After sitting dormant since 2015, the historic Milwaukee Mile will roar to life once again on Sunday, June 16 as the ARCA Midwest Tour returns to “The Mile” for the Father’s Day 100. It will be the fourth time the series will compete at the famous oval but the first since 2014.
Wisconsin’s own Travis Sauter bested 60-plus other drivers to win the inaugural Howie Lettow Memorial 150 at Milwaukee in 2012. NASCAR Cup Series drivers Kyle Busch and Erik Jones won the other two editions of the Howie Lettow Memorial 150 in 2013 and 2014.
ARCA Midwest Tour promoter Gregg McKarns is one of the many racing enthusiasts who are amped up to see stock car racing return to The Milwaukee Mile next weekend. Talks with Track Enterprises to host the event started at the end of 2017 and street drags were brought to the race track last year. Ultimately, they were able to make the event happen after negotiations with the State Fair board.
“Bob Sargent with Track Enterprises, he and I had been talking about it for quite some time,” McKarns told Speed51.com. “We got serious about it in December of 2017 and we started negotiations with the State Fair board, who operates the Milwaukee Mile. We didn’t do anything last year but we started doing our street drag programs here and it kind of opened up the door and continued negotiation talks. With the help of some local folks, we were able to make it happen.”
McKarns was in a meeting in the track’s media center on Thursday for next weekend’s event. He reminisced about the Milwaukee Mile back in the day while walking down the hallway looking at the various reminders of its heyday.
“It’s the legendary oval. It’s America’s longest operating Speedway. It’s just a special place,” he said. “In the Media Center I look on the wall and I see everyone from A.J. Foyt to Rex Mays and the USAC Champ Car races from days gone by, and the Stock Car events and the races from the fair. There’s just a great history in here, so it’s very cool to get the track back open and running.”
Growing up in Wisconsin around the ARTGO Challenge Series with his father, ARTGO owner John McKarns, he has several fond memories from the Milwaukee Mile. With the memories that he and others have from the Mile, he is happy to be involved with the reopening of the track for the Father’s Day 100.
“What’s probably the coolest deal is my parents did a co-promotion with A.J. Foyt here in 1988 and Al Unser Jr. ran in the race and I got to meet Rick Mears,” he said. “It was cool to be able to be a part of that. I’ve been coming here since my youth. It’s just a special place for everyone. To a lot of people, it’s the Superspeedway of the Midwest and for it to sit dormant like it has is unfortunate. We’re glad it’s back open.”
While an official entry list has not been released, the event has been well received by drivers and race teams in advance of next weekend. Whether it be in the ARCA Midwest Tour or one of the support divisions, drivers are ready to compete at the historic racetrack.
“I know they’re looking forward to getting back here,” he said. “Opening Milwaukee is a big deal, whether it’s in a support division or the Midwest Tour, guys are still talking about it. We were part of the shows here in 2012 and 2013 when I ran Big 8 (Series) and those are special wins for our guys. I know for the Midwest Tour guys to run well at Milwaukee can put a stamp on a career.”
There is a wide variety of racing to see come Father’s Day, in addition to the ARCA Midwest Tour main event. The Tour will be using the same formula they have used for one of their crown jewels in recent years and expect it to be a hit with the fans.
“It’s a great show. We basically copied the formula we’ve been using for our Joe Shear Classic at Madison and that’s really played out well in the past few years,” he said. “In addition to the Tour, we’ve got the Midwest Trucks, which is a really strong support division we’ve got, the Mid-American Stock Cars, then we’ve got the vintage Indy Registry and they’ve got like thirty old IndyCars coming. It’s just a great mix of racing vehicles. One hundred laps on Father’s Day Sunday afternoon will be a good one for the fans.”