Specs & Details
Location Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin
Track Configuration 4.05-mile, 14-turn road course
Elevation change 106 feet
Longest Straight 4,400 feet
Other Facilities 0.8-mile kart track, on-site camping, garage rentals, pit vehicle rentals, 150,000 spectator capacity, driving, motorcycle, and supermoto schools
Ask just about any well-traveled American road racer what his Top 10 tracks in the country are, and Road America is likely to be on every list. And for good reason, because it’s not only patriotically named (even if it’s way up north in cheese country), it’s also one of the longest and fastest road courses in the country. It’s also a historic road course that’s hosted everything from SCCA club races all the way up to NASCAR and Indy Car, its design having stood the test of time by remaining entirely unchanged since opening in 1955.
The history of Road America is a classic post-WWII tale of young war vets returning home with a need for speed, an auto industry hungry to capitalize on this, and a civil engineer by the name of Clif Tufte (we’re guessing his distant Chinese cousin’s name is Cleft Chin) to draw it all up for a 525-acre slice of Wisconsin’s finest farmland. The end result is an epic 4.05-mile circuit with a 4,400-foot main straight where faster cars can hit 200 mph, a speed normally reserved for Texas Mile–type events.
Like a lot of older road courses, Road America is a fairly straightforward design, but there’s beauty to its simplicity and plenty of danger lurking around the next bend. Turn 11, known as the Kink, is the sketchiest corner on the track and one of the bigger ball-checks in the country, thanks to the very high speeds here and the fact that the walls are just inches off the track on both sides. Most cars just require a lift off the throttle and maybe a light brush on the brake pedal, but misjudge your entry speed into the Kink and chances are you’re going to need a body shop sponsorship. Come in too cautiously, though, and you will get freight-trained by the competition down Kettle Bottoms and into Canada Corner.
Turn 6 is also a serious test of driver commitment and skill, thanks to Corvette Bridge further concealing what is already a blind apex because of the fairly steep uphill approach. Add to that the off-camber turn-in point right as you crest the hill and it’s very easy to back it off the track into the gravel trap. Turn 7 follows shortly after and is flat out in slower cars. But in a fast car, it’s right on the hairy edge and requires a lift despite the help you get from the road being cambered and downhill.
Our favorite part of Road America is the fast and flowing section that snakes up from Canada Corner (T12) and through Thunder Valley (T13) to Bill Mitchell (T13a). There’s just such a great right-left-right rhythm here, you really get to balance the car on the edge and feel its high-speed transitional response. Its also pretty tricky exiting T13a, since the apex is by a pedestrian bridge and the uphill approach, but get it right and you’ll carry a ton of extra speed into T14 and out onto that monster front straight.
Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, may not have the California wine country snob appeal associated with Sonoma or Laguna Seca, and it doesn’t quite have the racing heritage of Sebring or Daytona, but as far as classic road courses go, Road America is just about as good as it gets. Big speeds, big risks, and big rewards if you get it right.