Tight turns, long straights: Road America rewards precision

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ELKHART LAKE, Wis. (AP) Road America’s unique 14-turn layout requires precision, while providing drivers some fun behind the wheel.

Successful rides around the “Carousel” on Sunday in the 202-mile Kohler Grand Prix could offer handsome rewards. It’s a two-turn twist in the middle of the 4-plus mile road course that leads cars into another slight bend called the “Kink.” A successful maneuver through that stretch shoots cars in the “Kettle Bottoms” straight.

It is one of the best parts of the track for Tony Kanaan.

“I would say the Carousel and the Kink in the backstretch is the most fun on the track because it’s the fastest … I just like that part,” Kanaan said.

But it must be handled with care, as Josef Newgarden learned. He spun out in the Carousel during qualifying on Saturday to push him back to 20th in the 22-car field.

“I made a mistake. I feel pretty silly for doing it, but that happens sometimes,” Newgarden said after qualifying. “You’re going to overstep sometimes, and that’s what I did right there. I got a little bit wide and got too greedy.”

Road America requires drivers to be proficient in a little bit of everything. Elevation changes and three appealing straightaways interspersed among the 14 turns offer unique variety. Some corners are especially fast, with tight braking zones.

“I think the combination of the corners, the undulation in the grounds, the fact that there’s a lot of fast corners,” said retired driver Dario Franchitti, who won at Elkhart Lake in 1998. He got a refresher after walking the track on Thursday.

“It’s a combination of things that makes a great track,” he said Saturday. “It rewards precision.”

The open-wheel series has returned to the rural Wisconsin track for the first time since 2007. There’s a campground-feel at the woodsy venue that creates a fan-friendly atmosphere.

“The race, to be honest – whatever happens, happens – but just to have so many people here, I’m just excited,” Helio Castroneves said. “But at this point I’m just glad we’re back in this beautiful place.”

He was so excited to be back that he joined Scott Dixon in a cruise through the campgrounds on Friday night.

The fans were back on a warm Saturday afternoon to watch qualifying and a day full of lower-series racing.

“I think there (were) a lot of unknowns coming back for the first time,” Dixon said. “It’s so cool to see everybody back here and everybody embracing this race.”

The twists and turns of the track might make it especially appealing. Veteran driver Juan Pablo Montoya said too much attention is paid to the Carousel, and not enough on other tight corners.

Those turns may put passing at a premium on the long straights, which could make the timing of when drivers use their 10 “push-to-pass” boosts especially critical.

“I think it will be tough to pass. The braking zones are unbelievably short,” pole-sitter Will Power said. “It’s just tough to get close, it is. Even in the old cars, it was tough. It’s a narrow place, lower grip.

“‘Push to pass’, a big chunk of speed,” Power said.

In contrast, the Carousel turns cars 180 degrees. But the downforce on cars now allows for higher speeds through the two turns. Sebastien Bourdais, who won the 2007 race, said “maximum commitment” was needed to get through the area, alternating from brake to throttle and throttle to brake.

“It’s really, really committing and demanding,” Bourdais said about the track. “You finish a three-lap, or four-lap run and you’re out of breath.”

Vicki Golden and 805 Beer tell a unique story from an Inverted Perspective


Vicki Golden has earned a career worthy of a thousand stories and 805 Beer tells at least one of them, as “Inverted Perspective” premiered March 30 on the company’s website and YouTube channel.

Golden did more to break the glass ceiling in SuperMotocross than she ever thought possible. She knows this because riders have never felt the need to explain any of her accomplishments with the disclaimer, “for a girl”. 

At this point in Golden’s career, she’s been the first woman to finish top 10 in AMA Arenacross Lites, the first woman to qualify in the Fast 40 in Monster Energy AMA Supercross and the first woman to compete in freestyle Moto X competition, earning a bronze medal by doing so.

Her love for moto came from childhood while she watched her dad and brother ride. By seven she was on her bike and making waves throughout Southern California. 

Golden, 30, is still madly in love with the sport and has no plans on moving away but her career is already one to talk about. 805 Beer’s film series wanted to do exactly that.

“I’m taken aback by it all,” Golden told NBC Sports about the documentary. “It’s just crazy to see your story, it’s one thing to live your life and battle everything that comes about but it’s another to just sit there and talk about it.”

805 approached Golden about the feature by asking, “Do you even realize that what you do, and your story is special?”

Golden took the question as a blank canvas to map out the highs and lows of her career and life. 

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The title “Inverted Perspective” came from a brainstorming session with Dominick Russo and it highlights Golden’s outlook on the sport of SuperMotocross and her life in general. 

“My whole life, my whole career was thinking differently and looking at things that shouldn’t be done and aren’t there, while being able to make a place for myself, where no one thought there should be a place,” Golden said.  “It’s inspiring someone to think in different ways. It sums up my life.”

Vicki Golden is not “fast for a girl”; she’s just fast. – 805 Beer

While Golden is no stranger to the spotlight, this was the first time she’s been fully involved with the storytelling and creation of a feature about herself. 

“It’s not like a full new experience,” Golden said. “Obviously, you get your standard questions about your upbringing and accomplishments, but I’ve never really put into perspective things that happened in my past with my dad and putting that to light. Also, certain other things that maybe got overlooked in previous interviews or films. I wanted to touch on these and Dom wanted to create a story. It’s just cool to see it come to light, it’s a nearly impossible thing to tell somebody’s life story in 40 minutes.”

Golden’s father was left paralyzed after an ATV accident, robbing him the opportunity to ride again. This happened a few months before the father-daughter duo was set to compete in the Loretta Lynn’s Amateur Nationals when Vicki was 12. While she might have been unable to grasp the severity at the time, it’s something she carries with her. Golden continues to ride in his honor.

Years later, an accident in 2018 nearly sidelined the then 25-year-old Vicki when a freestyle accident almost resulted in the amputation of her lower leg. 

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Golden 805 Beer
Vicki Golden has ridden a variety of disciplines in SuperMotocross, which gives her a unique perspective. – 805 Beer

“Inverted Perspective” highlights her father’s diligence in helping Vicki continue with her career and the kindness and strength he carried while fighting his own battle. 

“My dad was the entire reason that I started riding in the first place,” Golden said. “So, to honor his memory and to honor what we went through and how hard he pushed to keep our dream alive and keep everything going – in that sense then, it was really special to be able to honor him and talk about him.”

The 40-minute feature was filmed entirely in black and white, a stark contrast from the oversaturated world of motocross where the brighter the suit the easier it is for fans to find their rider and follow him in the race. By filming in monochrome Russo and Golden had the chance to focus on the race and track from a different perspective. 

“It was cool to be able to film it differently,” Golden said. “It created a challenge in the sense of what was going to be more visually impactful for the film.

“I couldn’t be here without the companies that back me but at the same time, it’s not like the logos or colors disappeared, it’s just different lights shed on different spots. It’s just a cool way to do it and to take color away and still be impactful. When you think of black and white, you think of old school, the OG way of doing things.”