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Random Lugnuts: Can the Sprint Cup Race in Milwaukee?

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Stock Car Racing Topics:  Sprint Cup, The Milwaukee Mile
What is Random Lugnuts?  It's random bits of stock car racing commentary written on an irregular basis by an irregular racing fan.  The name is a reference to the lugnuts that go flying off a car during a pit stop:  you never know where they are going to go, what they're going to do when they get there, they can be annoying, they're often useless after a race, and every once in a while someone gets hit and they don't know exactly where it came from.
Opinions expressed by Bill Crittenden are not official policies or positions of The Crittenden Automotive Library. You can read more about the Library's goals, mission, policies, and operations on the About Us page.

Random Lugnuts: Can the Sprint Cup Race in Milwaukee?

Bill Crittenden
June 25, 2008

A few days ago I attended my first Craftsman Truck Series race.  It was the Camping World RV Sales 200 at the historic Milwaukee Mile in West Allis, Wisconsin.

What is it about racetracks (at least the ones around here) that they have to be named for big cities that they aren't actually in?  The Milwaukee Mile is part of the Wisconsin State Fair Park, just west of the city (although still in sight of it).  You can't even see the City of Chicago from the "Chicagoland" Speedway.  Indianapolis Motor Speedway is in Speedway, Indiana.

The track itself is the oldest continuously operated speedway in the world, having opened in 1903.  It was a dirt track until it was paved in 1954.  Its history goes back to Barney Oldfield's Blitzen Benz, and it was the track where the idea of the "rain date" was born.  The history there make it almost a miniature Indianapolis.  It's also the biggest track in a stock car racing hot spot, near the hometowns of Matt Kenseth, the Sauters, and Alan Kulwicki of Wisconsin and Chad Knaus and Erik Darnell of northern Illinois.

However, as it was built long before the modern needs of a major speedway could possibly be known, as it is part of the State Fair Park, the fairgrounds buildings crowd out any chance of parking close to the track.  Merchandise trailers were few (likely owing to it being the truck race) and far between (owing to the lack of open space).  There is not much parking close to the track (the track itself used for State Fair parking), nor is there much room for expanding the grandstands, which currently hold about 50,000.  So we get the Craftsman Truck Series and Nationwide Series, while the far less historic and far less interesting Chicagoland Speedway gets the Sprint Cup.

Why do I bring this up? Because on the way into the track, I noticed a sign stuck to a gate directing Sprint Cup testing spectators to use that gate.  I'm sure it's someone just getting a head start on this weekend's New Hampshire race, but it got me thinking about Sprint Cup racing in Wisconsin.

A little research shows the tracks at Darlington, Homestead-Miami, and Martinsville only hold about 15,000-20,000 more fans.  With just a little bit of expansion, perhaps to the Turn 1 bleachers, The Milwaukee Mile could narrow that gap.  It's not yet another cookie-cutter mile-and-a-half track, and it's got a lot of history behind it, albeit not much in stock car racing (but then, racing at Indy was a big deal when the Winston Cup went there in 1994, and they never raced stock cars there before).

However, getting into and out of the track would be troublesome for such a huge crowd.  Miller Park, where the Milwaukee Brewers play, holds 42,000 and has the parking lot for it, is within sight of the race track, and people could be shuttle-bused in, albeit at extra cost.  It was crowded outside the grandstand for just the truck race (which was not sold out), with everyone having to walk between empty buildings that stand vacant most of the year waiting for the State Fair.  Should the crowd be over 50,000, in addition to the non-spectators on the grounds (I'm sure some of those bratwurst huts would open for such a big crowd) moving around could become impossible.  It could be worth it, though, as I'm sure that Wisconsin bratwurst would put those little Martinsville wieners to shame.  Then there's the cheese curds...

It would throw yet another track into the heated discussions of who is and isn't going to have a Sprint Cup date in the coming years, and that discussion is troublesome enough, bordering on legal action in some instances.  And I'm sure the tracks that would be competing against Milwaukee for a date have garage facilities, something else the Milwaukee Mile lacks.



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