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Opinion: Road to Success

The NASCAR Xfinity Series celebrates racing at Road America for 10 years this weekend.

Saturday’s CTech Manufacturing 180 will mark the 10th trip for the series to the mammoth four-mile, 14-turn Wisconsin road circuit.

It’s actually hard to believe a decade has gone by since the first Road America race, which was born after financial challenges ended the popular run at the Milwaukee Mile.

NASCAR first brought the then Busch Series to Milwaukee in 1984 and ’85 to minimal fanfare. But the series returned in 1993 and Steve Grissom’s win that afternoon set off a long and successful run that would last for 17 years before coming to an end in 2009.

A combination of managerial and financial challenges brought the storied facility to its knees and put at least a temporary end to hosting major motorsports events at a track that had continuously operated since 1903. It left NASCAR with a decision to make – either abandon the area and its large rabid fanbase or find a new home in the Badger State. Enter Road America.

The idea of stock cars racing on the long and highly technical course was not overwhelmingly embraced at first. While open wheel and sports cars had regularly competed at Road America, appearance by true stock car racing divisions were few and far between. Although the NASCAR Grand National division did race at Road America in the 1950s, more contemporary circuits like the Mid-American Stock Car Series and the new defunct RE/MAX Challenge Series didn’t exactly leave fans wanting more when those divisions raced in Elkhart Lake.

But the dice were rolled and in 2010 NASCAR’s number two division made its Road America debut. Carl Edwards, who ironically had won the last Milwaukee race the year before, went to Victory Lane and the marriage has been going strong since.

As NASCAR looks to its future and considers changes to the Cup schedule in 2021 and beyond many speculate about Road America possibly being added to the calendar. There’s no question support would be high from the enthusiastic throng of stock car fans around the Wisconsin, southern Minnesota and northern Illinois area. The track has hosted huge crowds throughout its existence from all forms of motorsports so the infrastructure to handle those logistics are not an concern.

Will NASCAR build on one of its most successful Xfinity Series stand-alone weekends and take the annual trek to Road America to the next level? Time will tell.

But in the meantime there’s another chapter to be added to the already popular legacy on Saturday afternoon.

The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Motor Racing Network.