CIRCUITS: MILWAUKEE MILE

Name: Milwaukee Mile

There was a horse racing track on George Stevens's Farm when it was bought by the Agricultural Society of Wisconsin in 1891. It had been there for at least 15 years. The intention of the Agricultural Society was for the land to be used as a permanent site for a Wisconsin State Fair. With the development of the automobile, the organizers of the State Fair decided in 1903 that they would use the little oval for car races and the first event was won by William Jones of Chicago. That first race also witnessed the first fatal accident at the circuit when Frank Daly crashed his Arrow - which was owned and had been built by none other than Henry Ford - and was killed. There was great enthusiasm for car racing and in 1907 Milwaukee hosted a 24 hour endurance race and there was a second such event the following year.

The track became a regular venue for the National Championship with several events being held each year and the great drivers of the day all making their impact in the record books. In 1920 the track was upgraded with the construction of concrete walls around the perimeter but the track was still shared between automobiles and horses. In the 1920s the track declined as the board tracks dominated the racing scene but in 1929 a new promoter Tom Marchese took over and in 1933 Champ Cars appeared at the Milwaukee Mile and the race was won by Wilbur Shaw. The National Championship returned in 1937, 1938 and 1939. The infield was also used as a venue for football games and the Green Bay Packers regularly played there.

After the war racing revived in September 1946 with Rex Mays winning the first event. The following year the track hosted a race following the Indianapolis 500 and that tradition remains to this day. The venue became one of the busiest in the United States with stock cars also becoming part of the Milwaukee calendar.

In 1954 the decision was taken to pave the track while a quarter-mile dirt oval was built in the infield for weekly events and horse racing continued on a half-mile oval until 1959. There was even a 1.2-mile road course in the infield.

In the 1960s Jim Clark made history at Milwaukee when he won the first Champ Car victory with a rear-engined car in 1963 and it was at Milwaukee the following year that AJ Foyt scored the last win for a traditional Champ Car roadster.

The track was resurfaced in 1967.

Marchese decided to sell the facility to John Kaishian, a local short track racing promoter and this guaranteed that progress continued. In 1980 the newly-formed CART held its first race at the track and CART's first president was Jim Melvin, who was managing the Milwaukee track by then.

But by 1992 the track was deteriorating and was in danger of losing its CART round. CART team owner Carl Haas was given a contract to manage the track and renovation work began. New walls were built and the track resurfaced in 1996 with more seating added and better debris fencing.

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