Indy Lights, the Pro Mazda Championship and the International Rickshaw Racing Association (yes, rickshaws are racing!). On top of all the track action, the two-day “Festival of Speed” boasts something for the whole family from free carnival rides to the Coors Light Music and Beer Garden and a fascinating historic car show.

The quartette of Andretti’s IZOD IndyCar Series drivers ran two practice sessions today followed by a traditional oval qualifying round. RC Cola driver Marco Andretti topped the charts in the both practice sessions with teammate and defending IndyFest champion Ryan Hunter-Reay coming in second each time. The four drivers just barely missed sweeping the front two rows during the afternoon qualifying — all four will, however, start inside the top five.

Leading the way was Marco Andretti behind the wheel of his No. 25 Chevrolet. Andretti captured today's pole position – his third career pole and second pole in Milwaukee. "The RC Cola car has been hooked up since we rolled off the trailer, so very pleased with that. Chevrolet has done a great job as well, but I'm even more pleased because I think we have a heck of a race car underneath us too." On what it would mean to win in Milwaukee tomorrow, the third-generation racer said, "It'd be huge. I told Dad that hopefully [the pole] is only half of his Father’s Day gift. I mean, it’d be great because [Andretti Sports Marketing] is promoting this event too."

Joining Marco on the front row will be GoDaddy driver James Hinchcliffe. "I'm pleased with (the qualifying run) from our point of view. We had the issue in the first session when we found the wall, and evidently the Turn 2 wall isn't as blue anymore. Even in the second practice we were chasing something in the car, and we weren't quite happy, and I honestly didn't know what to think coming into qualifying. The car felt really good, much better than it did in practice. I'm really proud of the GoDaddy guys for rallying back from not a great (practice) session and putting the No. 27 car high on the grid."

Defending Milwaukee IndyFest champion Ryan Hunter-Reay will roll off from the fourth position in his DHL Chevy. "We had a great car and we just got a little carried away with trying to help the car turn – that's what beats a lap time here. We missed the pole by just a little bit last year, so we felt we needed to go get it today. We just over-stepped it today. It's easy to do here at Milwaukee, but we'll have a good No. 1 DHL Chevrolet for tomorrow, I promise you that."

Rounding out the top five on the grid will be Team Venezuela's E.J. Viso, starting from fifth – his sixth consecutive top-five start. "Probably the first lap I didn't get the maximum out of the car. I was a little bit cautious… I had a moment in Turn 1 on my out lap. Anyways, I think we have a pretty strong car and I'm really looking forward to this race. I believe we have a pretty good setup that we've been working on and developing. Congratulations to my teammate Marco (Andretti) on his pole position."

Firestone Indy Lights drivers Carlos Munoz and Zach Veach qualified their cars today for tomorrow’s 100-lap Milwaukee 100. Veach, a recent high school graduate, turned in a time good enough for the front row as he will start second in Milwaukee tomorrow. "A big thanks to the K12 guys," said Veach, "they’ve been working so hard for us the whole season. We came here and tested about a week ago and that didn’t really go the way we wanted to – I had a couple rookie mistakes. To come back and rebound and be on our first front row in Milwaukee where we gained our first pole in 2011, it’s a really good feeling. We have a lot of work to do for tomorrow, but we’ll go back and study what we need to tonight. I want to thank my engineer, my crew guys, K12 and Andretti Autosport for making this all possible."

Teammate Munoz will start from the fourth position and look to hold on to this championship points lead. "We didn't expect to be so slow in qualifying. We had hoped to put the car on the front row, but the car changed a bit from practice to qualifying, so not the best, but it just means we'll have to work hard tomorrow. It's a long championship we're driving for this season. We'll think a lot about the points and not making mistakes. We will take it one race at a time."

Our Pro Mazda Championship squad had a full day at the Wisconsin State Fair Park as they completed their one-day show. The Mazda Road to Indy series practiced, qualified and raced today. In qualifying, Matthew Brabham wheeled his No. 83 machine around The Mile posting a time good enough to claim the pole position, as well as new qualifying lap record, while teammate Shelby Blackstock started from the fifth position.

As the sun began to set, Brabham and Blackstock started off on their 90-mile race where later Matthew and the No. 83 MAZDASPEED car came to the twin checkers over nine seconds in front of the competition. “This is the longest race we’ve done all year. Basically we made sure we could last the whole race. We had a great car; the team’s work has been absolutely phenomenal all year. The car has been good everywhere we’ve been, so I can’t thank those guys enough. They’re working really hard, and it’s all falling into place for us. The race was pretty interesting. It was weird, not knowing what to expect since we hadn’t run a race that long before, and it was even more difficult with this place being relatively hard on the tires because we’re riding on the edge all the way around. But, we managed, and thankfully the Cooper tires held up, and it was a great race for me.” Matty B. was able to celebrate his Father's Day weekend win with dad Geoff Brabham who was on-hand to cheer on the third-generation racer.

Nashville native and Brabham's teammate Shelby Blackstock struggled with his No. 28 Starstruck machine throughout the race, but persevered and crossed the finish line safely in seventh. “The night started a bit rough. As soon as we went into Turn 1 on the first lap we had a huge wiggle, and by Lap 2 it was obvious the car was extremely loose. Towards about the 20th lap, it turned into a survival race, fighting just to keep the car beneath me. We took the points tonight with seventh, and hopefully we can improve the rest of the season. Now we’re heading to some street circuits, and that’s definitely our strong suit, so hopefully we can get back on the podium and finish the year off strong.” The Pro Mazda combo will next be seen racing in Toronto, Canada in July. The Andretti Autosport duo of Carlos Munoz and Zach Veach can be seen on NBC Sports Network (Verizon FiOS 90/590, DirecTV 220, DISH 159 and AT&T UVerse 640) when Firestone Indy Lights coverage begins tomorrow at 2 p.m. Central. Keep your TVs tuned in for all the action and catch the #fabfour when they see the green flag fly at the historic one-mile oval at 3:40 p.m. Central. You can also follow along via Twitter (@FollowAndretti, #indyfest, #indycar) for all the behind-the-scenes scoop.


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