Do you remember the year 2007? Specifically August 12, 2007?
That date, eight years ago today, was when the last open-wheel race was held at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis.
The Champ Car World Series’ Generac Power Grand Prix was won by Sebastien Bourdais, driving the No. 1 McDonald’s Panoz / Cosworth for Newman Haas Lanigan Racing.
This is worth noting after the Verizon IndyCar Series and Road America announced last week open-wheel racing would return to the 4.048-mile road course next year the weekend of June 26.
I don’t remember that day. At the time I was preparing for my junior year at Springdale High School in Arkansas and had yet to write a journalistic word. But MotorSports Talk’s Tony DiZinno was there covering his first on-site race, weeks before starting school at Marquette.
DiZinno: I’ll make this brief. Road America was awesome.
Perhaps it was being a wide-eyed 18-year-old, the first race I could cover after 11 years of being a fan and writing for fun for the better part of eight or nine years.
Perhaps it was the ambiance of the place – practically a state park with a race track carved in-between the trees, with the best track food to boot.
Or perhaps it was the reality that this was the first time I could convert my fandom into work, meeting some of my heroes at the time and hearing the mix of cars from Champ Cars, ALMS and Atlantic over the weekend.
In short, even though it was work, I was hooked – and the memories gleaned from that year still last years later, and laid the groundwork for where I’ve been able to make it today. Some of the people I met that weekend have become instrumental in my career, as valuable friends, colleagues and sounding boards.
It cemented my love for the track so many have spoke so highly of.
Much has changed in the intervening years. Instead of Sean Kingston’s “Beautiful Girls” topping the charts, it’s “Cheerleader” by OMI.
In theaters, “Mission: Impossible: Rogue Nation” is the movie to see in the place of “Rush Hour 3.”
Oh, and there is just one major open-wheel series in North America. Seven months after Bourdais won at Road America – for his fifth of eight wins in 14 races that year – the Indy Racing League and Champ Car ended a 12-year war between the two series by merging back under the IndyCar banner.
Eight years later, how familiar is IndyCar, as a single series, compared to that weekend in Elkhart Lake?
Of the nine teams that made up the 17-car field that day, only two team owners’ names could be found in the most recent race at Mid-Ohio: Dale Coyne and Michael Lanigan. Coyne runs his two-car team and Lanigan, who was part of Newman-Haas in 2007, is now the third name of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. Another team, PKV Racing, co-owned by Jimmy Vasser, has since become KVSH Racing and KV Racing Technology.
When it comes to drivers, Bourdais, Graham Rahal (finished third), Justin Wilson (eighth), Simon Pagenaud (11th) and Will Power (16th) are the only participants found in IndyCar, though Oriol Servia (fourth) and Alex Tagliani (fifth) can usually be seen in Indianapolis in May. Paul Tracy (finished 12th), is now an IndyCar analyst for NBCSN.
That same weekend Champ Car was at Road America, the IRL was at Kentucky Speedway for the mouthful Meijer Indy 300 Presented by Coca-Cola and Edy’s.
Won by Tony Kanaan – competing for Andretti Green Racing – the race contained six current Indy Car drivers: Kanaan, Scott Dixon (second), Marco Andretti (fourth), Ed Carpenter (seventh), Helio Castroneves (ninth) and Ryan Hunter-Reay (15th).
Also in the field: Danica Patrick, the late Dan Wheldon, Dario Franchitti, Sam Hornish Jr. and Sarah Fisher. That weekend, Franchitti’s car went airborne – after the checkered flag – for the second race in a row.
For the Champ Car Series in 2007, Road America represented the 10th race of the season. Here’s a look at the drivers in the field, their finishing order on Aug. 12, 2007 and where they are in 2015.
- Sebastien Bourdais (France): 2007 – Owner: Newman-Haas-Lanigan Racing; 2015 – KVSH Racing. Two wins through 14 races in IndyCar. Left Champ Car for Formula One in 2008, returned to IndyCar in 2011.
- Dan Clarke (United Kingdom): 2007 – Minardi Team USA, last of two seasons in Champ Car; 2015 – raced several times in the in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge with LAP Motorsports in a MINI JCW.
- Graham Rahal (USA): 2007 – Newman-Haas-Lanigan Racing; 2015 – Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, second in the IndyCar points, a career high, with two races left after two wins, his first since 2008 at St. Petersburg.
- Oriol Servia (Spain): 2007 – Forsythe Championship Racing; 2015 – last raced in 99th Indianapolis 500 with RLL Racing, managing director for Dragon Racing in Formula E Championship.
- Alex Tagliani (Canada): 2007 – RSPORTS; 2015 – competed in 99th Indy 500 with A.J. Foyt Racing, will compete in NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Mid-Ohio on Saturday for Team Penske.
- Jan Heylen (Belgium): 2007 – nine races with Conquest Racing, one podium; 2015 – four races in TUDOR United Sports Car Championship with Wright Motorsports.
- Tristan Gommendy (France): 2007 – 11 races with PKV Racing; 2015 – competed in the 24 Hours of Le Mans for Thiriet by TDS Racing.
- Justin Wilson (United Kingdom): 2007 – RSPORTS, one win; 2015 – part time IndyCar schedule with Andretti Autosport, one podium in five races.
- Bruno Junqueira (Brazil): 2007 – Dale Coyne Racing, three podiums; 2015 – nine races and one win (Laguna Seca) in TUDOR with RSR Racing, what had been RSPORTS in a one-year partnership with RuSPORT.
- Neel Jani (Switzerland): 2007 -PKV Racing, three podiums; 2015 – Porsche factory driver in the FIA World Endurance Championship, polesitter and finished fifth in 24 Hours of Le Mans.
- Simon Pagenaud (France): 2007 – Team Australia, eighth in points; 2015 – first season with Team Penske in IndyCar, four career wins.
- Paul Tracy (Canada): 2007 – 12 races with Forsythe Championship Racing, one win (Cleveland), last season of more than six races; 2015 – analyst for NBCSN.
- Alex Figge (USA): 2007 – 13 races with Pacific Coast Motorsports; 2015 – Off-road truck racing, and drove for K-PAX Racing in World Challenge GT in 2014.
- Robert Doornbos (Netherlands): 2007 – Minardi Team USA, two wins, rookie of the year; 2015 – Not racing actively.
- Katherine Legge (United Kingdom): 2007 – Dale Coyne Racing, 15th in points; 2015 – seven races in TUDOR with the DeltaWing team.
- Will Power (Australia): 2007 – Team Australia, two wins; 2015 – Team Penske, defending IndyCar champion, 25 career wins.
- Ryan Dalziel (Scotland): 2007 – 11 races for Pacific Coast Motorsports; 2015 – full-time in FIA World Endurance Championship with Tequila Patron ESM; two races in TUDOR with the same team; competing in Pirelli World Challenge with EFFORT Racing.