mmack's nnotes: Milwaukee 2009

Posted by Iannucci | 6/01/2009 | 3 comments »
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(Ladies and gentleman, once again My Name Is IRL proudly welcomes guest commentary from a man who isn't afraid to hang with the "all you can eat BBQ and beer" crowd. With his report on location in Milwaukee, it's the one, the only, the mmack.)

Notes from the Famous Dave’s BBQ Corner at The Milwaukee Mile. (Or, A Chill Wind Blows No Good.)

"After Indy everybody goes to Milwaukee" – Robert Wagner in Winning

It’s the Sunday after the Indianapolis 500 and Mrs. Mmack and I take Mr. Wagner’s advice and head up to God’s Country in ‘Sconsin, Ya hey dere! Since we are traveling much lighter than for the 500, we will pack into the pick-em-up to confuse the Wisconsin State Troopers and blend in with the natives on our way up North.

Ah Wisconsin, home of Da Packers, Da Brewers, and Da Mile. The land of Mars Cheese Castle, roadside “adult” emporiums, and lettered highways. Saturday night we agree to be on the road at 10 AM, 10:30 by the latest. So when we pull out of the driveway at 11:00 AM, we are keeping to our typical “Now, are we sure we have the tickets\sunscreen\lanyards\water \ did you remember to turn off the computer\television\bedroom light?” schedule we always keep. We wind our way through the Governor Pat Quinn – Rod Blagojevich – George Ryan Perpetual State Employment Project (AKA the I-294 Reconstruction Project, which is curiously always 50% complete, according to the signs) and cross the border into Cheesehead land. (State Slogan: “Hey Illinois, we didn’t have to jail our last two governors!”) We arrive at the Mile around 1:15, and find a parking lot across from the track that promises an “easy exit”. Remembering the pain in the backside parking was last year, we decide to park outside of the track.

You know you’re in Wisconsin when even the healthy food is breaded and deep fried.

Parking was much easier this year, but The Mile’s Usher Staff have some problems with the track layout and gate numbers. I can understand this, as the track itself has been around since 1903. It can take some time to figure out where things are at. Talking to three different ushers gets us:

1) You need to go around these buildings to the end of the track
2) You can go into Gate 10
3) I think you can get to the Famous Dave’s section from here.
Actually, the Famous Dave’s section is Gate 14, the very last gate in the track. We finally get to the gate at ten to 2. Of course, the line for food and beer is about, oh, 100 people deep. So Mrs. Mmack and I decide to go up into our seats in the stands.

We have seats in the very top row of the grandstands. Normally, these would be primo seats, save for one small detail: The Wind.

The wind at Milwaukee today is an evil, living thing. It slaps you in the face, freezes your forearms, and slips up your shirtsleeves and over your loafers and sandals and wraps around your feet like a snake. Mrs. Mmack debated taking in her polar fleece, but left it in the truck. Like the gallant husband I am, I give her my micro fleece, jam my headphones over my hat (as much to keep my hat on my head as to hear the IMS radio network), and actually look forward to being shoved in cheek to jowl with the other strangers in the stands. At least I’ll stay warm.

At this point you can tell the native Cheeseheads. They are the ones in shorts and flip flops. 60 degrees F with a 50 degree wind chill is a “pleasant” spring day to people who just finished ice fishing last weekend.

By 2:30 I tune into the IMS radio network to catch that Danica has not had a chance to order a brat and a beer, Tony Kanaan is racing with busted ribs, Scott Dixon hopes to win, and Helio needs to move up from dead last.

Should I tell the fan in the Dale Jr. hat Tony Eury Jr. got fired?

By 2:45 the race is finally green and it looks like Graham has the lead from Briscoe Inferno until TK inhales Rahal’s car coming into turn three. As the green flag drops, Marco drops anchor and falls to the rear of the field, with no explanation from IMS radio. Helio is trying gamely to make up ground but he’s barely getting ahead of people like Carpenter and Tracy. At this point the great part of being at Milwaukee is being able to see action all around the track. Being on the exit of turn four allows you to follow the different lines drivers take, and watch things like Graham Rahal getting this close to the main stretch wall. The downside is we’re sitting in a wind tunnel with the temp set to Artic Freeze.

Unfortunately the cold takes its toll on both of us, so we head down to the Famous Dave’s tent for some grub. The crowd has cleared out, giving us a chance to get some BBQ chicken sandwiches, French Fries, and draft beer. I get the announcement that Briscoe is around TK for the lead over my headset. The demon wind whips in underneath the grandstand and into the tents with the grills and beer, forcing us to move closer to the grills for warmth. As we are down in the tent, we smell Mike Conway hit the wall. Yes, I said that correctly, we smelled the unmistakable scent of burnt rubber as Mike skidded past our stand. I told Maria that I’d check to see what happened, and came up the walkway into the stands to see the safety crew lifting the remains of Conway’s car with a wrecker.

