Road America, with its rich history and untouched natural beauty, stands as a testament to the enduring passion for speed and competition. Nestled amidst the picturesque landscapes of Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, this racing gem has captured the hearts of motorsports enthusiasts for over half a century. Our family loves Elkhart Lake and has spent many weekends on Little Elkhart Lake which is just across highway 67 from Road America. We are casual race fans. My father has been going to the Indy 500 since 1947 and I have been going since 1981 and my kids have just recently started enjoying the magic of the Indy 500. But, aside from Memorial Day Weekend in Indianapolis, we don’t watch or see live racing often. When the Indy Car Sonsio Grand Prix fell on Father’s Day this year, I knew it was the perfect opportunity to take my Dad and my family up to Road America to experience the thrill of road racing!
The roots of Road America trace back to the early 1950s when sports car races roared through the streets of Elkhart Lake. In the charming downtown area of Elkhart Lake, a sign marker stands as a testament to the daring past of the road race that once traversed its streets. Commemorating “The Hard Left,” the first sharp corner on the 1951-52 circuit, this marker serves as a reminder of the thrilling and perilous nature of that era, where the road sloped away from the apex, making it one of the most treacherous and exhilarating turns of the old Elkhart Lake road race. A ban on road racing in Wisconsin inspired, Clif Tufte, a visionary highway engineer, to work with influential individuals and the Chicago Region of the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) to bring his dream of a permanent road racing experience to the area. They secured funding and identified 525 acres of scenic Wisconsin farmland as the perfect location for a permanent racecourse. In April 1955, Road America became a reality, utilizing the natural topography of the glacial Kettle Moraine area to create a 4.048-mile, 14-turn track that remains largely unchanged to this day.
Road America has evolved into a premier racing destination, captivating spectators with its 640-acre park-like grounds and thrilling events. Every year, over 800,000 visitors from around the world flock to this iconic venue, experiencing the heart-pounding action and savoring the vibrant atmosphere. Beyond the public race weekends, Road America offers a range of attractions, including group event programs, the Briggs & Stratton Motorplex for karting and Supermoto club racing, as well as the Road America Motorcycle and Advanced Driving Schools. Its enduring popularity is a testament to the timeless appeal of motorsports and the allure of this resort community.
Compared to attending the Indy 500, where traffic can keep you gridlocked for hours, getting to and from Road America was a breeze. We experienced little to no traffic driving up from Northern Illinois and didn’t experience a slow down until we were in line at Gate 4 to show our tickets. I love that kids 16 and under can get in free with an accompanying paid adult, and the ticket price includes parking. We found a spot to park near Turn 3, just inside Gate 4. Prior to the Indy Car Series race, there is an Indy NXT Series race. We walked around looking for a good vantage point to place our seats while that race was going on. Unlike a ticketed event where you have an assigned section and seat, at Road America you are free to roam around the course and nearly everywhere you are very close to all the action. There are so many vantage points scattered throughout the course, strategically positioned to provide breathtaking views of the action. Whether you prefer sweeping turns, heart-stopping straightaways, or challenging elevation changes, Road America offers an unparalleled experience for racing enthusiasts of all ages. We experienced turns 3, 8, and 9 before choosing to setup our seats on the Hill looking down on Turns 6 & 7.
After the thrilling start of the race, several of us chose to walk around and take in the race from a variety of locations on the course. A day spent walking the hallowed grounds of Road America during the Indy Car Sonsio Grand Prix is an experience that transcends mere spectatorship. It’s an opportunity to immerse yourself in the passion, history, and natural beauty that defines this legendary track. As engines roar and tires screech, you’ll feel the heartbeat of motorsports, surrounded by a community of like-minded enthusiasts who share your love for speed, competition, and the timeless allure of Road America.
It was clear early on during our visit that we will be coming back to Road America sometime soon for additional racing events! Road America embraces the spirit of family-friendly fun, offering a welcoming atmosphere where enthusiasts of all ages can bond over their shared love for motorsports and create cherished memories together.
Consider camping at Road American and taking in the entire weekend. If you do spend the weekend they rent golf carts which can make getting around the race course quicker and less labor-intensive. We decided for our next trip we will leave our chairs behind and instead walk from vantage point to vantage point. I think a perfect race day experience if your kids are up for the walk, would be to spend the race walking the course and experiencing every bend and turn along the 4.048 circuit.