Ten Things You Should Know About Road America
by dean adams
Friday, June 04, 2004

1. Hang on. Road America was built to mimic the roads around the track, some of which featured sports car races in the 1950s. Simply put: this ain't no stinkin' oval. The track features two very fast sections, and even with the "bend" chicane--installed in 2003--the track has not lost its rep as a top gear, 185mph, when-men-were-men track. Novice club racers say that the run out of the final corner up the hill past the start/finish line--at 160mph or more--will give you the feeling of your stomach being pushed into your boots if you're not ready for it.

2. We don't serve your kind. Located about an hour from Milwaukee and just five hours from the Soup office building, Road America is located in the middle of small-town America, or small-town Wisconsin, which may be a horse of a different color. The locals are, for the most part, friendly, and the scenery is wonderful. Sections of Elkhart Lake--the town is moments from Road America's front gate--look like they just fell out of a Norman Rockwell painting. But, like all things, the reality is not so much a wonderland of Americana. There are still little restaurants in the area whose owners refuse to serve motorcyclists, seemingly fearful of another "Wild One" movie.

3. Freddie the gangster. Wes Cooley won the first F1 race at Road America in 1980, while Freddie Spencer won the Superbike race that weekend. After his win, the first question that a local sports-beat reporter asked Spencer was if he was in a motorcycle gang or not. True story.

4. Come for the racing, stay for the food. Road America is renowned in the racing world for featuring track food that you can actually eat and not regret later; well, at least not until you next see your cardiologist. There are at least three large food stands in the paddock, most with long lines in front of them. For a reason.

5. Siebkins. When the pros let their hair down, this is where they go. One such Sunday night bash featured a factory rider (who shall remain nameless) strolling through the back patio clad in ice cream cone.

6. Upset special. Road America is the home of upsets, where the mighty have fallen, if only for a day. Who can forget Jason Pridmore beating Scott Russell in 750 Supersport at Elkhart in 1992, Anthony Gobert stealing the Superbike win from Miguel DuHamel in 1999, or Mat Mladin's 1997 come-from-nowhere win on the Ferracci Ducati (on Michelins, or just "round black things" as 66 used to say)?

7. Big Italy. Road America is also home to the king of all upsets, where a stand-in rider from Italy smoked everybody. Alessandro Gramigni, on the Ferracci Ducati, beat the field at a track he'd never seen before (and frankly probably didn't know existed a week prior) in 1996. The race was wet, but "Alex" was perfect.

8. PA perfection. Road America used to feature one of the best commentating duos in the business: Richard Chambers and Bob Applegate who reined in the booth in the 1990s. Chambers is an ex-racer and a talkoholic, while Applegate used dry wit as a powerful weapon. Together, they were the best. Chambers continues on to this day, but Applegate quit the business in 1997.

9. H-D-saster. Although Road America was less than an hour from the shop doors of the VR1000 Superbike race shop, and about the same distance from the Harley-Davidson race shop in Milwaukee, the VR1000s never fared very well at what most considered their home track. In fact, it was probably one of their worst tracks in terms of luck. Crashes, DNFs, slow bikes and even bikes on fire in the pit lane were incidents that plagued the factory Harley-Davidson machine at Road America.

10. Come for the racing, stay for the food ... stay longer for the riding. The roads somewhat near the track in the Kettle Morraine area are some of the best in the Midwest and almost as good as the Northern California roads we list as our favorites.


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