Story and photography by Vickie Miller
To quote professional driver and fan favorite, Ryan Eversley, on Road America, â€œEver since I was a kid, this is all I cared about was to race at Elkhart Lake!â€
Any race track which has a concession map with food stands named: Gear Box, The Lugnut, Win Tunnel Grill, and my favorites supporting local organizations: Elkhart Lake Lions, Plymouth Kiwanis, and St. John the Baptist (great hot dogs) is okay in my book!
The 4.05 mile, 14-turn road circuit was established in 1955. Road America is located in Elkhart Lake Wisconsin with the closest major cities being Milwaukee to the south and Green Bay to the north. Road America is a very picturesque 640 acre park full of adventure, fast cars and wild-life! Legendary stories include sightings of turkey, possums, and the most common, deer, not to mention the forest and fields of wildflower. Just ask pro driver Cristiano De Matta, who hit a deer.
I am always fascinated how track turns and straights get their names and the history or story behind the origination. Road America has Hurry Downs, Kettle Bottoms, Thunder Valley, Carousel, and Canadian Corner. It seems every northern track has a â€œCanada Cornerâ€, which is so named for one of two reasons. It is the closest turn to the Canadian border, but legend tells Boy Scout troops were cleaning up the area after races finding a large number of Canadian beer cans in this area. If you want to know some folktales about any track, the best historians are using found in the â€œinformationâ€œ booths around the paddock or vendor area.
From the drivers I talked to, the â€œKinkâ€ part of the track was described as â€œdeceivingâ€ and could be dangerous. It looks like a slight corner, but itâ€™s not easy to gage since your mind thinks you can take full out but you should be braking. Depending on the speed of the car, sometimes the race series will choose to race the â€œBendâ€, which is the chicane next to the Kink and used as a means to slow drivers down for safety.
The IMSA weekend saw the teams use the Kink, which proved to be the down fall for the #70 Mazda SkyActiv-D car. Car owner Sylvain Tremblay was driving, and had an incident and took out the #007 TRG Austin Martin driven by James Davison. Both cars were retired and did not start the race.
This race weekend saw the return of the Starworks team with Indy driver James Hinchcliffe, Delta Wing driver Katherine Legge driving a C360R Honda for the first time, Marino Franchitti in the Fall-Line GT entry Audi R8, and the Flying Lizard pairing of Dion von Moltke in the Audi # 35 car with Andrew Palmer.
Since I was at the track, I can only go by Twitter reports when it comes to the TV coverage. I know it was shown delayed, but I do not know what was more important than showing a LIVE race. I also have heard there were fewer complaints regarding commercials. While my favorite team, Michael Shank Racing #60 Ford started the weekend being the fastest car on track for both drivers, Saturday the EcoBoost engine could be found in mid-pack. On race day, #60 qualified 8th but whatâ€™s more important, the team finished 2nd! John Pew and Ozz Negri promised me a podium for my birthday!! (Note to self: change my Facebook birthday to September 20)
The race got right down to it with a big crash on lap two involving Starworks Honda Riley DP Scott Meyer. Much has been said about Scott over the past few years, and I understand the gentlemen driver concept is here to stay. I have heard rumor the Starworks car may have had mechanical issues, but it was a hard hit to the pole sitting team RSR ORECA and driver Duncan Ende. When I attend the races, I always listen on my track scanner and switch between the teams or race coverage, paying particular attention to driver changes. I must admit there are a few drivers who make me nervous at the wheel of a race car. Whether starting the race or going in on a driver change, I take a mental note as to the position in order certain drivers are to my favorite teams. Yes, I have my own nicknames for a lot of the drivers!
I was very impressed with the racing performance by the Marsh Racing Chevrolet Corvette DP (finishing 5th in class) and the Delta Wing car (finishing 6th in class). Congratulations to both on a great racing result!
The 2015 schedule was announced for the TUDOR and Continental Tire series. I would like to encourage race fans to start planning now to attend Mosport. Yes, you will need a passport, but I was really impressed with this track and sorry to see no GTD. I will start by apologizing to all the East coast fans, Lime Rock and no Mid-Ohio? I will continue by apologizing to all the Mid-West fans, no Indy and no Kansasâ€¦Thank you, Santa!
At Road America, I had the pleasure to spend time with the 8Star Motorsports team. The team is based in Pompano Beach, Florida but the teamâ€™s heart and soul are from Venezuela. The 8Star Motorsports team weekend entries included: PC series ORECA Chevrolet # 25 car driven by Sean Rayhall and Luis Diaz, with Cooper Tires Prototype Lites cars driven by Enzo Potolicchio (team owner) # 4 , Christian Potolicchio # 2 and Lamont Harris # 65. Oak Racing is partnered with 8Star in the P series Morgan Nissan # 42 car driven by Gustavo Yacaman and Olivier Pla.
Vicente â€œEnzoâ€ Potolicchio began his racing career with karting, like so many other drivers. While Venezuela does not have a driver development type program, after he raced in Formula Ford, he came to America and drove in the Skip Barber series. Enzo has raced a wide range of cars from Ferrari, Porsche, and DP (Chevrolet). The Prototype Lites car remains his favorite and if you could have seen his race on Sunday, you would know why.
