Road America is ready for NASCAR
By NICHOLAS DETTMANN
MILWAUKEE – Road America is ready. Is NASCAR?
It appears so when it comes to bringing the Sprint Cup Series to the 4-mile, 14-turn road course in Elkhart Lake. The only problem is finding space for it on NASCAR’s tight schedule.
The Sprint Cup Series packs 38 race weekends into about 10 months. So in order for Road America to get onto the Cup schedule, which hasn’t happened since 1956, a race will have to go.
“I know we’re on the list,” said George Bruggenthies, president and general manager at Road America, on Thursday at the Harley-Davidson Museum to promote Saturday’s NASCAR Nationwide Series race, the Gardner Denver 200 Fired Up by Johnsonville.
“Their schedule is so tight,” he added. “Something will have to go away.”
One thing is for certain: NASCAR is interested in Road America with its Sprint Cup Series.
NASCAR visits the track annually to check on the facility. Among the things series officials evaluate are ample fan space, motor home space and track configuration, such as run-off areas.
In addition, Bruggenthies speaks with NASCAR representatives regularly.
“What’s also really motivating them is understanding and watching the ratings on the road course broadcast events are much higher,” Bruggenthies said. “They’ve had some difficulty, but I think I can help move their sport.”
When Road America was added to the Nationwide schedule in 2010, it provided an unique experience for fans and race car drivers.
“I like it here,” Ricky Stenhouse Jr. said in 2011. “It’s nice and quiet. It’s kind of laid back. This one of my favorite road courses for sure.”
“I had hoped this would be one of the largest events at Road America,” Bruggenthies said, adding it gave the track an opportunity to attract a different demographic. “Road America has always had international attention and considered one of the best road courses by all the famous drivers.
“Road America’s 58 years old. I want it to last another 58 years. We have to change things and you have to do new things. We’re very aggressive, but we’re very changing. We keep changing the business to accommodate what fans and new fans want.”
The event at Road America has grown each year, including this year where advance tickets sales are up, Bruggenthies said.
The sponsorship deal for the race with Gardner Denver is a multi-year deal.
It is the fifth consecutive year the NASCAR Nationwide Series will compete at Road America. NASCAR returned to Road America in 2010, making its first appearance at the road course since 2001 in a one-time stop with the NASCAR Re/Max Series.
The inaugural race winner was Carl Edwards. The winners in the years since have been Reed Sorenson, Nelson Piquet Jr. and AJ Allmendinger.
“It’ll be a lot of fun,” Bruggenthies said. “It’s been demonstrated that NASCAR roadracing events are very popular.”
In addition to NASCAR, the track will host the Pirelli World Challenge Series and the SCCA Pro Trans-Am Series.
But each year as NASCAR makes its one and only stop to the upper Midwest, race fans wonder: When will the Sprint Cup Series come to Road America.
If and when it happens, Road America is ready.
“We’ve been preparing for years,” Bruggenthies said. “We believe we could support a Cup race.”