A Look Back At The Traditional Governor’s Cup Weekend At The Milwaukee Mile

The Governor’s Cup Weekend at the Milwaukee Mile is a late season stock car racing tradition dating back to 1952. Although not called the Governor’s Cup until 1965, stock car racing after the traditional Wisconsin State Fair is a fan favorite. Usually, the race was held in September, however when the weekend was resurrected in 2005 it was moved to late-August.

In 1952, the legendary Marshall Teague of Daytona Beach driving the popular Hudson Hornet won first September stock car race, a 200-mile event at America’s Legendary Oval. In the 1950’s drivers such as Chicago’s Don O’Dell, popular Jack McGrath, Jimmy Bryan (who would win the Indy 500 the following year), NASCAR Hall of Famer Ralph Moody and Tony “the Tinley Park Express” Bettenhausen would celebrate victories in the September classic. The event was sanctioned by the AAA through the 1955 season. After AAA withdrew from racing, the United States Auto Club (USAC) would sanction the event until 1981. In 1958 the event was lengthened to 250-miles as the ‘Great Dane’ Norm Nelson of nearby Racine came home first. Nelson would win the September event again in 1960 and 1962. Future NASCAR great, Fred Lorenzen of Elmhurst, IL drove a 1958 Ford to victory in the 1959 250 mile race.

In the 1960’s stock car popularity continued to rise, as did crowds at The Mile. Whitey Gerken was another Chicago area driver who found success at venerable oval. He drove a Chevy to victory lane in 1961, a rarity back in the day. One of the most popular wins at the Milwaukee Mile occurred on September 19, 1965 when Jim Hurtubise piloted a Norm Nelson Racing Plymouth to victory. Hurtubise who received life threatening burns the year before in a grinding Indy Car race at the Rex Mays Classic at The Mile, held off his car owner, Norm Nelson for the win.

Legendary, Parnelli Jones’ seven straight stock car wins at The Mile in 1963-1963 included two September classics. In addition, Keokuk racing legend, Don White (1966, 1969), Super-Tex, A.J. Foyt (1967) and the aforementioned Jones (1968) rounded out the winners in the unforgettable 1960’s.

In 1970, Jack Bowsher who holds the record for most positions at the Milwaukee Mile (17) won the Governor’s Cup 250 over Roger McCluskey and Norm Nelson. The following year it was reigning two-time Indy 500 winner, Al Unser thrilling the crowd by driving Rudy Hoerr’s Ford Torino to victory. The following year, Don White’s Dodge Charger outpaced the Ray Nichels’ Chevelle of Gordon Johncock and the Superbird of McCluskey to win the ‘Cup in 1972.

Butch Hartman’s historic five race winning streak included the 1973 Governor’s Cup race. The Zanesville, OH resident won five USAC Stock Car championships and nine races winner at The Mile including the 1974 event. Hartman is fondly remembered as a fan favorite.

Another Keokuk resident is well-liked Ramo Stott who won the event in 1975 (which helped propel him to the USAC Stock Car championship that year) as well as winning again in 1977. Stott returned last year as Grand Marshal of the Governor’s Cup weekend, continuing The Mile’s rich racing history.

Roger McCluskey’s win in Norm Nelson’s Volare Kit Car in 1976 was the finale for duo. However, McCluskey deservingly would win his final race ever at The Mile when he won the Tony Bettenhausen 200 Indy Car race in 1979.

Indy 500 winner, Bobby Unser drove a Bay Darnell prepared-Camaro to victory in 1978. The win would be Unser’s final stock car win and his third at The Mile.

In the late-1970’s, it seem to be the Rusty Wallace-Joe Ruttman show as the duo were always at the front battling for wins. In 1979, Wallace’s first victory at The Mile was in the September race as Ruttman returned the favor the following year. Wallace would be the final Governor’s Cup 250 winner in 1981 outrunning Sal Tovella and Dean Roper for the popular win.

Grass roots stock car racers from Wisconsin and the upper Midwest found a home at The Mile on the speedway’s rejuvenated Governor’s Cup August weekend that has continued since 2005.

The 2005 Governor’s Cup weekend was highlighted by a return of Wisconsin racing legend Dick Trickle, who started on the front row of the super late model race only to suffer suspension failure and post a 16th place finish in one of four races held that weekend. Illinois native and short track ace Jeremy Miller capture two feature victories that weekend, as well. The Milwaukee Mile weekend usually breeds the highest car count of the season for the Mid-American Stock Car Series (Mid-Am). In 2007, a season-high 49 competitors attempted to make the starting field for the Governor’s Cup 40.

The Milwaukee Mile is the largest track the Midwestern Mid-Am Stock Car series races on. Three-time Mid-American champion Bill Prietzel broke through at America’s Legendary Oval in 2006 with a victory in a 16-lap, non-points “Milwaukee Mile Dash for Cash.” “That changed my whole thinking of the Mile. [Before that] the Mile was really nothing special to me but after I won, it changed my whole outlook there,” said Prietzel, who owns and operates an auto repair shop five minutes from The Mile in West Allis, Wis.

The traditional Governor’s Cup Weekend is also regarded as one of the premiere events on the ASA Late Model Series Presented by GM Performance Parts Schedule in recent seasons.

The ASALMS Challenge Division has visited the famed One Mile oval on two occasions. For each of the race winners – Robbie Pyle in 2007 and Kelly Bires in 2006 – it had been a highlight of their respective season to win at America’s Legendary Oval.

Not to be forgotten is the highlight of the weekend, which will be the Wisconsin All-Star 100 with Matt Kenseth race, with a return of the NASCAR superstar and Kyle Busch racing in super late models, racing against the drivers from across the Badger State. Kenseth is a Cambridge, Wis. native. The Sunday event, will be an exciting conclusion for a successful season at The Mile which included The IndyCar Series, NASCAR Craftsmen Truck Series and the NASCAR Nationwide Series.

The inaugural ASALMS North Division event at The Mile, the Governor’s Cup 100, will be the ninth race of their season. While series veterans Eddie Hoffman and Charlie Menard have experience racing in other divisions at The Mile, they will find their match with the young and talented field of racers just as eager to pull in to The Mile’s A.J. Foyt Victory Lane on Saturday afternoon, August 23rd. The Governor’s Cup 150 on Sunday, August 24 will be the ninth race, coincidentally, on the ASALMS Challenge Division schedule.

It will be exciting seeing all four stock car series competing at The Milwaukee Mile on an action-packed Governor’s Cup weekend. For tickets and information on the August 23-24 Governor’s Cup Weekend at The Milwaukee Mile, visit the speedway’s website,

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