Historic 'Mile' one of the great tracks

With the Winston Cup Series taking the week off, the NASCAR Busch Series highlights this weekend's racing action at one of America's great speedways, The Milwaukee Mile.
   The one-mile oval located on the grounds of the Wisconsin State Fairgrounds in West Allis, Wisc. is the oldest operating speedway in the world.
   Its roots goes back to 1876 as a horse racing track with the first automobile race staged in 1903. Horse racing ended in 1954 when the track was paved.
   The track has a rich history with stock car racing dating back to 1948. Some of the sport's greatest stars are counted among the past winners. Sanctioning bodies who have staged stock car races at Milwaukee include AAA, USAC, ASA and NASCAR.
   Among the drivers who have won stock car races on the mile include Indianapolis 500 winners Rodger Ward, A.J. Foyt, Parnelli Jones, Bobby Unser and his brother Al Unser.
   Stock car legends Bobby Allison, Rusty Wallace, Alan Kulwicki, Dale Jarrett and Mark Martin can also lay claim to being winners on the historic mile.
   Sam Ard recorded the first NASCAR win at the speedway in 1984, driving his No. 00 Oldsmobile to victory in the Busch Series event. Two of the hottest young drivers in NASCAR racing, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. in the Busch Series and Kurt Busch in the Truck Series, are also among the past winners at Milwaukee.
   The fastest lap by a NASCAR competitor at the Milwaukee Mile was turned by Casey Atwood in 1999, with a speed of 121.411 miles per hour. The overall track record is held by CART driver Patrick Carpentier, who wheeled his machine around the mile at a speed of 179.748 mph.
   With the first half of the Winston Cup season all but in the books, Mark Martin sits at second in the points, just a stones throw away from leader Sterling Marlin. Only 62 points out of first place, the Viagra Racing team can now start to focus on a championship run as the second half of the season rolls around.
   "I really love working with this group of guys," said Martin. "They are young and really energetic and fun to be around. They have done an excellent job in the pits and getting the cars ready each week. I've said all along that I thought we would get better and better as the year went on. I think we've seen that progression, but I don't think we have at all reached our full potential."
   Through the first part of 2002, Martin has posted twice as many top-five finishes than in all of last season. The No. 6 Taurus has finished in the top 10 in eight of the last 11 races, and last month in the Coca-Cola 600, Martin visited Winners Circle for the first time since 2000.
   "Things have come together faster than I had thought they would," said Ben Leslie, in his first year as the crew chief of the No. 6 team. "We have a really determined group of people and the best driver in the business. These guys really respond to Mark and they all respect what he does on the track."
   Equally, Martin sings high praises for the job Leslie has done this season, in only his second full season as a Winston Cup crew chief.
   "Ben's a racer," said Martin. "I've known Ben for a long time and he really knows what is going on with a race car. There is no one in the garage that knows more about racing than Ben Leslie, and I think he's really done an outstanding job this season. He's not afraid to tell me what he is thinking, and I think that only makes us a stronger team."
   Martin will look to further close the gap between himself and first place next Saturday for the Pepsi 400 in Daytona. The No. 6 team finished sixth in the Daytona 500 back in February.
   Martin has raced in all 58 NASCAR restrictor-plate races, making him one of only eight drivers to do so along with Bill Elliott, Terry Labonte, Sterling Marlin, Ricky Rudd, Ken Schrader, Rusty Wallace, and Michael Waltrip.
   He also will try for a second straight million dollar bonus, as he along with Matt Kenseth, Martin, Ricky Craven, Jeff Gordon, and Ricky Rudd are the eligible drivers for the Winston No Bull 5 bonus to be given at the end of the Pepsi 400.