INDIANAPOLIS — official series release — Chris Owens/IndyCar photo —
INDYCAR announced Saturday that Road America, the historic permanent road course in Elkhart Lake, Wis., will make its return to the Verizon IndyCar Series schedule in 2016.
The event is set for June 24-26 on the 14-turn, 4.048-mile circuit that hosted 25 Indy car races from 1982-2007.
Road America, established in 1955, has featured some of the greatest names in Indy car racing. Legendary drivers Mario Andretti, Michael Andretti and Emerson Fittipaldi each won three times at Road America. Jacques Villeneuve and Paul Tracy were two-time winners on the high-speed course located in the Kettle Moraine area of east-central Wisconsin.
“We know how revered Road America is by our drivers, teams and fans and we’re confident it will be a great event on the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series calendar,” said Mark Miles, CEO of Hulman & Co., the parent of INDYCAR and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “We’re thankful to (Road America president and general manager) George Bruggenthies and his staff for their collaboration in bringing INDYCAR back to one of the most iconic road courses in North America. This event, along with a new street race in Boston, are integral additions for 2016 as our efforts to finalize the entire schedule continue to progress.”
Derrick Walker, INDYCAR President of Competition and Operations, fielded entries at most of the past Road America races as a team owner or manager. Walker visited the track several times during negotiations for the 2016 event and is confident Road America will bring out the best in the present-day Indy cars.
“It’s truly great news that open-wheel racing will be back at Road America,” Walker said. “It’s a classic road course: long, with almost every type of challenging corner. The track is designed to make full use of the natural terrain, which makes for great spectator locations to see the Verizon IndyCar Series at its best. In addition, our cars at Road America with aero kits will showcase some very exciting racing for our fans.”
In addition to the Verizon IndyCar Series, all three levels of the Mazda Road to Indy will compete on race weekend. Road America officials have been overwhelmed with fan requests for Indy car racing to return to the venerable track, and worked hard with INDYCAR to make it happen.
“We listened to the fans and the local community, and after careful negotiations struck a deal to bring back one of the greatest forms of open-wheel racing ever to grace our beautiful 4-mile road course,” said Bruggenthies. “We have wanted to bring INDYCAR back for quite some time and we knew what it would take to make it work for everyone involved.”
Ten current Verizon IndyCar Series drivers have raced on the circuit before, with Sebastien Bourdais winning the last Indy car race there in 2007 under Champ Car sanction.
“I am really excited to see Road America back on the 2016 Indy car schedule,” said Bourdais, a four-time Indy car champion who currently drives for KVSH Racing. “This place allows our cars to stretch their legs fully and show what the Verizon IndyCar Series is all about. It is our duty toward road racing to continue this tradition and I could not be happier that a new deal got penciled. For me, it is the best racetrack in North America and I have some great memories there, including the win in 2007, and I am looking forward to coming back.”
Aside from just the drivers, team owners, including 16-time Indianapolis 500 winning owner Roger Penske, are also excited to see the return of Road America to the Indy car circuit.
“Road America will be a terrific addition to the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule,” Penske said. “We raced there for many years through the ’80s, ’90s and 2000s, and enjoyed great support from the people of Elkhart Lake. The expansion of the schedule is important to building on the successes and growth we have seen in 2015. Road America is a world-class facility that will allow our cars to display the speed and excitement that has come to define this series.”
Hector Rebqaue won the first Indy car race at Road America in 1982. Dario Franchitti holds the track record with a lap of 1 minute, 39.866 seconds (145.924 mph) set in qualifying for the 2000 race.
“The response from our fans has been tremendous,” Bruggenthies added, “and as part of showing our appreciation to them, we are offering a special four-day ticket package that includes garage access, free parking and an event program.”
Road America is the seventh race date to be confirmed on the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule. Other announced race dates are: The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, March 11-13; the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, April 15-17; the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis, May 12-14; the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race, May 29; the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix, June 3-5; and the Grand Prix of Boston, Sept. 2-4.