In the early 1950’s, sports car races were being run on the streets in and around Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. When the state legislature banned racing on public roads, a man named Clif Tufte organized a group of influential local citizens and leaders of the Chicago Region of the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA). This group developed plans and sold stock to build a permanent racecourse. The overall vision of Road America grew out of the dreams of Tufte, a highway engineer, who chose 525 acres of Wisconsin farmland outside the Village of Elkhart Lake for the track.
Tufte’s dream became a reality in April 1955. The natural topography of the glacial Kettle Moraine area was utilized for the track, sweeping around rolling hills and plunging through ravines. By September 10, 1955, the track’s first SCCA national race weekend was held. At 4.048 miles in length, with 14 turns, the track is virtually the same today as it was when it was first laid out and is revered the world over as one of the world’s finest and most challenging road courses. Road America was even recently was named the 2021 Best NASCAR Track in America as voted on by USA Today readers.
The 640-acre, park-like grounds offer amazing viewing opportunities, fantastic concessions and high-speed excitement to thousands of spectators each year. In addition to being a major attraction during public race weekends, Road America offers group event programs, the Briggs & Stratton Motorplex for karting and Supermoto club racing, and the Road America Motorcycle and Advanced Driving Schools.
Millions of dollars in improvements have been made throughout the years, but the original 4.048-mile, 14-turn configuration has never been altered. In 2005, Elkhart Lake’s Road America, Inc. celebrated its 50th anniversary. Its history was documented in a book, “Road America: Celebrating 50 Years of Road Racing” by Tom Schultz. Celebrities such as David Letterman, Tom Cruise, Patrick Dempsey, Tim Allen, Ashley Judd, and the late Paul Newman have visited this venue, not only for the great racing but also for the scenic surroundings of this resort community.
Road America is big business, attracting over 800,000 visitors a year from every corner of the world. Economic impact studies show that Road America, its events and visitors generate more than $100 million dollars annually each year. Over 500 events are held annually at Road America, often running multiple activities on the same day incorporating the four-mile track, the interior Briggs & Stratton Motorplex and the beautiful grounds surrounding the facility.