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The Fourth Turn
Author: Paul Gohde
Credits: Getty Images
Credits: Getty Images
August 24th 2012 -

It was two seasons ago when the NASCAR Nationwide Series made its debut at Road America’s four-mile road course that winds through the Kettle Moraine hills and valleys in Elkhart Lake, WI. A large crowd watched an exciting race that was captured by Sprint Cup Series star Carl Edwards. But it’s what the second-place finisher had to say as he entered the media center that may prove to be prophetic.

“Sprint Cup.” That’s all that veteran Canadian road race champion Ron Fellows had to say as he sat down to be interviewed by the assembled media.

“Sprint Cup” as in: This was a great NNS race, but we need to bring the Cup series here. The place is ready for it.

Fellows, the LeMans Corvette legend, has won in Europe and at Sebring, and is a road course ringer for JR Motorsports in Sprint Cup races at Watkins Glen and Sonoma.

Right on Fellows’ bumper at the finish that day at Road America was Brendan Gaughn, a driver who had more than just a few words to say about the Wisconsin track.

“This is a professional road course right here guys. There’s no making a different course out of it, short-cutting it, making it shorter. This is a man’s man road course,” bubbled Gaughn. “The kink takes some guts getting through there. This is a fun track, man. I would love to see the Cup guys here. There is no way NASCAR says no.”

And after recent NASCAR road races at Watkins Glen and Montreal, exciting races that caused water cooler talk on Monday morning, there has been buzz on the internet and in the media about NASCAR scheduling more.

Through its history, the sanctioning body has run Cup-level events on 12 different road race circuits ranging from the Linden, NJ airport runways to season-opening and closing races at the now-closed Riverside (CA) Raceway.

Augusta, GA, Bridgehampton, NY, Bremerton, WA and the Daytona beach/road course also had events. Only Watkins Glen (NY) and Sonoma (CA) remain on the oval-dominated Cup schedule.

But with many fans complaining about the “boring sameness” of some of the 1.5 mile cookie-cutter tracks, and NASCAR always on the lookout for races in new markets, many feel it’s time to add at least one more road course to the list.

So where to go?

Road Atlanta would work as an excellent facility, but the Atlanta Motor Speedway is nearby.

The new Circuit of the Americas in Austin, TX will run its first Formula 1 U.S. Grand Prix in November, but NASCAR already has two Cup dates in Fort Worth. Mid-Ohio? Too small. Laguna Seca? Too close to Sonoma. Lime Rock, Portland, Virginia Int., Mosport, Canada? Maybe.

But with Road America already in the Nationwide Series fold, and drivers giving the track an emphatic OK: why not now?

NASCAR Sprint Cup road races are held on both coasts, so why not have a third one in the heartland-Wisconsin?

Several observers (including this writer), have thought a rotating schedule of tracks could satisfy fans in various parts of the country.

Give Road America a Sprint Cup event once every two years and let it have a Nationwide and/or Truck race on the opposite year. Alternate the date with Portland or Mosport and you’d satisfy two sets of fans and open up two new marketing areas.

It’s probably too late to make this addition in 2013, but sometime in the future this has to happen.

Remember what Ron Fellows said: “Sprint Cup.”