Reminiscing about Road America: 'Four miles of fun'

Nick Bromberg

It's a little hard to believe that with all of Road America's history and tradition that this is NASCAR's first trip to the four-mile circuit.

Saturday's Bucyrus 200 was moved to Road America after the Milwaukee Mile couldn't swing a deal to keep both the Truck and Nationwide Series at the track.

Jim Pedley, managing editor of Racin' Today, made his first visit to the track almost 40 years ago. His words to Yahoo! Sports about the significance of Road America are much better than what I — or anyone else, for that matter — could come up with:

"I simply couldn’t wait to get out of the big Winnebago that nine friends at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and I had rented to take to the Can-Am Series race at Road American in the summer of 1972.

"I couldn’t wait because, in an effort to get 10 people into the track for the price of one, I was folded up in a bunk bed with one of those friends and was having a hard time breathing. The guy’s feet were in my face and his socks had not made the weekly trip to the laundromat.

"Once through the gates and out in the clean air, things got better. A lot better.
For me, Road America is a gift from the racing gods.

"Drivers, almost without exception, love the track. During a phone conversation this morning, IndyCar driver Graham Rahal said of Road America, 'It’s the best. It’s four miles of fun.'

"Those four miles include long, very fast straights, tight corners, a long nerve-testing sweeper called The Carousel and dramatic elevations changes.

"The track shouts character. The corners and straights were, long ago, tagged with names, European style.

"Legendary drivers have done legendary things at RA. In 1983, I saw Mario Andretti win there. In 1990, I saw A.J. Foyt almost die there. I even saw Walter Payton race sports cars there during his second career.

"The fastest, most powerful cars in the world have raced there – from the thundering-behemoth, 1,000-plus horsepower Can-Am cars of the ‘60s and ‘70s, to the quieter turbo CART cars of the 1980s and ‘90s.

"When the Can Am field came blasting out of the woods and headed up the hill out of Turn 5 on my first trip to Road America, it was a life-changing experience. Literally, as it transformed me first, into a fan, and then, into becoming an auto-racing writer.
NASCAR fans tend to dump on road courses because you can’t see the entire track from the grandstands. Flawed thinking. Road race fans don’t sit in the grandstands – not at Road America. Paths through the woods run most of the four-mile length of the circuit and fans at RA roam those paths looking for the best viewing points.

"Beer tents and bratwurst stands (find the Kiwanis Club sausage stand if you are there this weekend) offer big-time rewards for the wanderers.

"The track is located just a couple of miles from the small town of Elkhart Lake. Those who did not enjoy the racing during the days couldn’t help but love hitting the spots in town at night. Back in the day, at funky joints and resort bars like those at Siebkens, fans and drivers would guzzle beer elbow to elbow.

"The plan – now changed by circumstance – was to go back for the Nationwide race this weekend. Was dang excited about it. Haven’t been there since the early ‘90s.

"Too bad. Was wondering what it would be like starting the weekend without the stink of feet filling my nostrils."