The Summer of 1956 was the first full season of racing at Road America, and it included the Chicago Region SCCA June Sprints on the 23rd and 24th of June. My dad was younger than my 3 year old son, landing on the moon was considered science fiction and a young Mario Andretti had just emigrated to the United States the year previous. A lot has happened since then both on and off the track, but as mentioned on junesprints.com, the WeatherTech® Chicago Region SCCA June Sprints® remains and it’s 61st running makes it possibly the longest consecutively held road race in America.
My first visit to Road America was on the Friday morning of the 2016 SCCA June Sprints, at what I believed to be an early time of 6:45am, but the track was already packed and buzzing. There were cars out on track, registration was already in full swing and even the spectator areas viewable from the entrance were beginning to fill up. I was awestruck with the sheer size of this event and it was clear that 6:45am was certainly not too early for everyone else involved.
The amazing Sue Green had graciously invited me along for the day to get a behind the scenes look at how an event like this is run. I spent the first part of Friday at registration, where the team were using MotorsportReg to get the drivers, crew, guests, prep shops and everyone else checked-in for the weekend. The stalwart volunteer that is Jim Nowlen let me sit beside him and watch his process from getting waivers signed to handing out hot and cold pit access passes. All the registrars were incredibly efficient.
After lunch, Edmund Lacis brought me out on a golf cart for a tour of the track. He showed me everything from grid, the paddock, timing and scoring, tech, the special corners to visit for best viewing as a spectator and everything else in between. Camper vans were set up throughout the course. Porsche and Chevrolet groups, to name but a few, would congregate at their preferred spots. The family zone had bouncy castles and fun activities for the kids. Public karting was available, which I of course availed of. Turns 6&7 with “Perl’s on the Hill” restaurant caught my eye as the stand out spot for spectating. It was a perfect introduction to Road America and the SCCA’s June Sprints set up. Edmund could certainly make some extra cash offering these tours throughout the weekend, but like everyone else I met, preferred to selflessly volunteer their time and energy for the love of the sport and the people.
Late afternoon, Edmund introduced me to Toby Schuster at timing and scoring to try get a feel for the logistics of how that’s all setup at Road America. I was informed of Toby’s hats before I went over there and he definitely didn’t disappoint. Sporting a teeny tiny blue top hat held onto his head with an elastic band, Toby walked me through how he manages timing and scoring. Multiple tabs were open on his laptop so he could follow every detail. The room was split into digital and paper based T&S and there was such an evident sense of concentration and focus in that room to get the numbers right. It really struck me that, although most everyone involved at this event was either a volunteer or an amateur racer, everyone oozed professionalism, and I loved it.
I made my way back to registration, where their annual craft projects were well under way. This year, Sue Green made the executive decision to make flip flop signs followed by tie dying t-shirts the following day. This moment to me summed up the whole weekend. Everyone involved loves racing and it’s why we got out of bed that morning, but to see the friendships and camaraderie established from this sport was something that was just beautiful to be apart of, so thank you to everyone involved for letting me be apart of it all!
From left to right: Jane Gosz, Sue Green, Kathryn Jensen, Helga Meyer, Jim Nowlen, Angela Loveland, Edmund Lacis, Andrea Lacis, Valarie Grap, Kay Imig, Dan Broughan
It was time to pack up and head home to do it all again the next day.
You can be sure that I, like most everyone who was at Road America that weekend, will be back for the 62nd event.