The Prototype Lites race weekend held two events for race #9 and # 10 in the series. While Race #9 on Saturday was a great day for Christian qualifying 4th and ending 2nd, it was a different story for dad. Saturday found Enzo starting in the back of the pack due to his transponder not working for the qualifying session, and he finished a frustrating 20th. After this result, Enzo met with the carâ€™s engineering team and decided to go with the setup used at Watkins Glen. With all the discussion of BoP and specification changes between ALMS or GrandAm before or after the merger, the Prototype Lites program and cars remain the same. For the 2014 season, there were no specification changes over the 2013 car.
For Race # 10 on Sunday, Enzo started the race in 18th spot and quickly moved through the field. I was sitting on the hill watching the race and Enzo went into turn five only to reappear out of turn 14 headed up the hill to start/finish after passing one or two cars! Even though I was sitting on the hill alone, I was searching for someone to hear me scream, â€œAre you watching this guy??!!â€
Enzo was headed to finish fourth when, after returning to green with only 3 laps to go, Enzo along with 3 other drivers caught up quickly with a lap down car in turn one. As has happened many times on a race track, the lap down car did not keep his â€œpredictedâ€ line. Experienced drivers know how to maneuver around lap down cars when keeping their line, but when the lap down car varies from the path, â€œracing incidentsâ€ happen. Enzo ended up 13th with a DNF. If the race had stayed green, Enzo had a very good chance to catch Christian, who placed 3rd for the second podium of the weekend! Would Enzo have passed him? Enzo said no, because Christian is on track to finish 2nd in the championship and Enzo wasnâ€™t going to jeopardize his result.
A little Q&A with Enzo:
Q: Tell the fans one thing they probably would not know about you?
A: â€œI love Italian food. Where ever I travel, I search out an Italian restaurant.â€ Traveling with WEC FIA, it was difficult to find in China, but he did. He loves good pasta!
Q: Regards of your racing results, what is your favorite track to drive?A: Mid-Ohio, where he earned his first career victory and unfortunately is not returning to the schedule for 2015
Q: What is your favorite track to watch a race?
Q: Why is the Prototype Lites series your favorite to drive?
A: â€œI love the car and the opportunity to race with my son, Christian.â€ Many times the father and son team have been battling for position and once Enzo gave Christian a little tap. After the race, Christian was upset, but as Enzo says, â€œWhen I put on my helmet, I am a competitorâ€. Father and son looked at the film together and used as a learning moment for Christian.
Q: (Submitted by fan, Michael Goodwin) Does Enzo see the team upgrading next year?
A: 8Star is working hard towards a P2 program and hopefully with two cars.
Q: (Submitted by fan, Michael Goodwin) How does winning LeMans rank in your life achievements?
A: Actually winning the championship and rookie of the year is bigger. LeMans is a race, the championship proves consistency which it takes to win a championship.
Now a few minutes with Christian. Also starting in karting, Christian had his first introduction to racing in the United States with a partial season with Skip Barber. I was very surprised to learn, while having all the equipment and setup, Christian chooses not to do iRacing at home. He prefers the â€œreal feelâ€ of the track for the first time behind the wheel of his Prototype Lites machine. He looks forward to the first practice session on a new track and loves the hands on feel versus a computer simulation.
A little Q&A with Christian:
Q: Tell the fans one thing they probably would not know about you?
A: He is a big-time war gamer. He could play Call of Duty, 24 hours a day 7 days week!
Q: Regards of your racing results, what is your favorite track to drive?
Q: What is your favorite track to watch a race?
Q: What is your short term racing goal?
A: Win Prototype Lites championship. Currently he is on track to finish 2nd in the 2014 season and plans to return next year to claim the top spot for 2015 season.
Q: What is a long term racing goal?
A: Christian is very interested in Formula E and feels due to the expensive costs of F1, this limits the number of talented drivers who can race F1. He is not a fan of ovals and realizes the danger these tracks pose to Indy cars.
I was very touched and emotional to discuss the recent turmoil in Christianâ€™s home county. With little on the news, I had no idea as to the unimaginable living conditions and the daily struggles facing the people of Venezuela. As an American, I should remind myself daily of how fortunate I really am and the freedoms afforded to me.
Please read more about the 8Star Motorsports team on Facebook or website http://8starmotorsports.com/
On Twitter, be sure to follow the team: 8Star Motorsports @8starmotor
Enzo @EnzoPoto22 Christian @ChrisPoto22 Sean Rayhall @seanrayhall Luis ChapulÃn DÃaz @chapulindiaz
If you are at the track, I encourage you to go by the 8Star hauler and say hello to Enzo, Christian, and the hard working 8Star Motorsports crew!
If any fans have questions regarding travel to the race tracks, you are welcome to contact me. I am not a travel agent nor do I have any financial connection or gain to any hotels or travel agency, I am just a fan looking for a decent priced hotel and have been to all the tracks in 2015 schedule at least once! As always, if you see me at the track, please feel free to stop and say hello!
Thank you all for reading and I welcome your comments. I have no affiliation with IMSA, TUDOR, etc. just a fan. There are many blogs and websites where you will find statistics, results, and scoring from the race; this is â€œjust the way I see itâ€. Got a response? Follow and tweet me @viclovesracing