ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – The Road America that the Verizon IndyCar Series returns to for this weekend’s KOHLER Grand Prix (Sunday, 12:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN) is a slightly different place than the last time a North American open-wheel series raced here in 2007, with what was then the Champ Car World Series.
Between a new victory lane, a new Paddock Shop and Fan Engagement Center, a new concession and a new main gate, the latest capital improvements have freshened up the 4.048-mile road course that retains all of its character as, it’s been dubbed, “America’s National Park of Speed.”
“You’ve gotta keep doing things to stay ahead in the industry for the fans, the drivers, and the participants,” track president George Bruggenthies told NBC Sports. “You have to create an experience – a wow.”
The other important element of the weekend proceedings comes from a title sponsorship standpoint, with Kohler Co. signing on as title sponsor.
At the time of the release in late May, President and CEO of Kohler Co. David Kohler said, “Kohler shares this passion and enthusiasm and we are excited to welcome Verizon IndyCar fans to our home to take part in the return of IndyCar racing at Road America, one of the most beautiful and unique tracks in the world.” The company was founded in 1873 and, headquartered in Kohler, Wis., is one of America’s oldest and largest privately held companies.
Bruggenthies expanded on the relationship, noting how much of an impact Kohler Co. has already had on the track over the years in a variety of events.
“Historically Kohler has been a big partner at a variety of events for a long time. We just reengaged them, and things worked out,” he said.
“They’ve been involved in our vintage event, sprints, the tunnel entrance, plenty of partnership activity. Their employees do a lot of things at the motorplex; their engineers, they go karting, we use Kohler engines. It’s a local company. It’s a natural thing.”
Bruggenthies said there’s been “very strong interest” on advance ticket sales, with camping also selling quite well.
Leave it to racing legend Mario Andretti to describe the importance of the track coming back to the calendar after the nine-year hiatus.
“This venue, this facility carries a lot of tradition for good, honest road racing in America,” he said.
“The glory days for IndyCar, this was part of it. It can be again.”