Ranking The Best Road Circuits In N. America

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Friday, June 28 2019
Road America is, by consensus, considered a world class road circuit. (Photos courtesy of INDYCAR)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

Just before the start of Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Sonoma Raceway, Fox Sports’ Mike Joy let go with a Mike Joy. Dripping with condescending and take-my-word-as-gospel tone, he let go with this: Sonoma is “the best natural terrain road course in America.”

The guess here is that there are a lot of race fans out there who won’t take Joy’s pronouncement as deific.

The guess here is that Joy himself would not repeat that when the Cup Series arrives at Watkins Glen International later this summer were Fox broadcasting that race.

I like road racing. I like it best on natural terrain circuits. I like it for sports cars, open-wheel cars and I even like watching the dancing elephants of NASCAR on them.

I like watching drivers hitting apexes, going deep into corners, jumping on the brakes, accelerating out of the corners. I like strategy, a well a set-up pass and the moment that that pass is executed.

Historic Watkins Glen is not just for sports cars and open-wheel cars. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Alan Marler)

I like seeing brake rotors glow bright orange. I like dramatic deceleration and seeing well-mannered cars take 90-degree turns at freeway speeds.

I like technical tracks, elevation change, hair pins, high-speed sweepers and really high-speed downhill straights. I prefer the sounds of engines winding up and turbos spooling up over the constant drone of V8s that rises from the racing surfaces at oval tracks.

I like practice and qualifying sessions and walking from corner to corner to find out where the two or three best action locations will be in order to stake out a prime spot on race day.

I like smoky aromatic concession stands that dot road circuits. I like watching from the shade of woods and glades, and from grassy berms using a cooler as a seat.

Road Atlanta was an American showplace for the world’s best.

I like watching on warm, sunny days. I like watching drivers coping with rain and I like watching rooster tails whiz past from cars that are barely visible.

And I think others do too. Even NASCAR fans. Corners produce action and 14 corners produce more than three times as much action as do ovals.

It’s tough to judge attendance at road courses but Sunday crowds at the IndyCar race at Road America and Cup at Sonoma looked pretty dang good. TV ratings were very good.

NASCAR gave a nod to the popularity of racing the twisties when it added the race at the Charlotte Roval – though nobody is going to mistake that venue for a natural terrain circuit.

And the thought here is that at least two more true road circuits should be added to Cup and that IndyCar’s schedule should be comprised of a race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and then all road courses.

America boasts a bevy of very good road courses and several that are truly world class.

Sonoma Raceway is a NASCAR hot spot. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Harold Hinson)

RacinToday.com is big on road racing. Three of us at least consider watching racing at road circuits as time best spent. Below, RT writers give their opinions on North America’s best natural terrain circuits:

Jim Pedley, managing editor:

1.Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis. Big, scenic, brats, beer and fast, fast fast. It is truly world class with more than one driver with international experience calling it the best road circuit in the world.

2. Watkins Glen International. History and international atmosphere. Dan Gurney, Phil Hill, Mario, Jackie Ickx. The Boot and those trademark guard rails.

3. Laguna Secca. It’s all about that downhill twistie known as The Corkscrew.

4. Road Atlanta. Le Petit. That race and that place offered sports car racing fans an opportunity to see some great foreign drivers and tip-top machinery ever put on a tarmac.

5. Sonoma Raceway. It’s gorgeous in a West Coast kind of way. A test for drivers.


Jonathan Ingram, Senior Writer:

1. Road Atlanta. Home cooking.

2. Road America. It’s the speed, the brats, the summer climate and Siebkens.

3. Sonoma Raceway. I like the location’s topography and it is rated as one of the most technically challenging for drivers in U.S.

4. Mosport. It’s great to be in north woods during the summer; super fast despite “glacial” layout  … like Road America.

5. Mid-Ohio. The first real road course I ever saw; also good brat country and great place for spectators. Then there’s Buck’s — new and old.


Mike Harris, Senior Writer

1.Natural terrain tracks all start with Road America. My fave! Great place to watch a race and the best track food.

2. Wearhertech Raceway Laguna Seca. Love the corkscrew.

3. Sonoma Raceway. Great vistas and ambiance.

4. Circuit Mont-Tremblant. Classic.

5. Lime Rock Park. Small but beautiful and fun.


John Sturbin, Senior Writer

1. Watkins Glen International. Covered my first Formula One race there
during the mid-1970s, an era featuring Niki Lauda, James Hunt, Mario
Andretti and Ken Tyrrell’s revolutionary six-wheel car. And who knew
they shipped the cars overseas in boxes???

2. Circuit of The Americas. Was there in Austin, Texas, the day they
revealed the name…as in, “They’ve named it WHAT?” Also got to visit
the site under construction, where the rattlesnake kill-count was on a
daily rise.

3. WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. Still something magical about the
corkscrew and Alex Zanardi’s pass.

4. Road America. A visit to Wisconsin’s long and winding road remains
on my Bucket List.

5. Sonoma Raceway. NASCAR’s Cup event marks the start of the domestic
summer road-racing schedule; great that last weekend’s 50th
anniversary edition included addition of the Carousel complex.

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Friday, June 28 2019
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