I was wrong.
there are you happy
I know I am.
Over thirty summers of watching stop and start and failures rather than successes have made me convinced that the Milwaukee Mile is over with top-tier racing events.
Like, thanks for your century of service to the sport, but we don’t need you anymore. …you are a little broken and need high maintenance. …sure, you’re famous within your clique, but pretty much people don’t like you, and it’s not enough to spend money on you, anyway. Not when there are so many other options. Not at a time when progress means more than history, when moving forward means leaving the familiar behind.
Then came Bob Sargent.
Sargent was a true believer in the mile – in its present and future, not just its past – who was willing to put the full resources of his racing promotion work into place.
NASCAR will return to tilt in 2023. These are words I never expected to write.
Well, let’s put this in perspective.
The Craftsman Truck Series appearing at the race on August 27 was no longer the curiosity that caught the attention of fans when it launched in 1995, something that allowed several regionally known short-track stars to show their talents on the national stage to earn a spot in the Trophy Series. It’s a division that relies heavily on rental car drivers and promising youngsters that manufacturers, mostly Toyota, hope to develop. He’s the younger brother, and he’s the easiest to pay to make room for his siblings. Crowds are often few.
NASCAR trucks have become a thing of later thought about the life of the series. But so it is with inclination.
The one-off horse racetrack is the oldest active motor racing track in the country, having celebrated the 119th anniversary of its first race only on Sunday, if you think of one tweet from a group of dedicated fans as a celebration.
The track hosted big AAA cars in the 1930s and USAC stock in the ’60s, the heyday of CART Indy cars in the ’90s and the staging of the still-growing NASCAR Series into the 2000s.
But the mobile racing circus outperformed the popular races during the state fair. Fans’ tastes changed as more entertainment options became available and children’s activities began filling family schedules and taxing their budgets. Indy racing has split, and NASCAR has lost some of its luster.
The expensive and overrated new runway – required as it is – has stymied anyone trying to run a promotional business. Tensions between Fair Park management and GO Racing led to Carl Haas taking charge of the promotions. Then Haas was left behind by a series of groups and individuals who tried unsuccessfully with entire seasons and one-off events.
Looks like Michael Andretti was the last great hope.
A five-time winner of the Mile in CART and owner of the champion team, Andretti thought he could rebuild a tradition, but the name and connections have only gone so far. Fans thanked him for bringing the Indy cars back to Milwaukee, but then told him they would not be racing. The last flag of 2015 was his surrender. Much of what seemed to be the ninth life of Mile.
Popular events come and go. The supermodel midweek run in late 2012 was a huge success, but by year three it was an extravagant weekend volatility.
Sargent was well aware of this history, but he came to town with more than three decades of experience promoting races of all shapes and sizes. His Track Enterprises of Macon, Illinois, worked with a publicly owned fairground and saw potential at the Mile where others found failure.
A very late model race in June 2019 went well enough that it led to the ARCA Menards Series race in 2021, which led to another race. The whole time, Sargent was thinking bigger. He said he’d love to race IndyCar, if the deal is right. NASCAR was on his mind.
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“It’s just kind of a progression that we’ve been listening to the masses, listening to the market and thinking we can make this work with everyone’s help and community involvement,” Sargent said Wednesday.
“The Milwaukee Mile has a great history and the facility is still in such great shape that this is kind of a natural progression. We felt the Craftsman Truck Series would be a great addition.”
Perhaps what gives Sargent and Track Enterprises the best chance of success is behavior and experience.
This is a group that promotes both locally and nationally, with open cars and wagons, on asphalt and dirt, in public and private facilities. Obstacles inevitably arise, but there are few Sargents and his staff who just couldn’t handle them. They are a smart group. Whatever needs to be done – sales, operations, you name it – someone will roll up their sleeves and find a way to get it done.
Sargent said work is beginning to turn the mile into the form of NASCAR, with Track Enterprises and State Fair Park both involved.
Tickets are sold out via the State Fair website Once the event is announced, with reserved seats starting at $45. ARCA will share the date with the trucks, and Saturday’s two-day weekend still needs to be clarified.
By mid-afternoon, Track had sent questions about camping, indoor access, and even the scoreboard, where Mile’s had been removed years ago. These are all indications of strong interest.
More questions will be asked and answered over the next 49 weeks, not least whether Track can sell sponsorship deals and about 20,000 tickets to make the event a success. By then, we’ll know if Sargent’s rise toward tilt is a good foundation.
Just to talk about success and flair at the same time refreshing.