Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are a great idea. Two great things- peanut butter and chocolate together in one entity. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you’re two favorite things could be combined into one? This weekend, I found this concept come to life. My two favorite things- national parks and race tracks- joined together. They call it Road America.
Indycar returned to Road America after a nine year absence. The sign above sums up how most everyone felt about this. I saw her holding this sign at the beginning of Friday’s first Indycar practice. She was facing the straight leading into turn 5 so the drivers could see it as they came down the straight. When the fans here first saw the cars, there was a loud, enthusiastic cheer. Never have I heard that anywhere for a first practice.
There is so much to talk about. I will begin talking about the fans and their experience and the track today. Later in the week, more thoughts about the facility, the area,and highlights of my hot lap ride.
The first timers, myself included, were in awe of the place. many of my friends from Indianapolis and elsewhere only had three things to say: “This is my new favorite track,” “Best track I’ve ever seen,” and “I can’t wait to come back next year.”
Fans who attended the CART and Champ Car races were absolutely giddy over the return. At my hotel Saturday morning, a man wearing an event shirt from the 2006 race was joined by his son and grandson. I saw many three generation groups at the track . The cheering continued all weekend. Race morning the paddock area had the buzz you feel at Indy on Race morning. That gave me chills.
Road America is a very fan friendly place. The staff is very friendly and helpful. Fans have several options for getting around. I went with the golf cart, splitting the cost with friends. An attendant at the cart rental place told me they rented all 600 of their carts for the first time ever at an event. Other people took advantage of the free shuttle carts. Many others rode bikes, scooters, or motorcycles. I heard the track has bikes for rent. Most people , it seemed, brought their own.
The food choices were as abundant as I have ever seen. Every stand had a wide variety of choices, including vegetarian and vegan options. One stand just outside the paddock tunnel even had organic choices. Steamed corn on the cob was a very popular food choice.
Some of my friends camped at the track. They liked the idea of camping inside the track, but felt the price was higher than at other tracks. The showers were better than they expected, even featuring hot water. Some campers had motor homes or RVs. Others just packed everything in their personal vehicles and set up tents. I visited my friends’ campsite Saturday evening. It looked like a site in a national park.
My friend D. J . Jordan rated the camping experience as very good overall. In addition tothe showers, he thought ice at the nearby concession stand was reasonably priced. His campsite was between turns 8 and 9. He felt the campsites could have been marked better, and the gate staff should have been more prepared to tell campers how to find their site. The site marker was in the middle of the area rather than at the back. I was trying to locate some other friends who told me their location number. I never found them because the areas are very poorly marked. D. J. thinks the quiet hours began too early at 10 o’clock. He would have preferred 11 or midnight. Enforcement seemed inconsistent between camping areas.
All seating, except for the suites, is general admission. The grandstands I saw Sunday were completely full. I sat on the hill overlooking turn 5. There were benches there, which were very full, and behind them people brought lawn chairs to watch from the shade of the trees. Fans were sitting very far back in the woods. Another nice feature that is not part of other road courses is the proximity of full service concession stands. It seemed every seating area had a complete stand nearby enough to get to quickly and return to your viewing spot.
My idea of camping is a hotel room with no television. Elkhart Lake has several nice resorts which I understand the teams mostly reserved. I stayed in Manitowoc, about 40 minutes away. Other people stayed in Sheboygan, a 20 minute drive, or Fon du lac, about 30 minutes away. People who decided to attend at the last minute stayed close to an hour from the track. My advice if you want a hotel for next year, book early to get as close as you can.
This is a very proper racetrack. Long fast straights lead into brake chewing tight corners. Sweeping curves lead to steep elevation changes. The hill climb to start finish makes the line seem farther away than it is. My favorite spots were turn five and Canada Corner.
Turn 5 is at the end of a downhill straight and the cars immediately go uphill afterwards. They pass under a bridge at the top and then quickly hit turn 6.
Canad Corner (right) is as scenic a corner as you will ever see. You can watch from the top of the hill or go down steps to a grandstand. Out of Canada Corner is Thunder Valley (left). This is a great viewing spot.
On Wednesday I will post about my hot lap ride and more thoughts on the weekend