Random Thoughts on Road America

Another IndyCar chapter at Road America has been written. As usual, this one did not disappoint. There was a huge crowd on-hand for Sunday’s race; possibly as big as I’ve seen here. When IndyCar first came back to Elkhart Lake after being gone for a decade, it was a huge crowd that showed up. Yesterday’s attendance may have even topped that year.

Graham Rahal tweeted out after the race that yesterday’s crowd was the biggest attendance at Road America that he has ever seen – and that included the years of his youth, back in the nineties. I’d say that’s a fairly respectable gauge.

Was yesterday’s contest the greatest race I’ve ever seen at Road America? No. It was somewhat disjointed at the first, with two caution periods in the first five laps. When the laps are slightly over four miles long, that eats up a lot of potential green flag time.

As I write this, I know that Jimmie Johnson went off course in Turn Three. I’m not sure how I missed that because we were sitting inside the track just past Turn One at the start of the race. It must’ve happened just out of our sight, but when I heard the track was yellow – I felt like that would be a good time to relocate.

We took our trusty golf cart over to the Carousel near the beginning of the backstretch. We saw the field go through after the restart, and saw the flashing lights at the rear of the car, indicating that the track was yellow again. There are no video boards there, so I had no idea what had happened. We later learned that Alex Palou had crashed, but I’ve yet to see a replay as I type this and I have no idea what happened. That’s what the DVR is for at home.

We rode over to the main concession stand in the heart of the track, just west of the main straightaway near the paddock. Since I had only had three brats this weekend, I decided to have a double brat for lunch. We then rode over to the massive Turn Five area, where everyone likes to hang out. The live action in front of you probably offers the best passing zone on the track, and there is a giant video board there. We stayed there until there were seven laps to go, then we drove over to Victory Lane so that Susan could get photos there. They also have a massive video board behind the victory podium, so that the gathering crowd could watch the end of the race.

While we were over in Turn Five, that’s when Josef Newgarden took the lead from Alexander Rossi during a pit stop. I couldn’t tell if Rossi has a slow pit stop, or if Newgarden’s was ultra-quick. There is nothing like attending a race in person, but one of the downsides to that is that you don’t always know exactly what is going on – especially at a track the size of Road America.

Even though Rossi had won the pole, Newgarden was fast all weekend and he found that little something extra when it counted. And Newgarden appeared to put on a clinic during restarts. Alexander Rossi doesn’t make it a habit of getting snookered on restarts, but Newgarden made him look bad on the two late race restarts.

Josef Newgarden seemed lost in the abyss after winning at Texas and Long Beach in back-to-back races. From Barber, through the Month of May and through Belle Isle, Newgarden was very forgettable and his place in the standing showed it. He dropped from first to fifth in just a few races. But that all changed yesterday. Newgarden is now third in the championship, and is only thirty-two points out of first place. Right now, I wouldn’t bet against him.

TV Coverage: As usual when we attend a race in person, I have not seen any of the race broadcast yet. However, I did want to mention that the NBC booth is part of the media center at Road America.

During the final practice on Saturday, we stayed in the media center since it was spitting rain. At my age, I’m a fair weather fan. I don’t really get a huge kick out of getting wet at a race track. As we were watching the cars go past the media center, we were also watching the Peacock broadcast on the monitors. It was kind of unique when something would happen on the track that cranked up the volume from the booth – we could look over and watch them getting more animated as they talked. That probably doesn’t sound as interesting as I thought it was, but I thought I’d share it anyway.

The Points Race: With Alex Palou finishing last, Pato O’Ward next to last and Will Power finishing nineteenth – the points battle got quite the shake-up this weekend. Marcus Ericsson is back in the lead, on the strength of finishing second yesterday. Will Power drops to a distant second (twenty-seven points behind) and Newgarden jumps from fifth to third (only five points behind Power). Pato O’Ward drops to fourth, while Alex Palou is now in fifth. Scott Dixon remains stealthily in sixth, while Alexander Rossi remains in seventh, just six points behind Dixon. It’s going to be an interesting summer.

The Flyover: While the Thunderbirds were spectacular at Indianapolis last month, I’ve always had a soft spot for the A-10 Warthog. We got four of them in an impressive flyover timed perfectly with the completion of the National Anthem. I took a video and thought I’d share it.

Drive of the Day: Colton Herta moved up six spots to finish where he was supposed to start the race before his grid penalty for an unapproved engine change. But without question, the Drive of the Day belongs to someone who wins this pseudo-award often – Graham Rahal.

Rahal had a horrible qualifying session on Saturday, and had really been slow all weekend. He started twenty-second, but moved up all day to finish eighth. If only he could qualify better, his race results could be a lot better if he weren’t spending half the race coming up through the field.

Susan’s Photos: Although she was slowed by her recent hospitalization, Susan was able to get a few good photos on the grid before the race and in Victory Lane. I’ll throw in a photo I took of her at dinner Saturday night, as well as the obligatory grid selfie before the race.











On a Personal Note:  I am now officially a grandfather. Meet Everest James Phillips, who was born Saturday night June 11 at 11:45 pm in Idaho. He weighed in at 8 lbs, 11 oz. Mother is resting comfortably after a long labor with such a big baby. My son is still beaming with pride.


All in All: After sort of a gray and rainy Saturday, Mother Nature blessed us with a beautiful day at Road America on Sunday. It was a little cool when the substantial breeze kicked up. I was glad to have my windbreaker. I’m not complaining because cool weather is hard to come by at this time of year in Nashville.

The weather probably helped the crowd grow on Sunday. I imagine the blue and sunny skies probably showed up well on television.

The race appeared to turn into a two-car battle between Josef Newgarden and Alexander Rossi, but Marcus Ericsson hung back and pounced at the right time to nail down second place. There was a gaggle of cars from fourth place on back in the final laps, that really made for some late race excitement.

This was our seventh straight IndyCar race to attend in-person at Road America. I’m already looking to forward to our eighth.

George Phillips

6 Responses to “Random Thoughts on Road America”

  1. thanks for the weekend report Grandpa. hope Susan gets better and better. If I ever travel that far to a race, it’s be Road America.

  2. We have some A-10s based here at Baer Field in Fort Wayne and it never gets old seeing them fly over . Unfortunately they are soon to be replaced by a newer fighter . Indy Cars at RA, credentials, Brats , beer , good weather, golf cart , A-10s , new grand baby , healthy wife , does a weekend get any better

  3. billytheskink Says:

    Congratulations George! And to your son as well!

    Good to see you all had a great time, Road America always looks like such a blast.

  4. Thanks for the great trackside coverage yet again.

    Congratulations to your family.

  5. Congratulations to your family!
    This was our first trip to Road America and it did not disappoint. We spent much of Saturday and Sunday on the hill leading to Turn 6, just before the Corvette bridge. It was a great vantage point.
    The Wieser Egger at the GearBox was incredible. Breakfast at the Lions Club on the hill was also good. I had the schnitzel burger which was ok, but the cheese curds were fantastic.
    We rented a cart and took in every corner that we could.
    Can’t wait to go back again.

  6. Congrats, Grandad! Thanks for Susan’s and your coverage of the weekend. I wish I could have gone. Maybe next year.

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