- Chris Green
Road America – IndyCar Series
Photos by Chris Green, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.71
Road America N7390 WI-67 Elkhart Lake, WI 53073
Year Opened: 1955
America’s National Park of Speed
Road America is often regarded as one of the greatest race tracks in the world, let alone the USA. Its annual schedule features NASCAR Xfinity, Trans-Am, SRO World Challenge, IMSA, IndyCar, and vintage racing action throughout the year. Fans from all over the Midwest flock to this track to witness some of North America’s best sports action, in a beautiful setting that proves to be both fan friendly and easy to navigate.
Food & Beverage 5
There are a lot of places to eat at Road America, and the ones that exist are an absolute treat for the pallet. With over 20 concessions stands located around the course, Road America is led by The Gearbox, a hillside concessions stand and bar that features some of the best views on the property, as well as the best food around. Being in Wisconsin, you can get the best cheese and sausage foods there, as well as a brilliantly tasty breakfast food called eggers.
The addition of the IndyCar Series to the Road America schedule means even more food options are now available around the race course. Of course the beer is also cold and tasty, perfect for sitting under a tree feeling the cool breeze as the cars go speeding past.
The atmosphere around Road America during race weekend is very family friendly and relaxed. The best in the sport are taking part in some of the most exciting racing around, and despite the tension of the competition, everyone – including the teams and drivers – is in a relaxed and fun-loving mood. There is just something about the beauty of the countryside and the forests around the premises that put everyone in a “let’s go race and enjoy every moment of it” state of mind.
In addition, the quality of the on-track action is enough to make any fan excited to see what happens around the next corner. The excitement fills the air every time a car takes to the track, be it for practice, qualifying, or for a race. Road America has also undergone a recent renovation, including the addition of new entrance gates, a new store, and brand-new shower and bathroom facilities in the camping grounds.
The area around Road America is exactly what you would expect to find in rural Wisconsin – rolling hills, farmland, forests, and small towns. The town of Elkhart Lake is quaint and small, but is seething with racing history and lore. Famed racing announcer David Hobbs calls the small town home, and the fans here are all die-hards who watch everything that happens on the track.
If you’re looking for somewhere to stay near Road America, there is a wide variety of small bed-and-breakfasts to pick from in and around Elkhart Lake, as well as some cabins that can make you feel like you’re roughing it…sort of. In addition, the town of Sheboygan is only 20-30 minutes away by car, providing fans a chance to stay in a hotel chain of their choice (Holiday Inn, La Quinta, etc. are all located in Sheboygan).
If you’re looking for something to eat, Sheboygan has a wide variety of restaurants, from Applebee’s to McDonald’s. But by far the most must-see eatery near Road American is the Stop-Inn Tavern at Siebkens Resort in Elkhart Lake, a local bar that all of racing royalty has passed through at some time or another.
And, for those looking for something to see and do, the Kettle-Moraine State Forest is not far from the track, providing some great hiking options. In addition, the Kohler factory is in nearby Sheboygan, and Road America’s location is just a 30-minute drive from the Great Lakes.
Fans at Road America are much like those in the rest of the Midwest – die-hard and series-knowledgeable. They’re also absurdly kind and sweet, willing to help in any way possible when you need assistance with anything. They also pack the camping areas around the speedway, making for one brilliant fan block party. Over 100,000 fans have been known to pack the speedway during IndyCar and NASCAR race weekends, making them a race unlike any other on the schedule.
Getting to Road America isn’t as difficult as getting to some sports facilities. That said, it is off the beaten path – at least 10 minutes’ drive from the nearest highway, Road America requires you to drive down some single-lane roads through the hilly countryside. However, with the addition of IndyCar to the schedule, the facility has greatly increased its signage nearby. The entrance is so sudden and not easily marked that in the past one would be liable to drive right past it, were there not a major race going on that weekend. Now, however, with the new signs it is much easier to get on the right path to the entrances.
Once you’re at Road America you will also discover that there are several other entrances to the track that you didn’t know about to begin with, which can be frustrating if you had to wait hours in line. Check the fan map of the venue to identify the alternate gates and entrances.
The biggest plus at Road America is that the main entrance had a complete makeover in 2016, adding more entrance booths for faster processing of fans and campers.
Return on Investment 5
Despite being practically in the middle of nowhere Wisconsin, Road America is one of the best tracks at which you can watch a race. The facility is huge, but you are given plenty of options to watch the race from without having to move from place to place. Watching from the right location can give you up to six corners of the track to see all at once, and you also get access to the grandstands all around the track, as well as access to the paddock, with your admission ticket to most races.
Where once a zip line ended now stands a high vantage point for fans to watch the action at the track inside the final turn. The former zip line landing platform is now a giant viewing zone, and while you may have to climb a lot of stairs to get there, the view is well worth it. Additionally, if you have ever wanted to try your hand at racing, you can sign up for racing school at the track.
You can also take a trip to Elkhart Lake, and follow the original track layouts through historic markers along the roadside. Before it had its current layout, Road America was once a true street course, running through Elkhart Lake itself and over the hills on the various roadways in the nearby area.
If you can’t peel your eyes away from your mobile device, you can also engage with the race on social media, and see your photos and tweets on the various big screens around Road America by using specific hashtags and handles on Twitter and Instagram.
However, if treetop views or social media aren’t your thing, you can also take a wandering hike through the forest on several pathways that meander through the mountains above Kettle Bottoms and Canada Corner. These trails lead from the top of the peak to the bottom of a newly-cleared pathway along the infamous straightaway.
If you want to see racing history meet modern-day sports stars, take a trip to Road America. You will not be disappointed in what you find.
In addition, if you want to take a step above that, go camping on the property during race weekend. The fans are nice, the action is top quality, and the weather is almost always beautiful. It’s hard to find a better place to see racing in North America than Road America.