Before the NASCAR Craftsman Truck series could return to the Milwaukee Mile for the Clean Harbors 175 race, after a 14-year absence, the racing association demanded some track repairs and retraining for the Fire and Safety crews.
Even though the series is not scheduled until August 27, the refurbishment effort requires that the Milwaukee Mile be shut down for all racing and club events this summer, until the repairs are completed.
To prepare for the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, ARCA Menards series, and Sprecher 150 race, the old track will see several important upgrades. The Milwaukee Mile is the oldest operating speedway in the world going back to 1903, when horses raced.
Jim Tretow is a race announcer at Daytona and many other NASCAR tracks. For the NASCAR weekend at the Milwaukee Mile, he will not be announcing but handling the event for Bob Sargent and Track Enterprises – from the pit lane and the newly refurbished Peck Media Center.
“New safer barriers are being installed, as they only last eight years and the concrete is getting worn in spots and needs replacing,” said Tretow.
Tretow has been involved with promoting races at the Milwaukee Mile, next to State Fair Park in West Allis, since the 1990s. His latest effort aims to help the track get back in action in a major way. Improving the speedway’s condition will include more than three million dollars of refurbishments.
“New concrete walls are being constructed in spots, and Turn Two has grass being replaced with asphalt for a nice long pit lane exit,” added Tretow. “Turn Three is also getting some asphalt work before a total repaving happens next year.”
Tretow hopes the effort gets the attention of business leaders like Roger Penske, who could bring back Indy Car racing to Milwaukee.
On May 12 and 13, the NASCAR team came to town with their safety team to make sure the Milwaukee Mile Fire and Rescue team would be ready, along with other local volunteer firefighters.
After some online preparation, the groups received additional training in the newly refurbished Peck Media Center. The space was completely renovated in 2022, with a new mural of the track on an exterior side.
The safety of a race car driver is the top priority of the motorsport, and fire is one of the biggest dangers. For the training, teams were also formed in four different rescue areas to learn different rescue methods.
As part of the lessons, the NASCAR team also brought a cockpit of a race car with its cage, to practice the process of safely removing a driver from a vehicle. Several cars were also flipped with tow trucks, to instruct how to place straps for clearing wreckage.
Fire extinguishers were used that could project retardant chemicals up to 30 feet. The training was designed to drill the teams so they could safely rescue a driver, and remove a damaged car quickly. The clean-up work also keeps other drivers safe by clearing the track of collision hazards.
Clean Harbor will be sponsoring the race with its subsidiary Safety-Kleen in New Berlin. Safety-Kleen was founded in Milwaukee in 1963, before moving its headquarters out of Wisconsin. But its signature washer parts are still manufactured locally, and its products can be found in most auto shops around the nation.
“The return of the competitive NASCAR Craftsman Truck series to the historic Milwaukee Mile is one of the most anticipated races on the series schedule this season,” said Chip Wile, NASCAR’s senior vice president and chief track properties officer. “We are proud to welcome our long-time partners Clean Harbors and Safety-Kleen as part of the series’ return to the Milwaukee market for the Clean Harbors 175.”
Safety-Kleen collects all used oil at race tracks then re-refines it into KLEEN+ base oil or its Performance Plus motor oil. It is a revolutionary process with environmental benefits.
“This race was always a battle and this year, in its return, won’t be any different,” said Bob Sargent, Milwaukee Mile promoter and Track Enterprises president. “The relatively flat mile means lots of gear shifting, lots of lead changes, and lots of action.”
Sargent said that the public had missed watching the race due to COVID restrictions, and there was a lot of anticipation among teams and fans for its return to the famed track.