By Cole Cusumano
What goes better than Fourth of July weekend and barbecuing? How about NASCAR making an aptly scheduled stop to Road America. While millions will be watching from home and hanging out poolside, it’ll be quite the opposite of a relaxing few days for teams across the sport.
With regular season opportunities dwindling for playoff hopefuls, the Wisconsin-based track should serve as a great equalizer, as is the case with road course events. The beloved 14-turn, 4.04-mile venue has a reputation for compelling racing for over 10 years, but also serves as a place of mystery mixed with (very) faint familiarity for the premier series.
There will be a full slate of action beginning with NASCAR Xfinity Series practice on July 2 at 4:05 p.m. ET., with qualifying taking place before the race at 11:35 a.m. ET on July 3. Prior to the Henry 180, the NASCAR Cup Series will get a feel for Road America for the first time in 65 years with practice at 12:35 p.m. ET, and qualifying before the Jockey Made in America 250 on July 4.
NASCAR Cup Series
To put in perspective how long it’s been since the premier level raced at Road America, Elvis Presley was the king of rock n’ roll and Tim Flock won the sole event held there in 1956 driving a Mercury.
Anticipation couldn’t be higher for the Cup Series 65-year return to Wisconsin, and many are projecting this to be the biggest turnout since the COVID-19 pandemic for NASCAR. The 4.04-mile course doesn’t have capacity limitations and boasts a grassy and scenic view that should pair perfectly with Fourth of July weekend.
Although most will be hitting the track blindly during practice on July 3, there are numerous drivers who’ve raced at Road America and five in the field who’ve won a NASCAR sanctioned race in Elkhart Lake; A.J. Allmendinger, Christopher Bell, Chris Buescher, Austin Cindric and Michael McDowell.
The biggest news this weekend came courtesy of Justin Marks and Trackhouse Racing. The new team co-owned by Pitbull revealed they purchased Chip Ganassi Racing’s NASCAR operations and will field two cars beginning in 2022. Daniel Suarez will continue to compete in the No. 99 with another driver to be determined later; Kurt Busch and Ross Chastain are atop the short list of candidates.
Trending on Twitter: Kyle Busch channels his inner Cole Trickle at Pocono Raceway.
NASCAR Xfinity Series
Road America has been a staple on the Xfinity Series circuit and produced some of the most exciting and unexpected victories. Establishing himself as one of the frontrunners for the championship and a road course ace, Cindric could be primed to win two-straight after his triumph at Pocono.
With seven regular season races remaining, all eyes will be on the points bubble. Brandon Brown (-9) and Riley Herbst (-25) are among the drivers looking to capitalize, but could Jeremy Clements sitting 11th in the standings replicate magic attained in 2017 with another win at Road America?
Series regulars will have their work cut out for them with Kyle Busch — who recently scored his 100th win in Xfinity — and Kevin Harvick earning extra track time. Kaz Grala seeks to capitalize on opportunities once again, this time for Jordan Anderson in the No. 31. The 22-year old has made a total of 11 starts between all three National Series over the last two years with eight top-10s in that span.
Trending on Twitter: Anderson prepares Grala for action.
The NASCAR Xfinity Series will kick things off in Road America with the Henry 180 at 2:30 p.m. ET on July 3. The NASCAR Cup Series makes its return to Elkhart Lake after a 65-year hiatus with the Jockey Made in America 250 at 2:30 p.m. ET — both events will be aired on NBC.