The Racing History Of The Milwaukee Mile

The Milwaukee Mile has one of the richest historical timelines in all of auto racing. (John Lutzo photo)

WEST ALLIS, Wis. — After an absence of five years, stock car racing returns to the famed Milwaukee Mile at Wisconsin State Fair Park on Father’s Day, June 16, with the ARCA Midwest Tour late model series highlighting the afternoon’s action.

The event marks the first time in four years that automobile racing will be held at the historic, one-mile paved oval.

With auto racing returning to the track where racing dates back to 1903, the Midwest Tour super late models will be joined on Sunday by the Vintage Indy Registry, Midwest Truck Tour, Mid-American Stock Car Series and Upper Midwest Vintage Series.

The stars and cars of the ARCA Midwest Tour will battle in a 100-lap feature race. With one series win to his credit already in 2019, Casey Johnson of Edgerton, Wis., leads the current Midwest Tour point standings.

Current NASCAR Cup Series racer Erik Jones won the last ARCA Midwest Tour race at Milwaukee, capturing a 150-lap chase on June 8, 2014.

Tuesday evening races were held in 2012 and 2013, with Travis Sauter winning a 150-lap contest in 2012 and NASCAR star Kyle Busch capturing a darkness-shortened 115-lap race in 2013. Previously, Busch had also won a tour race in 2008.

Back in the day, the Milwaukee oval was a hotbed for stock car racing. The journey started in 1948 when Minnesota’s Paul Bjork, driving a 1948 Kaiser, won a 100-lap race on August 22, taking home just over $1,800 for his winning effort.

Illinois open-wheel racer Emil Andres had fast time that day with a lap of 53.24 seconds around the one-mile dirt oval.

Milwaukee resident Myron Fohr, known for his exploits in open-wheel cars, including competing in the Indianapolis 500, won stock car races there in 1949 and 1950.  Fohr’s 1950, 150-mile, win was the first AAA-sanctioned stock car race at Milwaukee.

Racing out of Racine, Wis., Norm Nelson, who competed in the first stock car contest in 1948 and took fourth place, won a AAA 100-miler in August of 1950.  Nelson, who started out in midgets, won eight career stock car races at Milwaukee.

Illinois’ Don Odell, in a Packard, won the last stock car race (a 200 miler) on the Milwaukee dirt on September 20, 1953. With the track being paved before the 1954 season, Tony Bettenhausen, Frank Mundy (twice) and Marshall Teague won AAA races in 1954.

Bettenhausen garnered three stock car victories at Milwaukee during his career.

A.J. Foyt and his Chevrolet Camaro No. 51 in action at the Milwaukee Mile. (Stan Kalwasinski photo)

USAC stock cars raced at Milwaukee beginning in 1956, drawing large crowds for an annual four-race schedule. Troy Ruttman won the first USAC race on July 15, 1956. Fred Lorenzen won back-to-back USAC races in 1958 on his way to his first of two USAC stock car titles.

Record crowds and record purses were part of the tradition with the track seeing the likes of Nelson, Parnelli Jones (seven wins), A.J. Foyt (six), Butch Hartman (nine), Jack Bowsher (five), Roger McCluskey (five) and Eddie Sachs (two) win USAC stock car contests.

Iowa’s Don White is the all-time winningest stock car driver at Milwaukee, with the USAC driving ace winning a record 14 times, his last coming in 1975.

The American Speed Ass’n visited the Milwaukee Mile for the first time on May 7, 1978, with Michigan’s Bob Senneker winning the first annual Superamerica 150. A year later, short track legend, Wisconsin’s own Dick Trickle captured the Superamerica 150 on May 6.

Mark Martin won the ASA 150 lapper in 1980. Joe Shear, Rusty Wallace, Alan Kulwicki, Butch Miller, Mike Eddy, Scott Hansen and Jim Sauter are among others that claimed ASA victories at Milwaukee.

NASCAR racing made its first appearance at Milwaukee in 1984 with Sam Ard capturing a 200-lap Busch Grand National event on May 13, 1984. Dale Earnhardt Jr. was the winner of a Grand National contest in 1998, with Wisconsin’s Johnny Sauter winning one in 2005.

Carl Edwards won the last two NASCAR Busch/Nationwide Series races in 2008 and 2009.

Johnny Benson (23) leads a pack of trucks at the Milwaukee Mile in 2008. (NASCAR photo)

The NASCAR Truck Series came to Milwaukee for the first time in 1995 with Mike Skinner scoring the victory. Jack Sprague, Ron Hornaday Jr., Greg Biffle, Kurt Busch and Ted Musgrave, with two wins, are among former NASCAR truck series winners at Milwaukee.

Johnny Benson Jr. won three consecutive Milwaukee truck races from 2006 through 2008.

The Automobile Racing Club of America (ARCA) has been part of the stock car racing history at Milwaukee, dating back to 1958 when USAC and ARCA co-sanctioned races.

Multi-time ARCA champion Frank Kimmel won the last ARCA race at Milwaukee, a 200 miler, on August 26, 2007.

Indy car racing is a whole other chapter of Milwaukee Mile history, with the last professional auto race at Milwaukee held on July 12, 2015 and Sebastian Bourdais winning a 250-lap Verizon (now NTT) IndyCar Series race ahead of Helio Castroneves and Graham Rahal.

Thanks are necessary to the late Al Krause, who was an official and historian at the Milwaukee Mile for many years, for providing some of the above information.