Even hardcore NASCAR fans and followers of Southern dirt track racing will appreciate the motorsports history that is found in making a trip to Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.
Who would’ve thought that a quickly organized open road sports car race, held in 1950 at a sleepy little village about 60 miles from Milwaukee would alter the history of this lake community, best known for gambling and being home to multiple Native American Indian tribes.
The good news is the Village of Elkhart Lake continues to be a center of motorsports gatherings, thanks to preserving the history that began on the 1950s and the proximity of Road America, one of the most famous road racing courses in the world.
Motorsports enthusiasts and the greats of racing come to Elkhart Lake each year for everything from club car events, sports car racing and testing, to the annual NASCAR Xfinity Series race.
The Village of Elkhart Lake itself, has over 350 rooms, suites and condos to handle the influx of people, while still remaining a charming lake community.
With recent additions, Elkhart Lake can now handle conventions, corporate outings and large meetings. But back to racing, as many automobile and motorcycle clubs come to tour Elkhart Lake and retrace the route of those early races.
If you are lucky, you might hear the engine roar and the pulsating of pistons of some of these vintage race cars, which make appearances throughout the year in the area.
Even with a vibrant lake setting, it’s motorsports that still drives the economy of Elkhart Lake.
According to Elkhart Lake Tourism, Road America attracts 800,000 visitors a year from around the world and economic impact studies say that $100 million dollars are generated annually by Road America and events like its races, testing sessions, driving schools and corporate and social events it hosts.
Racing fans can not only come for the races and a chance to experience Road America, they can drive the original course the 33 cars navigated back in 1950 with the help of signs and roadmarkers located throughout Elkhart Lake and Sheboygan County. a non-profit in Historical Race Circuits of Elkhart Lake is committed to preserving the history of road racing at Elkhart Lake and assist visitors to the area with any questions they have about the history of motorsports in Elkhart Lake.
“Today vintage sports car racing has arguably become the major attraction at courses around the country. Its early days, however, are all but forgotten,” said a volunteer representative of Historical Race Circuits of Elkhart Lake.
It’s not forgotten at Elkhart Lake, in fact you can feel the history as you walk through parts of the sprawling Sibken’s Resort. That would include the little tavern area and their Stop-Inn Tavern, which is regarded as the “best bar on the racing circuit.”
2015 marks the 60th year of Road America and that means this beautiful four-mile track set in the hills of Wisconsin’s Kettle Moraine is celebrating its history and holding an impressive number of events. Road America bills itself as a family track and I’m not one to argue with that.
Road America brings in some 450 events per year and many take place on the same day. Businesses and individual can rent out the event space for their gatherings and meetings. The Road America Motorplex is a track within a track, and offers Go-Kart racing and driving schools.
In addition to being a busy race track, Road America is also a tourist destination. Come for the races, but stay to camp, zip line and drive your own vehicle around the four-mile track with a “Sunset Cruise.”
The 640-acre, park-like grounds provide the perfect setting for runs, walks, and cycling events. Certain days , individuals can even run, walk and bike on the track itself.
To improve the race day “fan experience” Road America just spent millions of dollars on track and technology enhancements in HD (LED) video boards so fans in the stands can see action from other parts of the track during races.
“We are constantly reinvesting funds to improve the fan experience,” explained Road America President and General Manager, George Bruggenthies. “From our terraced seating in several locations around the facility, to our new video boards and even improved access and viewing areas along Turns 11 and 12, it is our intent to bring fans closer to the action.”
All in time for the 60th year of racing.
“Our 60th Anniversary is going to be a great season and full of activities.,” adds Bruggenthies.
Racing fans are missing out if they haven’t experienced the past, present and future of auto racing in Elkhart Lake.
You can’t miss it, but Road America is located at: N7390 Highway 67, Plymouth; 800-365-7223: www.RoadAmerica.com
Where to Stay
A Travel + Leisure 2014 T + L 500 World’s Best Hotel to go along with AAA Four Diamond Award, the Osthoff Resort has a cooking school, one of the most modern spas in the country and 245 suites.
Located at: 101 Osthoff Avenue, Elkhart Lake; 888-330-5664; www.Osthoff.com
A historic resort purchased by Laura and Herman Siebken that is currently owned and operated by the fourth generation of the Siebken family. You will find modern and spacious condos and the Stop-Inn Tavern, billed as the “best bar on the racing circuit,” and I would concur. “Stop-Inn” for lunch or dinner.
Located at: 284 S. Lake Street, Elkhart Lake; 920-876-2600; email@example.com and www.Siebkens.com
Victorian Village Resort
A charming resort right on Elkhart lake where you can relax and unwind. 600 feet of sandy beach is there for the taking as are watersports galore. Dine at the Back Porch Bistro or experience one of the northernmost Tiki Bars, at the waterfront Barefoot Bay Tiki Bar.
Located at: 276 Victorian Village Drive, Elkhart Lake; Toll free 877-860-9988 or local 920-876-3323; www.VicVill.com
Where to Eat:
An upscale dining experience.
Located at: 61 S. Lake Street, Elkhart Lake; 920-876-3288; www.paddockclubelkhartlake.com
Lake Street Cafe
A California-style bistro right in Elkhart Lake. As you enter, you will smell the wood-fired pizzas.
Located at: 21 S. Lake Street, Elkhart Lake WI 53020; 920-876-2142; www.lakestreetcafe.com
What Else to Do:
Jay’s Guiding Services
Don’t just go to Elkhart Lake, get out on the lake and fish with a local expert, Jay Brickner. A licensed guide, Jay is fully insure and he guarantees you will have a blast on the lake. Jay has a comfortable boat and all the equipment you will need.
Contact Information: (920)-912-4552 or www.jaysguideservice.com
Captain Tom’s Elkhart Queen Pontoon Boat
Cruise the lake with an experienced captain in Captain Tom. He knows the history of the lake and serves as a gracious host in his beautiful pontoon boat.
Henschel’s Indian Museum
The museum, located on an archeological dig site, contains a collection of Indian copper, pottery and other artifacts dating back to 8,000 B.C.
Located at: N8661 Holstein Rd., Elkhart Lake, 920-876-3193, www.henschelsindianmuseumandtroutfarm.com
Elkhart Lake is a must stop on the race circuit and if you are into the history of motorsports, this lake village needs to be on your travel shortlist.