No. 1009
August 14, 2019

About The Autoextremist


Author, commentator, influencer. "The Consigliere." Editor-in-Chief of .

Peter DeLorenzo has been in and around the sport of racing since the age of ten. After a 22-year career in automotive marketing and advertising, where he worked on national campaigns as well as creating many motorsports campaigns for various clients, DeLorenzo established on June 1, 1999. Over the years DeLorenzo's commentaries on racing and the business of motorsports have resonated throughout the industry. Because of the burgeoning influence of those commentaries, DeLorenzo has directly consulted automotive clients on the fundamental direction and content of their motorsports programs. DeLorenzo is considered to be one of the most influential voices commenting on the sport today.

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June 23, 2010

NASCAR rediscovers Road America - 54 years later.

By Peter M. De Lorenzo

(Posted 6/21, 10:00AM) Detroit. By all accounts it was a fabulous day of racing for the fans - and for NASCAR - at Elkhart Lake's Road America last Saturday as the Nationwide Series made a stop at the picturesque 4.048-mile, 14-turn, natural-terrain circuit dubbed affectionately by this writer several years ago as "America's National Park of Speed." The Nationwide action was so good it reminded some of the handpicked Autoextremist observers on hand of the glory days of the Trans-Am series back in 1970 - a high compliment, believe me - with the kind of V8 noise and on-track action that has been a staple at the Wisconsin racing facility since its beginnings back in 1955.

The last time NASCAR visited Road America was 54 years ago - with Tim Flock winning the race in the rain, no less - so to have a strong NASCAR contingent show up for the Nationwide event made the day a memorable one. Carl Edwards put on a show for the win - exploiting his special road racing-prepared Roush Ford for all it was worth - while turning back the challenges from a formidable field including ex-F1 and Indy car champion Jacques Villeneuve, former Corvette ALMS champion Ron Fellows, current ALMS ace Patrick Long, Paul Menard, Brendan Gaughan, Colin Braun and a host of others.

That the fact that the race went off without a hitch - except for the myriad on-track contretemps, of course - is no surprise, as Road America is one of the most well-run racing facilities in the country. The real surprise for many who were making the trek to Wisconsin for the first time - including NASCAR officials, competitors and fans alike - was the picturesque beauty and challenging nature of the course that follows the undulations and elevation changes left by receding glaciers centuries ago. And the fact that it is one of, no, make that the most appealing circuit in the country in terms of atmosphere, hospitality and authentic regional cuisine, it all came together to leave one very powerful impression on the NASCAR faithful.

When Clif Tufte, a trained civil engineer whose dream and vision brought the Road America course to life in April of 1955 after a year of planning on a 525-acre tract of Wisconsin farmland - this was after the town of Elkhart Lake, which had been one of the early hotbeds of sports car racing in America, was seeking to get the racing cars and events off the public roads for safety concerns - little did anyone know that that the originally-configured track layout would survive untouched and intact 55 years later. As racing fans well know, that is truly an achievement unto itself given the vagaries of the financially-driven trends and financial pitfalls that have plagued the sport for the last half-century. And little did anyone know that the tiny village of Elkhart Lake - a picture postcard of a lake resort town in the Midwest - would retain all of its charm and appeal welcoming racers, racing enthusiasts and aficionados alike in exactly the same manner as it has since 1955.

There has been much speculation that the Nationwide Series appearance at Road America is a thinly-disguised effort at testing the waters for not only adding a third road race to the Sprint Cup schedule by 2012, but to have that new road race become part of the final 10-race Chase for the Championship. The idea behind that is to eliminate some of the "cookie-cutter" 1.5-mile monuments to tedium that currently occupy spots in "The Chase," so as to eradicate some of the boredom that comes with the predictable nature of those tracks. There is also clear interest on NASCAR's part to have a more of a presence in the Midwest, and an addition of a new road race at Road America to the Sprint Cup schedule would fit the bill nicely.

I wholeheartedly concur and I can see nothing that happened over last weekend that would dissuade any of that speculation, either.

The NASCAR blogs are overflowing with unbridled praise for the majestic Road America facility and reveling in what a great experience it was. But the drivers themselves may have said it best afterwards. Ron Fellows - who finished second to Carl Edwards last Saturday - said that "We need a Sprint Cup event here. What a great crowd and a great atmosphere." And third-place runner Brendan Gaughan commented that, "This is America's road course. I'd love to see the Cup cars here." (Gaughan also added that, “This is a man’s-man road course,” so Road America clearly made an impression on him.)

A racing weekend at Road America is a true happening, and it's clear - judging by the overwhelmingly positive reviews - that a whole new group of converts became True Believers last weekend.

Let's hope that the powers that be at NASCAR are listening very, very closely.

(The Autoextremist billboard at Turn 5 at Road America.)

(The Autoextremist billboard at pit-out at Road America.)


Publisher's Note: As part of our continuing series celebrating the "Glory Days" of racing, we're proud to present another noteworthy image from the Ford Racing Archives. - PMD

(Courtesy of the Ford Racing Archives)
Brands Hatch, England, 1972. Emerson Fittipaldi pulls out of the pits in his No. 8 John Player Team Lotus 72D Ford in preparation for that year's British Grand Prix. Fittipaldi would win the race, Jackie Stewart (No. 1 Elf Team Tyrrell 003-Ford) finished second after setting the fastest race lap, and Peter Revson (No. 19 Yardley Team McLaren McLaren M19A Ford) would come home third. Pole-sitter Jackie Ickx (Scuderia Ferrari SpA SEFAC Ferrari 312B2) led the first half of the race before dropping out with oil pressure problems. Emerson would go on to become World Champion that year, the first of his two titles.

Publisher's Note: Like these Ford racing photos? Check out Be forewarned, however, because you won't be able to go there and not order something. - PMD



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