'We need it here': Fans thrilled by the return of NASCAR to the Milwaukee Mile

’We need it here’: Fans thrilled by the return of NASCAR to the Milwaukee Mile

WEST ALLIS, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Race fans and race promoters couldn't have asked for a better Sunday to welcome the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series back to the Milwaukee Mile after a 14-year absence. With the sun shining and temperatures in the low 70s, thousands of fans piled into the grandstands, and some parking in the infield, to welcome back professional stock car racing to Milwaukee.

"It's great. we need it here," said Jim Nowicki of Oak Creek. "We need professional racing back here in Milwaukee."

After years of poor attendance, the future of the one mile, asphalt oval inside the Wisconsin State Fair Park was in question with many fearing it would never recover. Enter Bob Sargent and Track Enterprises, Inc., who began promoting late model and ARCA Menards Series races at the track with the hope of one day bringing a National series back to the historic speedway.

"I want to pat him (Sargent) on the back for having it (NASCAR) out here again," race fan Larry Bilda said. "If I won the lottery, I'd buy this track and have everyone here."

Michael Esche joined Billy D, Dan Brantner and 20 of their close family and friends in the infield of turn 3 to take in the action, a tradition the group has been taking part in for decades.

"My hair's standing up on my arm," Esche said before the on-track action. "I was in line at 5:00 this morning, waiting to get in here."

With a facility able to seat roughly 30,000, race promoters set a realistic goal for themselves, aiming to have around 12,000 to 15,000 fans in the stands with hopes to build on the momentum. Both Track Enterprises and the Wisconsin State Fair Park CEO, Shari Black, have expressed interest in bringing more series back to the track.

Esche, like many of his fellow race fans, remains hopeful that the future of the speedway is as bright as the August sun.

"I hope it comes back full force like it was before," Esche said. "It'd be awesome. We really miss it. We need it."

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