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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Future of racing in Milwaukee unclear

DECK: The Milwaukee Mile owes $2 million to NASCAR, IRL

The late Paul Newman famously said in the 1969 movie “Winning” that “everyone goes to Milwaukee after Indy.” The concern is that in 2010, the venerable Milwaukee Mile might not host any racing events.

The Milwaukee Mile is the oldest continuously operating auto racing facility in the country. It first ran auto races in 1903, eight years before the first Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, according to the Milwaukee Mile Web site.

The track owes upwards of $2 million to two sanctioning bodies, NASCAR and the Indy Racing League, according to a Sept. 21 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article. Both ran races at the track this year.

It is also in the midst of confirming a transition of power to a third new promoter in the last two years. Promoters work with the track and the Wisconsin State Fair Park Board to confirm auto races and sanctioning fees paid out to the series, the track’s Web site said.

Ultimately the board’s executive committee holds the track’s fate in its hands. The Milwaukee Mile is situated on the park grounds in West Allis.

Dave Kallmann, auto racing reporter for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, said another meeting between the two sides scheduled for Monday is the saga’s next chapter.

“I’ll believe any races next summer are on when the green flag flies,” Kallmann said.

The newly announced promoter, Historic Mile LLC, faces a Wednesday deadline in a proposed deal with the board to complete a contract and confirm races for next year, Kallmann said.

A closed-door meeting between the two sides Monday attempted to outline how the group can work with the board to pay off the debt, Kallmann said.

NASCAR and the Indy Racing League ran events at the track this year. The IRL’s IndyCar Series, the open-wheel championship that competes at the Indianapolis 500, raced May 31.

NASCAR’s Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series raced June 19 and 20. NASCAR’s primary series, the Sprint Cup Series, does not race at Milwaukee.

The dominos began to fall right after the NASCAR races. It emerged neither NASCAR nor IndyCar had been paid their sanctioning fees in full.

After the NASCAR races, the State Fair Park Board and Wisconsin Motorsports, the promoters from this February through June, mutually agreed to end their contract, according to a July 21 article in Sports Business Daily.

Wisconsin Motorsports president and CEO Claude Napier was also in charge of the previous promoter, Milwaukee Mile Holdings, LLC.

Since then, the track’s business offices have been closed, said Jim Tretow, vice president of communications for The Milwaukee Mile.

Historic Mile was announced as the new promoter on Aug. 3. The group has two identified principals, Tony Machi and Jim Beaudoin, who will head up the confirming process for next year’s races.

Machi is a former sports car racer and retired judge, and Beaudoin is a managing partner of a local investment firm, according to the track’s Web site.

Amanda Brezgel, a College of Communication junior, interned at the track this summer and witnessed the saga.

“We were told we were going on a week vacation and everything unfolded from there,” she said. “There’s always going to be financial issues just because of the Fair Park Board and all the drama occurring between them (and the promoters).”

Lance Allan, sports director and anchor for WTMJ-TV in Milwaukee and a part-time racer, said this new group has the pressure of being the last possible saviors for the historic facility.

“I think the situation is tragic that it got to this point,” Allan said. “Something with this much tradition that the racers still love needs to be saved.”

Because of confidentiality outlined in the letter of intent between the State Fair Board and Historic Mile, financial details, future scheduling and speculation could not be openly discussed, Tretow said.

NASCAR spokesman Ramsey Poston announced the 2010 Nationwide and Truck races at the Mile last week, tentatively scheduled for June 18 and 19. IndyCar commercial division president Terry Angstadt has said the series will not race at Milwaukee in 2010.

“It seems like they can save it with the races on the schedule, but there’s still plenty of work to be done,” Allan said.

The Mile has seen open-wheel racing, in various reincarnations, run since 1911 with the first so-called “Championship Car” race. Since 1947, a race at Milwaukee has traditionally been held the week after Indianapolis.

Champ Car was a former rival open-wheel series to IndyCar, until the two unified in February 2008, according to IndyCar’s Web site.

The track’s website said NASCAR’s Nationwide Series, then called the Busch Series, raced in Milwaukee in 1984 and 1985. The series returned in 1993, and NASCAR’s Craftsman Truck division was added in its first year, 1995.

The Mile’s infield also hosted Green Bay Packers home games twice a year in the 1930s, also according to the track’s Web site.

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