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A Spectator’s Guide to Road America

By David Phillips

One evening, back when IndyCars raced through the streets of Surfers Paradise, my colleague – and current IMSA Radio voice – Jeremy Shaw and I shared a taxi ride with some locals to an Aussie Rules Football match.

Quickly discerning we were “rookies,” our fellow travelers cheerfully offered to give us some pointers on how to watch the uniquely Australian event. Upon our arrival at Canberra Stadium they made a beeline for a spot in the general admission area that – to Jeremy and I – appeared little different from any other vantage point. “What makes this place special?” we asked. “It’s next to the beer stand,” our new friends chortled.

I suggest anyone fortunate enough to attend the IMSA SportsCar Weekend at Road America adopt a similar strategy. Not so much for the brewskis (although they are delicious and plentiful in that part of the world) as for the gastronomic delights on offer at the concession stands that dot the landscape around America’s “National Park of Speed.” After all, you can’t go wrong spectating anywhere along the four-mile circuit that’s within a few steps of the most delicious bratwurst, corn-on-the-cob and soft-serve ice cream on the planet.

Here are three can’t miss spots:

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Be sure to visit the concession stand on the inside of The Carousel but bring your stopwatch. After scarfing down a single or double brat, watch and time the cars as they accelerate out of Turn 8, pass under the Johnsonville Bridge and arc gently downhill through 240 degrees of race track before passing directly below you en route to The Kink.

The bridge is a convenient point to start your watch, and you’ll easily find a bush, tree or some other (stationary) feature on the exit of the turn to serve as the finish line for your “section timing” exercise; one that will make abundantly clear which cars are gaining (or losing) time negotiating The Carousel and thus carrying the most speed into The Kink on down through Kettle Bottoms to Canada Corner.

IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar ChampionshipContinental Tire Road Race ShowcaseRoad America, Elkhart Lake, WI USASunday 6 August 2017911, Porsche, Porsche 911 RSR, GTLM, Patrick Pilet, Dirk Werner, 912, Porsche, Porsche 911 RSR, GTLM, Gianmaria Bruni, Laurens VanthoorWorld Copyright: Richard DoleLAT Imagesref: Digital Image RD_RA_2017_055

Get the Lions’ Share

Turn 5 ranks among Road America’s top vantage points. Small wonder. The tight corner is a prime overtaking spot and leads to the dramatic climb up Fireman’s Hill to Turn 6. While plopping down in the grassy meadow to the drivers’ right of the corner is a popular option, why not take advantage of the hillside between Turns 5 and 6 . . . just below the Elkhart Lake Lions’ Club concession stand?

For an added bonus, you’ll be able to track the cars half a lap later as they pop up from Thunder Valley and whistle through Turn 13 into Turn 14 before commencing their climb up the start/finish straightaway.

Sensory Overload and Bravery

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I always spend time trackside about 2/3 of the way along the Moraine Sweep – AKA the wide-open run from Turn 3 to Turn 5 – during the weekend. True, there’s nothing to eat and there’s little to be gleaned in terms of who’s going fast and why; the cars steam past at top speed and I challenge anyone to say who’s doing 195 mph and who’s doing 200.

But the sheer sensations of seeing, hearing and – yes – feeling some two dozen vividly colored, sexily shaped, roaring-rumbling-shrieking sports cars flashing through the forest is not to be missed; particularly in the cool of a morning practice session. And if (or when) you’ve had your fill of sensory overload, wander along to the braking area for Turn 5 to see who’s taken their daily dose of brave pills. Naturally, there’s a concession stand a few steps away in the paddock.