Road America serves host to SCCA National Championship Runoffs
Serving as host for the SCCA National Championship Runoffs isn't going to make Road America millions of dollars, but it does make a lot of sense.
It's not a huge spectator event. In fact, it'd be a reasonable bet that three-quarters of the people who call themselves racing fans don't have even the slightest clue what it is.
But to bring the country's largest and most prestigious club-racing event to Elkhart Lake in 2009 - announced this week - is huge for participants, the community and the track itself.
For the drivers, it's about prestige.
"Someone can say they've won a national championship at Road America. . . . Wow, that means something," George Bruggenthies, the track's president and general manager, said Thursday.
"Nothing against these other tracks, but Road America is a world-class facility, the fastest road course in the world, etc., etc."
Road America will become the sixth venue for the event since its inception in 1964. The Runoffs are concluding a three-year run at Heartland Park Topeka in Kansas
Past champions include Skip Barber; the father-son Indy-car duo of Bobby and Graham Rahal; Indy-car winner and road-racing champion Scott Sharp; and actor / racer Paul Newman. For the community, some 700 drivers and their crews should provide an economic impact that, according to organizers, approaches $10 million.
"It amounts to more than 22,000 room nights for the drivers and their crews," Bruggenthies said. "It's a two-week event, basically, with a week of racing and a week of testing in front of that.
"The competitors will have one session a day, so they'll have a lot of time on their hands. They'll be going to the spa, playing golf, hiking the Ice Age Trail. It'll be great for tourism."
For Road America, the decision will have a small but meaningful economic impact.
Participation at the June Sprints and other club events should increase as drivers seek experience at the site of the championship, and they'll spend money on food and campsites and whatnot. Marketing value comes from the opportunity to sell a title sponsor and from the benefit current partners receive with a televised event with numerous replays on Speed throughout the winter.
And then there's the feel-good aspect to the development.
Road America started, in essence, because of the SCCA. When racing through the town and adjacent roads was banned in 1952, supporters raised the money to develop a track. Its first event was the SCCA National on Sept. 10-11, 1955.
It's all different
Most of the competitors in the USAC national midget division face the interesting challenge of three new tracks - two of them in Wisconsin - in a three-day span beginning today.
The series hits the La Crosse Fairgrounds Speedway in West Salem tonight for its first appearance and Slinger Speedway on Saturday night for the first time since 1984 before finishing the swing Sunday at Rockford Speedway in Illinois.
"La Crosse and Slinger, I talked to some friends who have competed there and I was able to get some information from them about those facilities," said Tracy Hines, of Tony Stewart Racing.
"I'm pretty excited about running three pavement races in a row this weekend. We've learned a lot in our first three Midget races this season and I know we'll be ready for these tracks this weekend."
Eager, not ready
Chuck Buckman, the crewman struck by Danica Patrick's car in Indianapolis 500 practice last Friday, told the Indianapolis Star he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Even with a skull fracture, numerous other injuries and persistent vertigo, Buckman said he hopes to participate in his 35th Indy.
Phil Giebler, the 2007 rookie of the year, has hooked up with American Dream Motorsports - the former Playa del Racing - for the Indy 500, and Beck Motorsports named Roger Yasukawa its driver.
Yasukawa got some laps in when the track reopened for a rain-shortened session Wednesday, as did Jeff Simmons, named earlier as A.J. Foyt's second driver.
Noted motorsports journalist Gordon Kirby's latest book, "Rick Mears - Thanks", is due out Wednesday. . . .
A quick glance at odds posted in Las Vegas show Indy pole-sitter Scott Dixon as the favorite at 3-1 and Tony Kanaan close behind at 7-2. Neither series champion has won its biggest race. . . .
Terry Labonte will team with brother Bobby for five races this summer, filling in at Petty Enterprises while Kyle Petty attends to his television commitments.
"Horsepower sells motor cars, but torque wins motor races."