Road America Preview

Yesterday, Susan and I landed at Milwaukee for our annual trip to Road America and the REV Group Grand Prix. Our flight left Nashville at 5:45 am yesterday and went through Kansas City. Sometimes you need to leave early and take a different route in order to save a ton of cash. Even with a layover in KC, we landed at 9:55 – which gave us plenty of time to relax. We actually went by the track yesterday for a bit to check in and scout out a good seat in the Media Center. We also picked up our golf cart and got all of that knocked out of the way, so that when things got going in earnest today – we could focus on the task at hand, racing.

We also got to partake in the Track Walk for teams and media. That’s all I’ll say about it for now, but Susan plans to write about it sometime this weekend, so I’ll not steal her thunder.

If you’ve been following this site, you probably know how much we love Road America. My three favorite tracks that we go to are IMS, Barber and Road America. Each offers something unique and special, but in a lot of ways – Road America may possibly be our favorite.

It’s almost like picking your favorite child – you can’t do it. Of course if I could only attend one track every year, it would still be IMS for the Indianapolis 500. For the event and the history, there is nothing that compares to IMS. But there is something special about Road America. If you can ever describe a race track as tranquil, it would apply to Road America.

While Barber Motorsports Park in nestled in a manicured wooded setting with azaleas and dogwoods in bloom; half of Road America is plopped right down into a lush Wisconsin forest. The other half is in cleared terrain that was probably once a forest as well. The backside of Road America runs through a heavily wooded area from The Kink through Kettle Bottoms, then down to Canada Corner and Thunder Valley. Then the cars emerge again into the clear, just before approaching Turn Fourteen – the last turn before heading up hill to the start/finish line on the main straightaway.

The three days we spend each year at Road America fly by faster than any other three-day stretch in the year. It is the only place where we go to the expense of renting a golf cart, but given the fact that there is a lot of up and down terrain and that the track is situated on over 640 acres – it would be tough to see much of the track. We would spend all of our time walking.

The food at Road America is an experience all its own. Each concession stand is run by a local charitable organization and offers some unique items to each stand. In the center of the track, there is a stand known as St. John the Baptist (SBJ). Aside from the usual brats and burgers, they are known for their ice-cream and hand-made milk shakes. The Gear Box at the north end of the track has a breakfast sandwich known as an “Egger” that is a work of art.

There is another stand that sits up on a hill overlooking Hurry Downs that I think has the best brats and beer selection. They also offer one of the best view of the track. We will sit on our shaded golf cart, drinking a cold beer and eating a delicious brat, while watching race cars going by below as they set up to enter The Carousel. In my opinion, that whole scenario creates a little slice of heaven that would be hard to ever improve upon.

This will be our fourth straight year at Road America. We’ve attended each race here since IndyCar returned in 2016 after a ten-year sabbatical. I swore to myself that if IndyCar ever returned, I would go to at least one race there. After going to the 2016 race, we both fell in love with the whole event and it is now assumed that this is one race we will attend each year.

We also fell in love with the state of Wisconsin. Although Nashville has been having a cool summer thus far, it is usually about thirty degrees cooler at Road America than what we left behind in Nashville. The last couple of weeks, the temperatures have been just a little warmer – but that is highly unusual. We have alternated where we stay each year – either Sheboygan or Fond du Lac. This year is the year for Fond du Lac. It is strictly due to whoever has the cheaper hotel rates. Sheboygan is a little closer, but we like both towns. The dairy farms on both sides of the track look like post cards. It’s as if the farmers are in competition with each other on who can have the most manicured farm.

And we have already established where some of the good places to eat dinner are – but believe me, they are in abundance. The Friday Night Fish Fry’s are everywhere, with fresh fish from Lake Michigan, Lake Winnebago or some of the many countless lakes in the area.

Oh and by the way, there is racing at Road America – lots of racing. Things actually kicked off yesterday morning at 9:00 with Indy Lights practice. Also practicing yesterday were the MX5-Cup (Mazda Miatas) along with something called Radical Cup, which Google says are Le Mans-type sports cars. I would be lying if I said I knew much about them. But now that I think about it – they may have been at Road America last year, but I’m not sure.