While I watch Conway’s car being carted away, I strike up conversations with the other fans at the railing. A tip to Mr. Ganassi: I had exchanges like this with three different people today:

Fan: “Where’s Dixon?”
Me: “In second, behind Briscoe.”
Fan: “So, if that’s Dixon, where’s Dario?”
Me: “See that ugly green car behind Dixon.”
Fan: “THAT’S Dario? You can’t even see the number 10 on it . . . . “

After the crash is cleared, we get to see a restart from twenty feet away. You haven’t lived until the field screams past your grandstand twenty feet from you, dear readers. The excitement of being that close to the restart is tempered by the fact that Briscoe has the race seemingly in his back pocket. Maria and I move into some open seats lower in the grandstands and try to stay out of the wind. At this point I notice some people “get” the concept of letting a faster car lap you, and some people, like say a three time Indianapolis 500 winner running ahead of his teammate who is leading the race, do not.

As the race comes close to halfway over I’m still cold, so I go off in search of either a) hot coffee, or b) a sweatshirt. I find some absolutely fetching pink and purple ladies Milwaukee Mile sweatshirts, but no coffee. As I walk back to the seats, I fall in line to get some more beer and I hear Tony Kanaan is coming into the pits with a car fire! I briefly consider: Can I run fast enough through the infield tunnel and to the #11 pits to warm my hands over Tony’s burning Dallara? I then hear the fire’s out and order two more beers instead.

I return to our seats to find Maria waiting for me with a BBQ pork sandwich. I tell her where I was and she asks “What happened to Tony?” “Car fire” I reply. “First a big crash at Indy, now a car fire! How much do you think he’s rethinking not taking that Ganassi deal?” she asks. I shrug my shoulders as she shakes her head.

As I enjoy my pork sandwich, Dario leads the race stalked by Briscoe and Dixon. Suddenly Briscoe motors past Dario into the lead and Dixon tries to make it three wide but can’t make it stick. I notice the front three are closing in on Danica and Marco when suddenly the yellow lights flash and Miss Terry Debris makes her first appearance today. Maria leans in and asks “So what is this? Danica’s in danger of going a lap down so we need a yellow?” I shrug my shoulders and try to find out what’s going on from IMS radio, but no answer is forthcoming. Pit stops follow and the top six exit the same way they entered. Briscoe leads Dixon and Franchitti for the restart. While the front three pulls away and Rahal tries to move through traffic, the actual racing is with Marco, Danica, and Matos. First Marco, then Danica passes Matos, and then Danica sets sail after Marco. Marco closes on Rahal, but can’t do anything to pass him.

Out of the corner of my eye, I see EJ Viso go WAY WIDE coming out of three. So wide that he looks like a black and neon green cruise missile aimed at our seats. He tries to save it, and then hits the wall directly in front of us with a loud WHUMP! I expect to see a yellow flag, but none appears and the race rolls on, even if EJ can’t. As the laps wind down Dixon sets up Briscoe and pulls the pass off in turn three. Since it is an actual on track pass for the lead, the fans in our section (including Maria and I) are on our feet and cheering on Scott Dixon. Danica passes Marco to pull up into the top five. Dixon begins to pull away but Briscoe looks to be falling into the clutches of that ugly green car driven by that guy. That ugly green car pulls close coming out of turn two, but Briscoe opens up some daylight. Finally the white flag flies and barring having to lap, say, that three time Indianapolis 500 winner again, Dixon should be home free. He rounds turn four to a stand full of cheering fans and takes the win ahead of Briscoe, that ugly green car driven by that guy, Rahal, and Danica. With the win he takes the points lead, while Danica takes fourth in the points. And the minute the race ends, everybody heads to the exits, because cri-mo-ny, it’s cold, dontcha’ know!

Thus ends our trip up North, with weather better suited for a Bears-Packers game at Lambeau Field than an IRL race. Next week will be Texas, where rain or shine, we’ll be on the comfy couch, where at least it will be warm.


  1. redd carr // June 01, 2009 6:35 PM  

    that's very funny. I had to stop halfway thru to turn down my air conditioner.

  2. Anonymous // June 02, 2009 6:35 AM  

    Awesome recap mmack! I chortled heartily a few times!

  3. pressdog // June 03, 2009 4:45 AM  

    Reading enhanced. It's almost like mmack's version of Peter Windsor's F1 Grid Walk.