Road America Preview: Racing The Haunted Woods


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A mysterious land of wonderment, danger and frights, Road America’s where AJ‘s leg bones from his terrifying 1990 crash still haunt the foreboding, forested hills. For modern day racers, it’s a lengthy leap into the unsettling unknown.


Once upon a time long, long ago IndyCar raced at a magical place called Road America. The scene of flips, collisions and even rear wings flying off, racing last occurred there in 2007 prior to the conclusion of the super scary split. The series first appeared at the frightful facility in the deep, dark woods way back in 1982. Legends including Mario Andretti and Danny Sullivan won races there. It truly was an epic age.


Only half the field tested in Wisconsin after the Texas flood, as they scattered for vacations from Vegas to Le Mans. Those who did test included Andretti Autosport, Team Penske, Rahal Letterman Lanigan, the snake bit Ed Carpenter Racing as well as the non-Le Mans parts of Ganassi’s and SPM’s teams. These brave souls have a decided edge going to the spooky circuit, particularly since IndyCar last visited there when many of today’s drivers were still having fairly tales read to them.

Bizarrely, some NASCAR ne’er do well crashed the test and commandeered Frenchman Simon Pagenaud’s car, taking it on a joy ride through the haunted wood. There have been no charges filed, at least not as of this publication, though the car-jacking incident does add to the hazardous reputation of the place.


What IndyCar racing at Road America will bring is the great unknown. Tellingly, Mad Will Power once raced there to no avail, while irascible Frenchman Sebastien Bourdais won RA’s last race. Scary thought, isn’t it? It’s a long, four mile drive through the woods to grandmother’s house with lots of twists and turns along the way and quaint names like Canada Corner. Chilling stuff, indeed.


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Since test results aren’t made public, it’s anyone’s guess what to anticipate beyond a few certainties. The track’s situated in wild, treacherous country where a menacing deer once collided with Cristiano da Matta’s car in practice causing serious injury to both. Running out of fuel or – what’s worse – off course into a ravine are just a few perilous possibilities for pilots at eerie Elkhart Lake.


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More off-putting still, expect top speeds in the NASCAR range, the start and restarts to be the highlights of the race and plenty of thrilling-as-Thumbelina fuel strategy to play out. That is, if other recent road courses are any guide – and we think they will be. Count on lots of inviting scenery and a lovely setting, as NBCSN commentators will constantly remind viewers. Remember, Little Red Riding Hood had a nice view, too.


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The course holds mythical powers over some fans – primarily road course/CART types – though the latest and perhaps scariest chapter of the undulating track is yet to be written. Here’s hoping it has less bitching than Texas, more passing than Barber and obviously that it’s vastly superior to Mid-Ohio. Also no big, bad wolves lurking salaciously in the shadows of the Kink.


5 thoughts on “Road America Preview: Racing The Haunted Woods

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