If there’s one constant in racing, it’s that you can go round and round for a long time, but not forever. Everything ends, and the end appears on the horizon for the famous Milwaukee Mile.
For the first time in decades, there are no major races scheduled for 2010 at Milwaukee. The track has hosted races for more than a century, but it seems that its story is coming to an end. Dave Kallmann, motorsports writer for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, has penned an elegy to the track:
You can’t feel sad for a racetrack.
It has no heart. It’s really nothing more than asphalt and concrete and steel, hotdog wrappers, beer stains, tire bits and dust.
So that empty feeling, that sorrow, must be for memories of the
Milwaukee Mile that will continue to fade. For the echoes of cheers
powerful enough to overpower engines, the likes of which may never be
heard again. For the oldsters who can say that they whooped it up when
A.J. went wheel to wheel with Parnelli or that they were on hand to see
Jim Clark make rear-engine history. And for the youngsters who never
had a chance to see the next Foyt, the next Andretti, the next
Earnhardt or Wallace or Dixon or Patrick blister the asphalt under a
bright summer sun.
She is gone, folks. Finished, at least for now.
The Milwaukee Mile was a victim of changing times; as Kallmann notes, the track couldn’t keep up. Renovations didn’t draw enough new fans, and splashier tracks in other markets pulled NASCAR’s attention away from the Mile. Its knotted ownership situation — a state-connected owner rented the facility to promoters — made NASCAR turn to Phoenix.
Cash flow is the major problem. The facility runs as much as $3 million in debt each year, and the state has negotiated with a succession of promoters to no avail. Still, there is hope — as Kallmann notes, "NASCAR and the IRL both like the market, and both want to return as long the checks don’t bounce."
Should the Mile shut down to top-flight racing once and for all, it’d be another small but significant chapter in the changing dynamics of racing … and a reminder, as if we needed one, that nothing in racing lasts forever.