America’s Oldest Racetrack Had No Future. IndyCar’s Return Could Save It

It seemed the Milwaukee Mile’s glory days had passed, but ARCA, NASCAR, and now IndyCar are helping it roar again.

byJames Gilboy|
during the IRL IndyCar Series ABC Supply/A.J. Foyt 225 on May 31, 2009 at the Milwaukee Mile in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Streeter Lecka, via Getty Images
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One of the oldest racetracks in the world is roaring back to life after being knocked on the ropes several years ago. The Milwaukee Mile once again appears to have a bright future despite not hosting any major races in several years, as IndyCar intends to return to it for the 2024 season.

Built in 1876 as a horse racing track according to SaveTheMile.org, the 1.015-mile Milwaukee Mile was later made a part of Wisconsin State Fair Park where it held its first automobile race in 1903. Today, it's said to be the world's oldest continuously operating track. Its racing surface was paved in 1954, and between 1947 and 1980 it was one of the most-raced open-wheel venues in the United States. The Mile was a staple of IndyCar and its predecessors, as well as an occasional stop for NASCAR's junior series.

NASCAR Trucks racing at the Milwaukee Mile in August 2023. Milwaukee Mile on Facebook

However, the Milwaukee Mile has struggled since 2010, when both IndyCar and NASCAR neglected to run races at the oval. IndyCar returned in 2011, but withdrew again after 2015, marking what would be the last professional-level race the venue would see that decade. Some locals feared the Mile would never host another, as one grimly remarked "racing is dead" to BizTimes in 2016.

But a glimmer of hope emerged with the return of Late Models as part of the ARCA Midwest Tour in 2021. This year, NASCAR Trucks returned to the track alongside ARCA as a double feature in August. Now, IndyCar is coming back too. The open-wheel series has confirmed it will return to the Milwaukee Mile as part of its 2024 calendar for not just one, but two races. The Milwaukee Mile will hold a doubleheader on Labor Day weekend, comprising one race on Saturday, August 31, 2024, and another on Sunday, September 1.

The Milwaukee Mile's renaissance may serve as a symbol of hope for motorsport fans who have observed a string of track closures in recent years. One of the most prominent shutdowns this year concerned Bandimere Speedway in Colorado, the state's premiere dragway; while Heartland Motorsports Park in Kansas announced it too will close after decades due to unpaid taxes. Other tracks, such as Connecticut's Lime Rock Park, continue to feel the squeeze of suburban sprawl that encroaches on once-isolated areas. For now though, we can take comfort knowing that at least the Milwaukee Mile has bounced back—and that other important tracks may have the opportunity, too.

Got a tip or question for the author? You can reach them here: james@thedrive.com

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