The entire Road to Indy, the MX-5 Cup, the Radical Cup and of course the NTT IndyCar Series will all be sharing track time from 8:00 each morning until dusk each evening. There will be little or no down time on the track all weekend, which makes this a virtual paradise for racing fans.

The previous three IndyCar races have been won by three different drivers. In 2016, Will Power won in IndyCar’s first year back. The following year saw Scott Dixon win his first and only race of the season, while Josef Newgarden won last year’s race. No winning driver in those three years has gone on to win the championship in that season.

While the fourteen-turn, 4.048-mile road course offers a spectacular scene for viewers, it presents a challenge to drivers and teams. With each lap being over four miles, there is no room for error on fuel calculations. Many drivers say that the wide turns and dramatic elevation changes at Road America make it one of their favorites to drive – not because it is easy, but because they love the challenge it presents.

I suspect that the pattern of a different winner every year will continue at Road America. Josef Newgarden increased his point lead over Alexander Rossi two weeks ago at Texas, and now leads Rossi by twenty-five points and Simon Pagenaud by forty-eight. As a result of his tangle with Colton Herta, Scott Dixon now trails Newgarden by eighty-nine and Takuma Sato is now ninety-five points behind. Quite honestly, I think Dixon and Sato are long shots for the championship, but I also know to never count out Dixon.

But I think Newgarden and Rossi are going to be back and forth for the remainder of the season.

Who will win Sunday’s REV Group Grand Prix at Road America? Two weeks ago, I looked at Josef Newgarden’s history at Texas and deduced that since he had never done well at Texas, that trend would continue. He won the race. Looking at the performance of Alexander Rossi at Road America, his record is not good at all. In three races at Road America, Alexander Rossi has had finishes of fifteenth, thirteenth and sixteenth. Looking at those numbers, you’d think there is no way Rossi would win at Road America. That’s exactly why I am picking him to win on Sunday.

Today’s first practice is at 11:05 am CDT and Practice Two will take place at 3:00 pm CDT. Saturday’s practice will be at 11:00 am CDT. All practices will be shown live on NBC Sports Gold. Qualifying will be shown live on NBC Sports Gold at 3:00 pm CDT, and will be shown delayed on NBCSN at 4:00 pm CDT. Sunday’s REV Group Grand Prix at Road America featuring the NTT IndyCar Series will be shown on over-the-air Big NBC, with coverage starting at 11:00 am CDT and the green flag waving at 11:45 am CDT.

As always, Susan and I will both be posting from the track throughout the weekend. You can also follow us on Twitter for photos, videos and comments. You may follow me at @Oilpressureblog and Susan at @MrsOilpressure. Please check back later today and throughout the weekend.

George Phillips

3 Responses to “Road America Preview”

  1. Spent a lot of time in Fon du Lac when I was younger, very quaint little place and a beautiful slice of country around there. Went to my first bar there…..when I was 14….and it was legal! 😀

    Thanks again to Miss Ballyhoo, dad and I will be heading out early tomorrow morning and hope to get to the track about 1-1:30pm Cheese Time, just in time to grab a brat and a New Glarus and watch some Indy Lights action. I’m already 100% certain I will not want to leave.

    The Radicals are neat cars and way fun, I think you’ll enjoy them! Can’t wait to see the MX-5 Cup too, there’s 33 cars there this weekend! Race Fan Nirvana.

  2. S0CSeven Says:

    One of the thrills of a road circuit is that they periodically let the public in to run laps on the track. Sure, there are waivers, insurance stuff etc, but you could take YOUR Miata out for a few dozen laps and really get the feel of what it’s like to be a racer.

    Try it. You’ll never be disappointed that you did.

  3. billytheskink Says:

    I have a good feeling about Ryan Hunter-Reay this weekend for some reason. Also, the Rahal team should qualify well at least, they really seem to have something for the natural terrain road courses.

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