The ABC Supply Wisconsin 250 at Milwaukee IndyFest presented by the Metro Milwaukee Honda Dealers is a schedule departure.
Verizon IndyCar Series drivers will have a 75-minute practice session July 11 and practice, qualify and race July 12 on The Milwaukee Mile.
Similar schedules – and two shows in two days at two venues -- were commonplace during the driving days of A.J. Foyt, Parnelli Jones and their Indy car racing contemporaries.
“It didn’t seem difficult. We’d run Springfield (Ill.) one day and Milwaukee the next day. Of course, they were different cars,” said Jones, whose driving career included victories in Indy cars, sprint cars, midgets, late model, NASCAR and off-road vehicles. “I can remember my helmet being muddy from the midget race the night before while getting in the Lotus for practice at Milwaukee.”
Jones won Indy car races at Milwaukee in 1964 (from the pole) and ’65 (from the sixth starting position; his final Indy car victory ... photo above). His first USAC-sanctioned race start was at Milwaukee in 1960.
Prepping a car to qualify and race on the same day, Jones notes, was part guesswork supplemented by knowledge of how to get the most out of it and experience at the particular racetrack.
“They were mostly mechanical set-ups, where today it’s mostly aerodynamics and computers and electronics,” he said. “Some of us were self-taught engineers; you might say uneducated engineers.
“I used to drive so many different kinds of cars and I couldn’t take my mechanic everywhere, so I learned to work on the cars and I started studying as well. I used to set up all my own cars as well as for other people. It's like learning a language. The more languages you know, the better.
“We never had time to test, except at the (Indianapolis Motor) Speedway, so you had to sort of get it right for qualifying and make any adjustments just before the race. It worked out most times.”
Fifty years ago A.J. Foyt sets pace that is part of Indy car lore
It worked out 50 years ago for Foyt in a single-day show at The Milwaukee Mile, which is part of Indy car racing lore.
On Aug. 21, 1965, Foyt won the Tony Bettenhausen Memorial on the one-mile dirt oval in Springfield, Ill., after starting fifth in the No. 1 Sheraton-Thompson Meskowski/Offy.
The next day was the Tony Bettenhausen 200 at The Mile, where Foyt had won the pole in June for the Rex Mays Classic in the No. 1 Sheraton-Thompson Lotus/Ford. That car wasn’t available, so Foyt unloaded the front-engine dirt car, and proceeded to earn the pole at 107.881 mph over the star-studded field driving rear-engine Indy cars.
“When my crew warmed up the oil to start the motor on the Lotus, it blew out the tank and they couldn’t fix it in time,” Foyt recalls. “I had gone there anyway from Springfield (Ill.), and was waiting for them. When they didn’t show up, I called and found out what happened. So I unloaded my dirt car and figured I’d at least try to make the race."
Steve Stapp, son of 1939 Milwaukee Indy car race winner Babe Stapp and a 1999 National Sprint Car Hall of Fame inductee, assisted Foyt at the track.
“They gave me two laps of practice because I had to mount (pavement) tires and all. Then I went out and qualified and set on the pole. I couldn’t believe it. Lining up I felt like I was in a Greyhound bus against a bunch of sports cars. I finished second. It’s one of the highlights of my career.”
Gordon Johncock, driving a rear-engine Gerhart/Offy, posted the first of his 25 career Indy car wins.