One is a veteran and two-time series champion, the other a rookie. One has won a race here, the other never turned a lap on the track before Wednesday. One was powered by a Chevrolet, the other by a Honda.
Will Power and Linus Lundqvist approached a private Firestone tire test Wednesday, Oct. 18 at the Milwaukee Mile from different perspectives, but both agreed they can’t wait for the return next season of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES to the historic 1-mile oval in West Allis, Wisconsin.
The Milwaukee Mile, which initially held a motor race in 1903 and started hosting INDYCAR SERIES races in 1939, is back on the schedule in 2024 for the first time since 2015 with the inaugural doubleheader weekend in track history Saturday, Aug. 31 and Sunday, Sept. 1.
Two-time INDYCAR SERIES champion Power, who won in 2014 at Milwaukee, turned laps in his Team Penske Chevrolet. 2022 INDY NXT by Firestone champion Lundqvist drove on the relatively flat oval for the first time Wednesday in his Chip Ganassi Racing Honda as he prepares for his first full NTT INDYCAR SERIES season in 2024.
When the INDYCAR SERIES last raced at Milwaukee, the cars used the same Dallara chassis but different aerodynamic kits. The cars also have added the aeroscreen since that last race, changing the balance and weight of the machines.
“I think it’s good for Firestone to understand what they need from a tire,” Power said. “Our cars are a little heavier (than in 2015) but pretty similar. They (Firestone) should have some pretty good info on what tire to use.”
While Australia native Power has turned thousands of laps around Milwaukee during his career, Swedish driver Lundqvist never had been to the Mile before Wednesday. He soaked in some pre-test advice from CGR advisor Dario Franchitti, a two-time INDYCAR SERIES winner at Milwaukee, and from teammate Scott Dixon, who won in 2009 at the track.
Lundqvist was happy to participate in the test after getting a call Tuesday to fly from a sponsor function in Florida to Wisconsin, especially to continue to get as many laps with his new team after running three races with Meyer Shank Racing in 2023 as a substitute. But he also stressed tire tests are not like regular private team tests or INDYCAR SERIES open tests and don’t provide a significant advantage to participants.
“During a test like this, you don’t really get to do that much development or work on your driving,” Lundqvist said. “You just get thrown a couple of sets (of tires) and say if they’re good or bad. It’s not like you do an extra test when you go private testing.
“But the more, the merrier, especially when it’s at a place I’ve never been before.”
Power still has vivid memories of his victory nine years ago in Milwaukee because it came en route to his first series championship and because it was the first short-oval win of his career. But those moments won’t mean much when he returns next summer, especially if his car isn’t behaving.
“I’ll tell you after the weekend about how special it is because if your car doesn’t work on the ovals, it’s not that special,” Power said with a laugh. “But if it does, it’s awesome.”
Still, Power and Lundqvist agreed the race at Milwaukee should be ultra-competitive. And they’re both happy the series has added another oval, especially one with such a rich heritage of INDYCAR SERIES competition. Legends such as Rodger Ward, Michael Andretti, Mario Andretti, A.J. Foyt, Gordon Johncock, Johnny Rutherford, Tom Sneva, Paul Tracy, Al Unser and Bobby Unser all have at least four wins at the Mile.
Add the fact the doubleheader will be the third- and second-to-last races of the season, and Milwaukee could be magical.
“This will count for a lot,” Power said. “It’s almost like a double-points weekend. If you’ve got a good car here, you’re going to come away looking pretty good. I think this will race more like Iowa because there are multiple lanes.
“Short oval racing, the tracks we have are really good for INDYCAR. A big part of INDYCAR racing is oval racing, so we need to add to what we have.”