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Hood: Loss of Milwaukee Mile Could Mean A Net Gain

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, January 4 2010
The Camping World Truck Series is out of Milwaukee. That gives NASCAR an opportunity to return to roots. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

The Camping World Truck Series is out of Milwaukee. That gives NASCAR an opportunity to return to roots. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

The recent cancellation of a pair of national touring events sanctioned by NASCAR at The Milwaukee Mile presents an opportunity for the sport to give back to fans at the grassroots level.

The NASCAR Nationwide Series was originally scheduled to appear at the historic 1-mile oval in West Allis, Wis. on Saturday June 19. NASCAR’s junior circuit will now visit Road America that weekend. It will mark the first of three road course events on the 2010 Nationwide Series calendar.

There are several reasons to applaud NASCAR for making this move.

Shifting the event to Road America allows NASCAR to maintain a presence in Wisconsin. More importantly, it should produce a dandy show for the fans. The circuit’s visits to road courses in 2009 resulted in two of the season’s more memorable moments.

Marcos Ambrose scored a popular victory at Watkins Glen in August by outrunning Kyle Busch in a spirited battle.

The Aussie narrowly missed scoring a road course sweep in Montreal later that month. Ambrose was passed by Carl Edwards in the final turn of the last lap in a race that concluded in the rain.

NASCAR must now decide where to move the Friday June 18 Camping World Truck Series race scheduled at The Milwaukee Mile.

Series director Wayne Auton was quoted recently as saying NASCAR will likely maintain 25 races on the 2010 truck schedule and move the event to another facility.

Many longtime NASCAR fans are lobbying for the race to be moved to popular venues in Darlington, S.C. or Rockingham, N.C.

But this outcry is likely linked to frustration over Sprint Cup dates being pulled from these two facilities during the past seven years.

How many of the 40,000 or so fans who once braved cold conditions twice each year in Rockingham would actually purchase a ticket to watch a truck race at the 1.017-mile oval in late June?

And truck races in the past at Darlington have proved to be a moderate draw at best during companion Sprint Cup weekends.

During its infancy in the mid-90s, it was common for the trucks to compete on short tracks that accommodated less than 5,000 spectators.

But as the sport as a whole began to boom, sanctioning fees and purse requirements became too expensive for a small track operator hoping to host a NASCAR truck race.

As the country continues to dig out of a lengthy recession, NASCAR should consider a “taking it back to the grassroots level” campaign for the truck race in search of a new home.

Move the event to Saturday night June 19 and schedule it at one of the many short tracks throughout the nation that hosts weekly racing.

The logical choice would be Toyota Speedway in Irwindale, Calif., which will play host to the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown later this month.

Other candidates could be historic Greenville-Pickens Speedway in Easley, S.C., Madison International Speedway in Madison, Wis., the Motor Mile in Radford, Va., South Georgia Motorsports Park in Adel, Ga. or the newly-refurbished Gresham Motorsports Park in Jefferson, Ga.

Is there a possibility the truck series might return to Mansfield (Ohio) Motorsports Park? The most-recent truck race there in 2008 saw Donny Lia make it three-wide on the final lap to score the win.

And with word that North Wilkesboro (N.C.) Speedway will reopen later this year, that famous short track should certainly be considered.

Let’s face it, NASCAR’s truck series is destined to draw less than 10,000 spectators for standalone events.

So instead of witnessing 5,000 spectators converge on a speedway built to accommodate 100,000 fans, doesn’t it make sense to put some electricity in the air and stage this truck race in front of an overflow crowd at a short track in grassroots America?

– Jeff Hood can be reached at jhood@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, January 4 2010