It’s Cheese Time (Road America 2021 Preview)

In preparing for the trip up with Wisconsin, Abby and I realized this will be exactly one-year since our last INDYCAR camping weekend. It was also the first (and only) camping weekend of the 2020 INDYCAR season. Since we don’t camp at IMS, there’s no better place than Road America to memorialize things. When they call it the National Part of Speed – they’re not kidding! Road America is a permanent road course situated in the Southern-ish part of Wisconsin. The 4.084 mile road course (the longest on the INDYCAR circuit) features fourteen turns, elevation changes, and some great vantage points. It’s also given some great racing moments.

In 2020 this was the first race where spectators were allowed, and we were treated to a double-header and a weekend full of racing moments. In the first race, Scott Dixon won, and it was somehow soothing to have that piece of normalcy. However, the first race was a race for rookies. Rinus VeeKay pulled an excellent pass around Simon Pagenaud in the carousel during the first lap. Pato O’Ward (a rookie-ish) challenged a lot of veteran drivers including Will Power and Pagenaud. Alex Palou had a great race! Not only did he make great moves on RHR but he also was having smooth pit stops which helped him earn his first podium. A third place with Scott Dixon and Will Power finishing higher than you: a solid race!

For the second race, our group was sitting at the grandstands right at turn one. We saw them coming up the hill (and man did they line up beautifully) caught some brakes suddenly lighting up. Looks like Pato, well within his discretion, took the start late. Those in the back got squirrelly and some contact was made by Conor Daly, bending the front piece of his car. Then in Turn 1 Will Power …well I’m not sure what he thought but he got right into the rear of Ryan Hunter-Reay who spun out into the gravel. That caused cars around to slow and avoid, Jack Harvey braked and moved to avoid hitting Rosenqvist in front of him, only to be hit by Santino Ferrucci. Then, Graham Rahal is making that turn and Will Power shoots right up to the inside and spins him out as well. If you’re keeping track we had two cars who didn’t get past turn 2 during the first lap. The Racing Gods were none-to-pleased with Will’s behavior and on Lap 6, he spun out in Turn 13. With three laps to go, O’Ward is starting to go wide on turns, his tires are getting bad FAST. Rosenqvist had a great car for the last stint and with two to go, makes the pass on O’Ward and ultimately goes on to win the race. Man, what a fight! 

This year, there’s no double-header, just one highly anticipated race! This is a track that uses a lot of skill with the long straight aways, elevation changes, and just fantastic series of turns. In 2020 it was the first podium of 2020 for Alexander Rossi. I just feel that after the crummy year, this is the place he will turn it around. It has been a great racetrack for him. In 2019, Rossi passed Colton Herta lap one, Turn 1 and never looked back. Just dominated that race. At one point Josef Newgarden came on his radio to ask how far ahead Rossi was and his response was just “wow”. It’s also been a good track for Chip Ganassi Racing in the past few years, so they always put on a show. We learned recently that Rinus VeeKay underwent surgery on his clavicle after a biking injury, he will not be racing this upcoming weekend – instead Oliver Askew gets a second opportunity to jump back in an Indy car!

If you’ll be at the race in person: first come say hi! Second, especially if this is your first time, take a tram ride around the property. Get a good feel for the expansiveness and elevation changes. Take the opportunity of the Road to Indy races to experience the race from different areas. Also the food options are just spectacular. Hope to see some of you there, and hope to see some good racing!