Road America claims a standing as one of the country’s foremost road courses yet hasn’t hosted NASCAR’s premier Cup Series since the 1950s.
That changes on the Fourth of July in an upset for a Wisconsin track that charges itself as “America’s national park of speed” yet until this year couldn’t land a Cup date. NASCAR drivers can hardly wait for the chance to race Sunday at Elkhart Lake.
“If I wasn’t driving that weekend, I would be going,” said Austin Cindric, who won last year’s Xfinity Series race at Road America and is competing in both the Xfinity and Cup events this time.
Road America, which opened in 1955, is situated on 640 sections of land somewhere between Milwaukee and Green Bay. The course is a little more than 4 miles in length, highlights 14 turns and is encircled by around 1,600 campgrounds.
For all its set of experiences, Road America just facilitated NASCAR’s chief series once previously, when Tim Flock won a blustery Grand National occasion back in 1956. The track needed the top series back yet couldn’t get one of the subtle 36 race dates.
“They only run so many races, and a good portion of those races are run on affiliate track that are owned by NASCAR,” Road America president/general manager Mike Kertscher said. “With us being an independent, that’s a different conversation, for sure. So the timing had to be right.”
Kertscher said Road America leaders were “pretty deep in conversations” with NASCAR authorities the year prior to the pandemic. He accepts its capacity to work during the pandemic may have assisted Road America with procuring a Cup Series date.
“I think last year, through COVID, we opened up a lot of eyes,” Kertscher said. “We ran all of our events last year in a safe way. We actually ended up with more events last year than we’d originally scheduled.”
Kertscher said Road America could draw near to 100,000 observers over NASCAR’s whole four-day run, part of a bustling summer that saw the scene have IndyCar fourteen days prior.
The track additionally profited with NASCAR’s choice to add more street courses and assortment to the Cup Series plan. NASCAR had three street seminars on its Cup Series plan from 2018 to 2020, and never had more than two at whatever year prior to that.
The current year’s timetable has seven.
“I think having it on July 4th weekend, it just felt like such a natural fit to us,” NASCAR vice president of racing development Ben Kennedy said when the 2021 schedule was announced. “You think about everything that goes around, everything that’s synonymous with that weekend, camping, cooking out, really Americana.”
NASCAR authorities likewise loved the flightiness that Road America has given since turning into an apparatus on the Xfinity Series plan in 2010. The track has delivered 11 unique victors in its 11 Xfinity races.
AJ Allmendinger, champ of the Xfinity race in 2013 and an open-wheel race in 2006, will contend both Saturday and Sunday.
“I do think it’s just such a perfect race track for stock cars because there’s a lot of passing opportunities,” Allmendinger said. “It can be hard on tires, so tire wear become an issue, and that allows for more passing.”
Daytona 500 top dog Michael McDowell said Road America has components that recognize it from most street courses.
“The rhythm is different at Road America than at a Watkins Glen or a Sonoma or a place like that,” said McDowell, who has five Xfinity starts at Road America and won there in 2016. “The layout in general has elements that are low speed and then elements that are really high speed, where Watkins Glen is just really high speed and Sonoma is really low speed. This has got a mix of both.”
Ross Chastain has contended in five Xfinity races at Road America however doesn’t really accept that gives him an edge. He noticed that test systems empower drivers without experience on a specific course to find what’s in store.
“It’s about just as good as taking a hauler and a race car up there and making laps in real life,” Chastain said. “Plus, it doesn’t hurt as bad when you wreck.”
Drivers who have never hustled at Road America will learn in a rush exactly what makes this course unique. Tyler Reddick said the track “threatened the daylights” out of him the first occasion when he contended there.
“It’s a wild place and when you’re going to have the Cup Series there with the aggressive drivers that just like to sail it off into there in the corner, it’s going to create some great racing,” Reddick said.
Allmendinger accepts the activity outside the track likewise separates Road America. He says the plant life around the track and the hints of the passing vehicles give an optimal setting. At the point when he’s at Road America, Allmendinger frequently strolls around and sees the fans who have camped out.
“Fourth of July weekend, that’s what you kind of want,” Allmendinger said. “You want that camping atmosphere. You want those brats, things like that, that smell. That’s what Fourth of July feels like, at least to me as a kid.”