Thursday, June 22, 2017

Back again at Road America

Graham Rahal coming out of Canada Corner in 2016. 
Summers in Minnesota are known for cabin time. Folks pack up the family truckster for the weekend, sit in traffic with everybody else heading north to "get away from it all." Then, it's a weekend of lake frolicking, campfires and small-town living.

Or so I assume.

We've never been a cabin (or camping, for that matter) family. For us, the summer tradition was the annual trek to Road America, the four-mile race track in the small town of Elkhart Lake, Wis. My first trip there was when I was just a youngster in 1990. We only missed a couple years of IndyCar, Trans Am and other racing support series for the next couple decades.

It doesn't sound that exciting or glamorous when someone (particularly non-race fans) asks where you're headed on your extended-weekend vacation. "Elkhart Lake, Road America." Blank stare. "It's near Sheboygan... we're staying in Manitowoc." It doesn't sound like much, but it's a great time and totally worth it.

Here's where I insert my repetitive preaching line where I tell you that IndyCars need to be experienced in person. Television does not do the sights or the sounds justice.

Road America is a 14-turn, four-mile road course with various elevation changes, straightaways and passing areas. It's been a racing tradition since 1955 and attracts race fans from around the Midwest and beyond. Fans can view the racing action from various points around the course. There's no assigned seating like at many oval tracks. Fans can drive around the area on pathways around the course, surrounded by acres of grass. Bleachers and benches are scattered around at various vantage points, including turn one, the start/finish line, turn 12 (known as Canada Corner) and the carousel. You can even camp out in the designated camping area for the weekend.

It's also a great place to see drivers up close in the paddock. There's been some years when we've spotted nearly the entire field of drivers during our roaming around through the pit area. It's also a chance to see the mechanics work on the cars.

After the IndyCar split in the mid-90s, Road America was a destination for the CART and Champ Car series. Once they merged together with the Indy Racing League as IndyCar again in 2008, Road America was dropped from the schedule until last year. It was a big mistake in the eyes of loyal fans and plenty of drivers who name Road America as their favorite race track. Of course, I realize things like money and sponsorship are involved in these decisions.

Ryan Hunter-Reay in 2016 at Road America.

IndyCar returned last year to booming crowds of deprived fans. It was a picture-perfect weekend for weather - sun, not too humid, not a drop of rain. Penske driver Will Power won the race from the pole, leading all but four laps. It was a lot of green flag racing, which is always nice.

I'm back again this year for the Kohler Grand Prix, to see a beautiful track that's brought so many great memories. Like 20 years ago when the soggy weekend caught us off guard. We bought Andretti team ponchos. Ever since, we always pack ponchos, umbrellas and extra tennis shoes in case things get muddy. Always be prepared, race fans.

I'm excited to hear the cars again, to make my best attempts at taking photos with my point-and-shoot camera and enjoy the time with my mom and dad.

It's also nice to use the hashtag #RoadtoRA instead of #BringBackRA.

No comments:

Post a Comment